Tuesday, May 25, 2010


...yes that's right. Urine. That is what the school hallway has smelled like for the past 3 days. Take one step out of the teachers room and you are blasted. It's like living in a litter box... that hasn't been changed in a month. The smell has me disgusted, repulsed, and yet slightly curious.

I mean in the U.S. you don't really get a lot of weird smelling building, but in Korea it's not really that strange. Apartment buildings,  office buildings, medical centers, the subway, heck even some of the little shop/marts I've been in have had some sort of "off" smell.

I, for one, would LOVE to know why!? I mean really, why does it always have to smell here? I guess I know some of the reasons why, but still it just seems like a strange phenomenon.

I think it boils down to these factors

1) Korean do not flush toilet paper... they throw it away. Yes that's right. You have a trash bin next to the toilet and that is where you throw your used toilet paper. Gross.. I know. And the best is their reasoning. They argue that their "plumbing" isn't up to snuff so the toilet paper will clog everything. Ummmm pretty sure you're considered a 1st world nation... your plumbing is fine.

2) Bathrooms are never really clean. and you also have the joy of the squatter toilet... that's right ladies and gentlemen the squatter...

Now to be fair this is the bathroom on the ferry... but I don't believe it's too far off from A LOT  of Korean bathrooms. I also feel I must note that most times there isn't even toilet paper in the bathrooms. Yes... you're right it is a treat going to the bathroom here. Always playing the game of which stall has tp and which one doesn't.

I must also point out that the squatters can be *ahem* a little difficult to use, epsecially if you don't have thighs of steal. And honestly for girls it's close to a nightmare... I mean we are never taught to "aim" it's sit down and go. In Korea it's, squat down, try not to tip over, try to aim right, and not get it all over your pants and the surrounding area. And I'm sure there is some sprayage and spillage (think of really little kids!)... which can also add to the distinct...smell.

3) As for actual buildings smelling that is a direct result of janitorial staff. At our school we have a handy-man, but when it comes to cleaning it's the students. So imagine you teachers out there (i.e. Mom) that your entire school is being cleaned by your students every day after school. The floors, garbage, windows, bathrooms EVERYTHING by the students.  Now I know how capable (and how little I cared) about making things clean when I was a kid... and you can imagine why the school never really quite has that "squeaky clean" feeling. It's more of a grimy, I'm not sure what's touched that surface, why are there cobwebs and spiders in the corner... type of feeling. That and they don't really use vacuums they use short tiny little brooms, open all the windows and basically stir around the dust and dirt.

And honestly I don't think a lot of other building are kept "clean" either. At least not North America, U.S.A. standards clean. There have been many restaraunts Jon and I have encountered and realize that places like that in the states would be out of business in a week! Furniture and couches at some medical offices I've been too have stains and questionable looking material on them.

And yet, we still go to these places, we still eat there and I think we are actually becoming accustomed to it. Which is a little sad. Our standards have really dropped... we've gotten used to that "not so clean" feeling and all the random smells....

except for the permiating urine smell... which is now wafting it's way into the teacher's room because SOMEBODY left the door open... exucse me while I put on my gas mask and sanitize the crap out of my surroundings.

*UPDATE*- I received a comment, but then someone chose to delete it. Although I don't think they realize I get them emailed to me...so I'm going to clear up something which sounded like it offended the person.

I do get that places in the U.S. smell, I know... my parents live on a farm, and we have mules. And I do get that other places don't flush tp. But Korea's excuse for not flushing the tp... isn't a real reason because their plumbing is fine... Trust me, I've been to many cities around the world and all of them have some unique *smelly* places. But considering I live in Korea... I'm choosing to write about it here, for those that don't live here and don't get to experience it. It's just a comic way to look at our lives and things we experience here in Korea-land!


Randi said...

have you ever worked in that particular school in the summer? or was your office in that same location in the summer? i have a feeling the only reason you are suddenly smelling the urine smell is because it's getting hotter. every summer when i worked in a korean school the urine smell would start to permeate the hallways- so disgusting! it's a combination of all the things you listed (the tp bucket, the squatters, the insufficient cleaning practices) plus HEAT. the heat is really what makes it so bad :oP and the boys/mens restroom is always worse...i guess they must miss a lot lol i've also noticed a lot of koreans don't flush the toilet at all if it's just pee in order to save water...which is good on one count but really bad on another lol i've concluded that koreans may as well just have out-houses...then at least you wouldn't have to smell them indoors! since being back in the states i've actually used a port-a-potty that was cleaner and more convenient than my korean school's bathroom! 1. there was tp 2. there were seat-covers 3. there was a separate urinal for men so there was no splattering 4. there was no tp bucket 5. there was SOAP at the sink AND paper towels...amazing! lol anyway, hang in there! not much longer, eh? ~randi

The Stainbrooks said...

that is an excellent observation Randi!!! We came to these schools in October... so I've not yet dealt with the heat here, and I'm sure that is what is bringing out the smell, and yes the boys/mens bathroom is feet a way from the open teachers room door...

Nicholas & Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura said...

That's funny that you say that, Sara - we have friends from the Marines that we visited in Texas. We stayed over night at their parents' house one night and they did the same thing with their tp. They said it would clog up the plumbing too! Um, that is weird to me. Especially when the dog went in and knocked over the garbage can, and proceeded to drag the tp everywhere. Haha it was an interesting day, to say the least!