How To Make Koreans Smile Before Noon

How to Make Koreans Smile On the Subway:

Yep, I'm doing it. I'm rocking the polar bear hat. I have a better picture of the polar bear hat rockingness on the subway, but that picture is on our new camera. And our new camera's memory chip does not work with my memory chip thingy, even though my memory chip thingy says it does. So, when I figure that out, I'll put up the better, more appropriate picture. And perhaps I should be a more self-conscious blogger (as if that's humanly possible) and just wait for the right picture to write this, but whatev. I'm tired and I have a bajillion tons of gooey yuck in my sinuses that make my head hurt when I bend down to help my students write the letter A. So, sub-par picture it is. You get the idea, right? Adult-size white girl with huge eyes gets on the train and wears this hat with all the seriousness of a Louis Vuitton headpiece. They love it! I mean, everyone on the train is either pretending to be asleep so that they don't have to give up their seat to the older person standing in front of them, or they're staring at the foreigner. So, I decided to spice up the second option. I got close to 10 smiles on the way to work this morning, made Angie choke on her breakfast 김밥 when I walked into school, and even got a 귀 여워 (Korean equivalent of cute) from the Hyundai lady who bagged my kimchi and lone potato this afternoon. 

My kids LOVED it. They all squealed with glee as they exited the elevator this morning, reminding me of the plagues in the Old Testament that came in waves. I was giving out Polar Bear High Fives all day because the sides of the hat run long like a scarf and turn into little paw mittens. Today, as I rock and rolled it down the hall, celebrity style as only the foreign teacher can do, every child called out, "Polar Bear Teacher! Polar Bear Teacher!" Yep. I wore it all day long. And it was fabulous. And the guy at Tom n' Tom's who makes my tall iced caramel macchiato everyday (yes, iced even in the winter because I'm drinking it inside where there is heat!) gave me a huge smile. And normally he's so somber. I want to talk to him, have a real conversation besides just ordering, saying thanking, and telling him it was delicious. He is one of the reasons I am getting back into my seriously focused Korean studies. That and because all my expat friends are shaming me whenever we go out in public. And because one time, in March of 2007 to be exact, Kenny said, "When you speak Korean, it's like eating chocolate." 

It's one of those things where people think it's a joke and they're completely thrown off when  you see that you're wearing your ridiculous hat in all seriousness as if it were not a ridiculous hat. Although I know that my hat is ridiculous, I appreciate it and I will continue to wear the hat so that everyone on my morning commute will start calling me The White Polar Bear Hat Girl instead of just The Weird Girl when they think about me in their heads. Which is quite often, I'm sure. So, if you see a Polar-Bear-topped white girl bobbing around Seoul, give me a shout, yeah?


  1. Dude, that is an adorable picture. The most adorable picture of an ex-pat living in Korea that I have EVER seen. Don't knock it.

    Also, how much will you pay me to try the same thing on the DC Metro? People here take themselves way too seriously.

  2. That has got to be the most adorable picture of you I have ever seen, and I've seen a few. It is no surprise to me that you have found a way to make Koreans smile. Makes me miss you even more, if that is possible!!

  3. I love it. This makes me laugh. I couldn't imagine doing something in Taiwan to make people stare at me more.

  4. Rob- Got mine for free, actually. Stole it off my man, who won it at Paris Baguette last year for buying a cake. Have you seen the latest crap they've come up with? I think Brian had some post up about how ridiculous their hats were this year!

    Sarah- I dare you. And I will pay in one Polar Bear picture that you can post on your blog. It will be a good one, too. With a funny face and of me actually on the subway. DO IT.

    MOMMY!!! I'm so glad that after nine months you have learned how to post a comment! It warms my heart...

    Kevin- glad you're smiling just like all the Koreans I pass on the street. How do you feel about moving to Korea and teaching again? We could wear crazy hats and make people stare at us ALL FREAKING DAY!

  5. Hey, I have been looking for this hat everywhere...and I was wondering (while clinging to the last shred of hope I have of ever getting it) if you, or anyone you know, would be willing to send one to me if I pay for the hat and the shipping. Or if you know anywhere online I can buy it. If you do, please contact me at mayumi_naoyuuki@hotmail.com

  6. Me too I'm looking for such a hat!!
    Does anyone know where I can buy it? Is it possible to buy it in Internet? It would be very nice if someone could answer me. Thanks!
    My adress is kelajno@yahoo.com

  7. I've been looking for that hat everywhere!! Please oh please could there be any possible way that you could get one for me? Or tell me of a place on the internet that has it? I'm willing to pay for the service =) ladixarcangel@yahoo.com

  8. you can buy it off ebay, "Cute Polar Bear Hat with Glove/Scarf Cosplay Teddy" or http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=280427335018

  9. I saw that exact hat today at the Union Square Holiday Market in New York City. In the booth closest to the Farmers Market.


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