Monday, August 27, 2012

스트레스 삼단계

Korea has the "빨리 빨리 문화" (hurry hurry culture). "빨리 와" (come quickly), "빨리 해" (do quickly), "빨리 먹어" (eat quickly) and you wonder why things cannot be done at a more leisure pace. I do not know if someone who walks hurriedly will catch his train or submits his work fast will be promoted, but one thing for sure, he is stressed. If you observe closely, stress has three stages.

1st Stage: Irritable (일단계: 귀차니즘)
When you are easily annoyed or irritated by someone or mundane matters, you are said to display "귀차니즘". "귀차니즘" is combination of the Korean word "귀찮다" (annoying) and the English ending "nism". People who display "귀차nism" are known as "귀차nist" (귀차니스트). How do you know you are a "귀차nist"? You know it when you say things like:

"Not again! Why does he keep asking me to do stupid thing."
"Some people just don't use their brain."
"My life sucks, period."

2nd Stage: Suffocating (이단계: 기가 막힘)
As stress intensifies, you will feel like you are on the verge of suffocation. Breathing is difficult and temper flares easily. "기가 막혀", which means "breath is blocked", combines the Chinese word "氣" (기, qi) and the Korean verb "막히다" (to block). In an attempt to prevent breathlessness, most of us will react by "exploding" and letting out, in one go, all the trapped energy. Words become more vicious now:

"It feels like banging my head against the wall!"
"Talking to him makes me vomits blood!"
"I wish I can give him two tight slaps, if that makes me better!"

3rd Stage: Mental Breakdown (삼단계: 멘털 붕괴)
The final stage of stress is "멘털 붕괴" or "멘붕"in short. "멘털 붕괴" comprises the English word "mental" (멘털) and the Chinese word "崩壞"" (붕괴, cave-in). Nobody literally suffers mental breakdown at this stage. It is more like a stage of "enlightenment" where you see clearly that nothing more you do will help to salvage the situation. Sometimes, telling everyone you have "멘붕" can actually be quite cathartic. Getting some pitiness and attention is comforting, but taking a break or holiday is much better.

The conclusion: don't wait too long to reach "멘붕".

가을여행 가보실래요? 스트레스 풀기 좋다.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Sorak is not his real name, it is how I remember him. Sorak like thousands of Chinese students in Korea, was vying for a place in the local universities. We met at Advanced 1 Korean language class. Being a non-native speaker of Korean, he has the best command of the language among the Chinese students I knew. The secret behind his language proficiency, he mixes frequently with native Koreans and kyobos for drinks and pool at night. He drinks soju like water and consecutive day-and-night drinkings do not seem to knock him out. I am hopeless when it comes to drinking but I match him in pool. Not too bad for someone who only practises on the pool table in the dormitory while doing laundry.

If heavy drinking is not bad enough, Sorak smokes like a chimney. He may sound like a problem student whom any teacher will not like to see in their class. On the contrary, Sorak is one of the most enthusiastic Chinese students I have seen. The one-child policy in China has not created the "little emperor mentality" in him. He is hardworking and was the only Chinese students in my class who passed his university's entry interview based purely on merits. The interview was conducted entirely in Korean which made it not an easy feat. Sorak has a long-held wish - to be the valedictorian during the graduation ceremony, an honour reserved only for the most senior graduate class. He never fulfilled his wish. He left for Sungkyungwan University after completing Advanced 1 Korean language class.

At the end of our graduation ceremony, I saw Sorak standing in front of an almost emptied auditorium with an indescribable expression. Something in me told me, it was actually an expression of "아쉬움" (regret). I recalled asking my dowoomi, does 안타까움 express a greater sense of regret compared to "아쉬움". "No, I use them interchangeably", she said. It seems then, there might just be only one degree of regret, you cannot have more or less of it.

I did not realise there was a face to "아쉬움". 동생, 고마워