Sunday, November 4, 2012

100 Things I Love About Korea: #5 - Small Town Feel in a Big Town

We live in a 15 story apartment building, and there are skyscrapers all around.  There are more people in our apartment complex than in all of Sarah's hometown.  Yet it feels like we live in a small town.
Just consider the list of people we know enough to chit-chat on the street:

  • all three regular workers at the bakery
  • our realtor
  • the lady at the fruit stand
  • most of the workers out our local grocer
  • the folks in the Kimbap Nara (a restaurant) across the street
  • John David's daycare workers
  • the dry cleaners
  • the folks in the pizza shop
  • a few neighbors
  • the mentally disabled guy who always asks where I'm going
  • the security guards in our apartment complex
  • a few of the security guards in neighboring apartments
  • some of the bank workers
  • some of the teachers in Emma's school
  • the mom and pop owners of the nearest stationary store
  • the folks at the nearest coffee shop
  • our florist
  • Sarah's hairdresser
  • the convenience store
  • and the old men who sit in front of the convenience store drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.  

We see all of these people on the street or in their shop anywhere from everyday to once every few weeks.  That doesn't even count folks from church or KNU that we see while walking down the street.  It is a rare walk home when I don't pass someone I know, and it's fairly common to be a few minutes late because two or three different people wanted to stop and chat.
Sarah and I have talked a lot about why there is this small-town phenomena in a city of almost 600,000 people.  We think it comes down to population density and localization.  We don't know the people at the big stores (places like a Wal-Mart).  There are too many workers and too many customers.  But when you've got 10,000 people living within a few square blocks, you can have a thriving network of mom and pop places that really get to know their customers.  Also because so many people are walking instead of driving, you just run into a lot more people face to face.  (For an actual view of our street, click here.)
I love this about Korea - or at least our neighborhood in Korea, and I'm going to miss it.
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