I live in a noisy place.
I’m not sure whether I mean “Korea” or “my apartment building”, but it’s definitely not a quiet living environment. Never mind the previously mentioned round-the-clock hocking of loogies, there’s always some kind of loudness going on here.
Outside, there’s a guy who has a mobile shop. He sells fresh vegetables from his truck, which he drives around the neighbourhood as he rambles on about his wares into a megaphone. I don’t think this would be quite as annoying if I could understand what he was saying, but as it currently stands I just hear a string of unknown words floating in through my window. Inevitably, he parks outside my window every evening when I get home from work, and I have to listen to him blethering on until he drives off to his next spot.
The ensuing silence is blissful but fleeting. I can mostly tune out the noise until bed time, but then I find myself lying awake in the darkness, muttering equally dark things about the people in my building. There really doesn’t seem to be any concept of consideration for others, hence my comment about not knowing whether it’s a Korean thing or just the specific Koreans who happen to live in my apartment building. I come from a place where there are laws about making noise after 11pm. There’s a general understanding that after that time, people are going to be sleeping, so if you happen to be out and about, you try to keep it down for the sake of others. You close doors quietly, you tiptoe, you speak in a low voice, you don’t put your washing machine on, you keep the music volume down. If you fail to do this, you feel guilty about it and tend to be apologetic. I hope I didn’t wake you up last night… sorry if we disturbed you…
Yeah… here, not so much! Not only do people not lower their voices, they actually seem to call out loudly to each other as if they have absolutely no awareness of the time or of anyone else. People in my building come home from from a night out at 3 in the morning and clatter up the stairs laughing and shouting. They slam doors. They hold parties in their apartments and leave the doors open, letting the party spill out into the hallway where the sound is magnified and echoes massively around the building. They even clean up immediately after their guests leave at some ungodly hour – more than once, I’ve experienced the relief of hearing the last guests leave, that five minutes of blissful silence when I’m just starting to drift off to sleep, when suddenly on goes the vacuum cleaner at five on a Monday morning.
The night before last, the couple next door started doing DIY at 1am. Who does that?! Bang, bang, bang, hammer, hammer, drill. I was tempted to thump on the wall, but conscious of the fact that I would be unable to communicate with them if it became a verbal confrontation, so I just lay there silently cursing them. Fortunately a Korean guy from downstairs eventually came up and gave them what for, slightly restoring my faith in general consideration for others regardless of cultural differences.
If it continues, please tell me and I will speak to the building owner, said my boss the next morning, as I apologised for almost falling asleep in the middle of a staff meeting. She paused. Can you hear… everything? she asked curiously.
I looked despairingly at her. Ohhh yes, I responded feelingly. I can hear *every*thing.
Ev. Ry. Thing.