As of March 20th, I have officially gotten ill for the first time since moving to Korea. It has only been a month, but if you saw how many people (yes, adults and children) here just snot and cough everywhere, you might be impressed.
I don’t consider myself a germaphobe. I don’t go crazy in feeling like I constantly have to use hand sanitizer or the like when it comes to touching every little thing. I don’t go ballistic if someone double dips. I’m willing to take bites and sips out of friends’ food and drinks if they offer. But when it comes to coughing and sneezing, a HUGE pet peeve of mine is when people don’t cover their mouths with their elbow. I watched a man just sneeze right into the air on the subway on my second day here. I see children and adults every day cough without covering their mouths or doing it in their hands. I think Korea missed the memo about the elbow etiquette. PSA: USING YOUR HANDS TO COVER YOUR MOUTH IS JUST AS BAD.
Also, what the hell is it with people that don’t wash their hands after the bathroom? Both here and back home this seems to be some sort of algebraic equation that just stumps too many people. Wash. Your. Damn. Hands. I’ve heard FAR too many women (and the young girls at school) leave the bathroom without cleansing their tainted extremities. F***ing. Gross.
My first sign of sickness came Monday when I woke up with a sore throat and my voice half gone. After teaching for 5 hours, I sounded like a dying goose. None of my medicines that I brought with me from America were working (different germs, duh). By Wednesday, I had gotten a lot worse and woke up with a fever. Back home, I’d simply call off. In Korea, although everyone has sick days, it is highly recommended that you do not use those sick days unless you are being carted off to the ER or else you can be really judged by your employer. Especially since this is just a month in. However, I ultimately made the decision to just stay home when I could barely stand for more than a minute. Luckily my coteachers are absolutely wonderful. They told me rest and take care of myself. When I came back the next day, both teachers and students asked me if I was okay (considering I sounded like I was coughing out my entire lung). If I were working at a hagwon (private school), they probably would have made me come in or fired me.
Unfortunately, I’m still sick. But I’m getting better day by day. I’m just happy that it wasn’t anything worse. I’ve always gotten ill within the first month of living in a new place. Hopefully this just works to build up some immunity to Korea germs.
Oh, and I got one of those washable face masks because Korea.