Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Bank

It has been a wild four days in this incredible different country, but I thought I could entertain you with a post about a visit I made to the bank.

Well, by the end of Tuesday, I had 5,500 won to my name (around $5), so a trip to the bank became absolutely necessary. Before I continue, a little cultural background -

Insa - the phrase for "greeting." This includes bowing and exchanging verbal greetings.

Passing objects - all objects exchanged from one person to another should be done with both hands. Using both hands is very formal. When among friends, you may pass with one hand while the other rests between your wrist and elbow.

As I entered the bank, I insa (ed) with the security guard. This means that you have to stop, with feet together and hands at your side, and bow while saying "Anneonghasayo." The guard asked me the nature of my business. After I explained, he gave me a number and directed me toward a chair.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of a teller line. Instead, they just had a bunch of personal bankers. There were two distinctly different areas with chairs and couches holding waiting people. Above the desks was a computer monitor flashing the number being served.

When my number was called, I approached a smiling banker. I insa (ed) again and explained my purpose. I passed him my checks and passport - with two hands, of course. The entire thing took about 20 minutes (Kind of long? I think so.)

The best part came at the end. The banker, who had been making very small small talk with me throughout the transaction said, "If you ever need anything or any help, please feel free to call me."

I kind of laughed to myself thinking, "Hm. That was bold." But instead, I politely asked his name. He gave me his business cards - with two hands, of course. Upon leaving, I insa (ed) to the banker and guard once more.

Crazy, huh? I can't wait to go back!


  1. Hey Amy,

    Thanks for posting! I am enjoying seeing and visiting Korea through your experience. I laughed when I read about your "insa"-awareness. Yes, it is a very "insa"-rich culture. When I go back, I feel awkward seeing these pretty young ladies in the elevators or on the corners of the department store, insa-ing to whoever passes by. I think Majid like it very much :-)

    I forgot to mention in my post last time about the toilet paper experience from a few days ago. We had the same 'issue' in Iran when we visited this spring. I had completely forgotten about it (I mean my days as a kid long long time ago in Korea, because it is not all like that everywhere in Korea) and nobody bothered to tell us. So they had to call the plummer twice at Majid's parents' house. Even after the first time, they didn't tell us straight out either - they were being too polite I am guessing. So we caused 'clog and destruction', I am afraid. After the second time, I think we learned our lesson.


  2. Oh, that toilet paper story is so funny! Our directors' main goal is to go through the semester without calling a plumber. So far so good!

    I'm getting pretty good at insa. And I'm learning all of the necessary tourist korean. :)

  3. you better Insa at me when you come back home =)

  4. Sorry, dear. Only in cases of seniority. Therefore, you must insa to me. Ha.