AMERICA ISN’T THE whole world. When I first taught English in Korea, I already had a few years living abroad, but I still succumbed to typical expat behavior in my first months, when I drank too much soju and didn’t notice just how loudly I was speaking to my friend on the bus. In response, the driver jerked the bus off the road, jumped out of his seat, stood directly in front of my friend and me, and gave us a lecture in Korean. I had no idea what he really said, but the message was clear: STFU or get off my bus.
It wasn’t that Korea is such a quiet country: the practice is just to stay silent on buses and train. We Americans are a loud people, and this is rarely appreciated once we move beyond our borders. Add some alcohol to the mix, and we’re a loud, belligerent people who aren’t appreciated on a long bus journey — or even a short one.