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Here's looking at you!

The love of staring out the roll-down windows
Feb 03,2003
The following is a tip on traditional Korean language and customs in response to a query from a Mr. Bailey, who wrote to us from Incheon:

Q. Mr. Bailey:
With light wavy hair, blue eyes and freckled fair skin, I stand out in Korea. When I travel in my car with my infant son, who looks a lot like me, we get a lot more stares from locals.

What scared me most in Korea for many months was that when they did the staring, Koreans rolled down their dark car windows.

To someone who grew up and lived in big cities in America, having that kind of experience -- a dark car with dark windows slows and a stranger in the car rolls down the window to stare at you -- is the worst nightmare imaginable, for that person just might pull out a gun.

I've learned that Korea is a relatively safe country. But even so, I keep on wondering why on earth Koreans keep the car windows rolled down, not UP when staring at people.

First off, Koreans rarely think about potential dangers from drive-by shootings, even if you see many in the movies.

Like any other people, Koreans like to tint their car windows for various reasons: fashion, health benefits or privacy. But that sense of privacy in Korea is only to protect themselves, not others. To most Koreans, staring is a direct expression of interest, not a sign of aggression. And when it comes to expressing themselves, Koreans are not very subtle. They never mind what you think; they just want to get a better look at their object of curiosity.