On Sunday, I got myself a new toy. A beautiful, black, ready-to-touch-all-over iPhone 5.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been without a phone here in Korea. Yes yes yes, being without a phone nowadays is preposterous unless you come from a third world country. Even my parents thought it was unsafe for me to be without a phone, and I remember seeing them get their first phones and progress through the technology. I remember being a teenager without a phone and how difficult, unsafe, and unfair I thought it was. After I got my first phone as an 18th birthday present, I went a little crazy and got charged extra for all the text messages I sent, which weren’t included in my plan at all. Imagine! A cell phone plan without texting! Talk about the Dark Ages.
But here I’ve been, scraping by with no phone, and not even wifi available to connect with my ipod or computer. Why? Because I couldn’t sign up by myself. I could have struggled through the language with my limited Korean skills and hopefully finding a store where someone speaks a little English. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem is that I don’t have the necessary documentation yet, meaning it hasn’t come in the mail. As of yet, I can’t prove I’m a legal alien here. The way of getting around this rule is to have a Korean person sign the contract for you, and just pay monthly like normal. I was going to wait until my paperwork went through, but it’s taking much longer than I was expecting. So I went ahead and convinced a friend to help me out.
In Korea, everywhere has wifi: coffee shops, restaurants, department stores, buses, and beauty shops. You can even drop off your dead battery at a convenience store and they’ll charge it for you. That’s because everyone is connected to their phones like a second brain, which is literally what a phone functions as for the average Korean. Some people in the states have achieved this level of phone usage, but we still call them nerds, or at the very best techies. This is the normal Korean person. So it was extremely hard for them to understand that I didn’t have a phone, and I was still alive.
Still, I thought I was perfectly fine without a phone. I’m not really one to update my facebook status every day, or even every week. Every once in a while, I do like to add pictures or write a note to my friends and family at home. I also like to stay up to date on email, even though most of it gets trashed right away. And I’m not a big texter or caller either. But getting this phone was the best decision I’ve made since deciding to stay in Korea and switch my job to teaching English. I new feel like I’m a part of the world again. And I dare say my friends are enjoying being able to reach me too.
People don’t do things ahead of time anymore. They don’t arrange their schedules in advance. Sometimes, they don’t even set a meeting place or time, they just rely on their phones to help them meet up last minute. Of course, this is not what I needed to happen. I needed my friends to set up the next hangout date before we said goodbye. But I ended up being alone and uninvited instead. Not because my friends didn’t want to see me, they just couldn’t plan ahead like I needed. I expected them to change from a “now” culture to a “when” culture. “When can you grab coffee with me?” “How about Saturday? 8:00?” “Sure, want to hit up that new place by your house?” “Yep.” “Ok, see you then.” That doesn’t happen anymore. Intead, it’s “Hey, are you free? I’m bored. What to try that new coffee shop?” “Sure, meet you there in 30?” “Ok, can’t wait.” Because I didn’t fit into this culture, I was left out.
It’s also feels a lot less lonely when you can instantly message a friend or even check out the news at home. And getting messages from friends doesn’t hurt either, because you know someone is thinking about you.