Awesome things about Korea: Kindness

By Heather Bucurel

Random acts of kindness. They’re something that most of us don’t really think about until it happens to us. Maybe it’s someone holding a door for you, giving you the last seat on the bus or subway, letting you share their umbrella for the short walk to indoors, picking up something you dropped, etc.

In Korea, random acts of kindness could be something given for service, a discount as a repeat customer, or an English-speaking Korean who stops to help you.bus

I always appreciate these kind gestures, and try to return the favor as best as I can. A “kamsa hamnida” goes a long way here.

Yesterday on the bus ride home, an older Korean gentleman got on the bus a stop ahead of mine.

He only had a 5,000 won bill and the bus driver couldn’t make change for the 1,000 ride.

The man really wanted and needed to get on the bus, but the driver was unrelenting without the proper fare. In that moment, I walked up to the front and used my bus card to pay for the man’s fare, much to his and the driver’s surprise.

The man tried to give me the 5,000 won, but I smiled and said, “괜찮아요 (it’s okay).”

The bus proceeded to my stop, where the man and I exchanged bows and farewells.

I could feel the eyes of all the other passengers when I departed the bus, wondering about the waegookin who had helped one of their own.

And no lie, the next song that came on my IPod as I walked the rest of the way home?

This wonderful cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” sung by British artist James Morrison.

Heather Bucurel
Heather is the author of The Kimchi Chronicles and is a monthly contributor to Say Kimchi News.