Sunday, September 19, 2010

i started a part-time job this past weekend at a bar in seoul.

the pay is pathetic and absolutely sucks (yes, it's really that bad and i am not exaggerating), but i figure at the moment, it's better than nothing. there is no tipping in korea, so imagine working around drunk people in a nine hour shift on something that's less than minimum wage and having to deal with the monster that is the service industry in korea.

the intriguing thing about the whole situation is that it's a low-key gay bar in one of the largest gay neighborhoods in seoul. i NEVER would have imagined that i would be doing this sort of work, but life is funny like that. thanks to my experience of working in nyc restaurants and bars, i find the job pretty easy and interesting to say the least. one of my favorite parts is seeing so many different types of gay koreans. they come in all walks of life and i love people-watching them in the background of their natural habitat. i feel like i'm tuning into a really long episode of a program on animal planet sometimes.

most of the customers are pleasant and cordial, but of course there's always some fucking idiots who makes me want to shake them violently. i would say the hardest thing for me is the language barrier, and sometimes i don't know what the hell customers are talking about. they'll order a black russian in a korean accent, and i have to repeat their order a few times with a confused look on my face until i'm sure i have it right. this awkward back-and-forth dialogue does get cumbersome, but i try and tell myself that i'm not doing anything that's changing the world and that i need to not give a fuck.

this might seem like a generalization, but wouldn't you agree that many gay men strive to be more cultured and worldly than the average joe schmo standing next to them on the street? with that being said, it's nice that some of the gay koreans who come into the bar speak a little english and i'm grateful at those moments when i don't have to speak in broken korean. there's also quite a number of foreigners who come in, and interacting with them is nice as well. i've already talked with people from ohio, alabama, california, japan, etc. diversity is awesome.

as for many of the gay koreans who come in, i usually always have the same exact conversation with each one of them. the following is a transcript:

customer: your accent sounds like you've lived outside of korea for a while.
me: oh yes, i'm actually from america.
customer: oh wow. how old were you when you immigrated?
me: i was actually born in nyc.
customer: what are you doing here?
me: i moved to seoul a few months ago and am looking for work. i'm just doing this part time until i find something.
customer: why did you move here??
me: i just needed a change. i was bored in nyc.
customer: bored in nyc? *shocked laughter* how is that possible?
me: i was born there. lived there. went to college there and was working there afterwards. i just wanted to do something different.
customer: your korean is pretty good for a korean-american!
me: thank you. *humbly laughs*
customer: did you have a boyfriend in nyc?
me: i was single.
customer: why not? you've never had a boyfriend?
me: nope. i had one once for a short time.
customer: what's your 'style' aka type?
me: i don't really have a type.
customer: of course you do, we all have a type.
me: okay i guess i'm not into immature people and prefer more low-key guys.
customer: do you have a boyfriend in seoul?
me: nope.
customer: have you met any special people since you came?
me: mmm, not really. *laughs nervously*
customer: are those tattoos in korean?? what do they say?? *grabs my arms to study them*
me: oh. they're poems. this one is my mom's favorite poem, and the one on my other arm is my favorite poem by the same poet. this one is an illustration from my favorite book that changed my life when i was a kid, and this one i got with my cousin when i was eighteen.
customer: and you really don't have a boyfriend?
me: nope. *awkwardly laughs*

i have slightly modified versions of this very conversation a countless number of times throughout my shift. i'm thinking of getting a t-shirt printed that lists all my answers so i won't have to explain it a million times a night. of course i'm also very friendly when i engage with customers, but what we talk about has become so predictable (including my answers) and i need to think of ways from zoning out mid-conversation.

i will admit that one of the biggest ego-boosters of the job is getting hit on by customers, which surprisingly happens a lot more than i would have ever anticipated. i'm always extremely humbled by the compliments and don't know how to react to them, but it does get awkward when they ask for my phone number... however, i usually give it to them because i haven't yet mastered how to politely decline these dudes in korean---i'm working on it, though.

anyway, until i find a full-time job that will provide me with a visa, i guess i'll be pouring drinks and cleaning ashtrays on the weekends.

life is awesome. (no, it really is).


  1. I'd hit on you. Rawr. :)

  2. Yep, life is indeed awesome, we just have to look at it differently sometimes to appreciate it. Great funny posts, keep it up! =)

  3. Anonymous1:59 AM

    님은 어떤 분 찾으세여?
    님은 어떤 스타일 좋아하세여?
    혼자 사세여? 어디에 사세여?

  4. congratulations on the job, sounds like fun- you get to do a lot of people watching and see a side of korea that not many people get to see from the inside.

  5. Anonymous10:54 AM

    I stop by your blog on and off..and would like to introduce myself to you just anonymous if you do not mind. I haven't read all your posts here so I wonder what kind of job you have been looking for in Korea?
    I noticed you worked for the magazine company. Are you into Fashion industry? If so, what specific sort of?

  6. anonymous, i've worked mostly in the media. from television and the culinary arts to music and fashion, i have an in-depth interest in every facet of each industry. in terms of what sort of work i'm looking for, i'm in search of anything that's creative. copywriting, editing at a magazine or working in some capacity at a newspaper would be ideal. to answer your question in particular about fashion, i enjoy it and would like to perhaps work in the marketing, communications or special events side of it.

  7. It's great that you are getting hit on! Don't ever forget that! LOL!