The high population density practice of shoulder bumping

In Korea, everything is ‘빨리 빨리’, or ‘quick, quick’. Always moving, always fast, always working. Like any big city, people rush around at all times. It makes things lively, and it makes the city feel alive. Especially when there are so many people.

It also means that as the average walking speed increases, so does the chance of bumping into someone, or knocking shoulders.

As a Canadian, it’s very normal for me to say ‘sorry’ when I bump into someone, or when they bump into me.

Things are a little bit different here. People are still very polite in Seoul. If we are waiting for the subway, or just standing around, people take the time to apologize.

But when we are rushing down the street in opposite directions, that’s a whole other story. And understandably so.

If they don’t say sorry, there’s no point in getting angry. By the time you turn around with a scolding on your lips, they’ve already disappeared halfway down the road, among a crowd of rushing, bobbing heads.

So really, might as well save yourself the trouble, and just keep walking. Chances are they didn’t intentionally hit you, nor did they body-check you across the sidewalk, so there’s no need to release the kracken.

I think of it as reflex training. Quicken your reaction speed and improve your spatial awareness. In case I get into that life-threatening street fight for which everyone must be prepared. Who knows when someone might draw a gun and – oh wait, wrong country.

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