In the U.S., numbers make me crazy. In Korea, well, they just don’t make sense.
Take my apartment building…101. The building to my right, 113. To the left, 104. Don’t try to look for a pattern or make sense of this; addresses weren’t assigned based on location. The buildings are labeled in the order in which they were constructed. So if you don’t feel like getting lost in the second biggest city in the world, make a Korean friend. They’re your only hope, as Mapquest and Google Maps do not exist here.
Once you reach your destination, if you decide to take the elevator, the buttons on the door will read: 1, 2, 3, F, 5, and so on. The number four in Korean reads exactly the same as the word death, so it’s not present in elevators. Many Asians have actually developed such a strong aversion to the number that the ailment has a name: Tetraphobia.
Oh, and, by the way, I live on floor F.
Something else I’ve learned: the kids I teach are really six years old, not seven as I was told. No, the school’s director didn’t lie to me; the moment a person is born in Korea they’re considered to be one year old.
That means I’m 28 here.
Better yet, when January hits, I’ll be 29. Koreans don’t wait for your birthday to slap another year onto your age.
I knew there was a reason I hated numbers.