It’s a beautiful spring day at Hanyang ERICA. The cherry blossoms are blooming, and the road to school from the dormitory is closed off, so that pedestrians are safe to take photos with the flowers.
A large “LOVE” sign made of hollow metal is placed in the center of the road for some fun, interactive photos.
Can’t have that.
The Koreans like to get creative like this with signs, I’ve seen. One friend showed me the letters stacked to make a person. Here’s to more Korean silliness with the alphabet! I’d like to show you a few examples of things I’ve stumbled upon the last few months.
Here’s another set of letters from the annual school festival “SQUALL” held around the end of May – named so as pretty much every festival has taken place while it was raining (a squall is a sudden burst of rain).
The gang sign I’m throwing here is just a little pose I made for our zoo trip with the mentor programme – I was put in group 3 and they wanted something for photos that we could be unique with. The ILY sign was a good match I thought, 3 fingers and another cute meaning! Cheese? Yes please.
And about the SQUALL sign: The ‘pranked result’ was a little bit open to interpretation.
This photo is definitely one of the more confusing examples. So there’s a brand called “have a good time” which this poster is pastiching (def: an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period). But to the uninformed individual like me, it’s quite a dose of sudden gibberish to be met with while going up the stairs to my Monday classes!
Here’s a few photos from my trip to Jeju with some of the other exchange students.
While exploring the subtropic island south of South Korea, we came across a few waterfalls, some more frequented by tourists than others. This sign in particular was posted at a spot near a wide-open area with a small waterfall. Prior to this, we had visited a waterfall where 5.5/7 (I didn’t go in fully, hence the half) of us jumped in the cold mountain water.
Apparently, some of us were at risk of can be died with heart attack. Oh noes!
It’s not wrong, I guess. You could be died with heart attack doing anything, really.
Perhaps you’re familiar with this image:
The ‘do not animals’ image probably started circulating around when “Engrish” images became popular on the Internet. Well. I’m proud to announce that the successor of this image has been found on Mount Halla, tallest mountain in South Korea!
A worthy mention, although not Engrish, is this bright sign tied to a tree right next to the entrance of one of the waterfall areas, highly populated with tourists, families and children, lightly bound with a plastic barrier chain. Always fun with a bit of highly toxic flora to attract tourists!
And lastly, how about an eraser that talks down to you? This eraser says ‘you can’t erase anything because you didn’t write anything’.
To finish off with a bit of Freding:
What is the cute, and why is it good?
Good or bad, attaching personality to items that we interact with on a daily basis is a surprisingly interesting idea to me from a socio-psychological perspective. It’s not bad to explore your personality when dealing with various thoughts and ideas, but perhaps having them presented to us when real relationships are at stake make us feel ill-prepared and cause our “Doer” to take the safest bets instead of listening to our minority thoughts. Just because there aren’t many of them (right now), does that mean they are wrong?
If we engaged ourselves psychologically like this outside of human interaction, as if simulating that interaction, we’ll feel more prepared for the real scenarios. Perhaps see it as a way of conditioning your confidence – like creating space for ‘shower comebacks’, but preemptively. Online videogames also explore this, allowing you to interact with people in a low-risk environment. It’s not without reason you see people who otherwise struggle with social interaction spend a lot of time in online games. Just remember that it is also a diverse environment, and I’m not saying everyone’s like that.
My first thought of this eraser was ‘cute’. You may have heard of the Japanese word for cute, ‘kawaii’. Japan has been strongly trending towards the fascination of the kawaii the last few decades. My own exploration of this concept is that the embodiment of cuteness, from my experience in and with Japan, is that the cute is what we admire to have, or experience, from a childish perspective.
It isn’t uncommon for articles on the Internet about self-realization, actualization, confidence, etc., to talk about how our childhood has affected us, and what we need to understand and explore about that. What I see in my generation, is perhaps a bit of confusion about childhood, what it was supposed to be, or how we or others could have messed it up. The Information Age has exposed us to more perspectives and knowledge than any other generation in the history of mankind.
As a species, we lean towards natural empathy. The wish to embody and reflect the feelings of others of our own kind. Technology has allowed us to see exactly how similar we are across the world, something we haven’t had the past few centuries, which in the past led to harsh stereotyping and collective thinking that some people were simply not people, with values like you, or the right to live. Wars were easy.
However on an individual level, technology has pulled us further apart despite the promise of closeness. We no longer bounce thoughts and ideas off each other as much, opting to let a couple of fingers express our hopes, wishes and dreams – ironically enough exactly how this blog works. We speak into a void, and pretend that the number of hits, likes or mentions we get is the same as real human attention. What we need, is for our words and actions to really stop time from the perspective of another, and have them reconsider the world in a new light – your light. It is through this effect of true empathy that we as a species can move forwards and create synergy through our life experiences.
That isn’t to say that the written word cannot have this effect. You may have read a book after which you closed it, and looked up with a completely new perspective on life. What I am talking about is what comes next: You standing up, and going to tell someone about what you now see, and them in turn accepting your thoughts and feelings, through which they can then create a completely new, unpredictable, uncalculatable path in life. The world does not exist just from a single perspective, but many at once. It is possible to grasp these, but only if you truly surrender your trust to your fellow human.
Of course, this prompts the ethical issue of how many of us are really trying to have others understand something for the sake of it, and are not manipulating them for our own selfish reasons. I do not have the answer to this. The only thing I can tell you is, your whole life, all of your knowledge and experience, has led up to the moment when you really decide to trust somebody, truly accept their perspective, and you allow them to change your life.
It is this concept, this point that we all yearn for. For someone to truly understand and accept us into them. We admire the things that represent this, represent love and acceptance. The Information Age has also shown us that there us much disregard for the different in the world sometimes. It can be scary, and so naturally we seek out safety, in case we happen to differ.
This is where we return to the concept of cuteness; the kawaii. To me it seems that the cute is the closest thing we can find that we believe should be the true values of childhood, and thereby the inner person whom we all grew up as, and continue to keep close to us through life.
It’s about the innocent joy that comes with the childish enamoring of things – the idea that if there is the feeling present, then it is acceptable to feel joyful about. There is no rational, longer-term reasoning behind this joy, it is the surrendering to the present, the present moment which is the only thing that can contain feelings. You cannot have a feeling tomorrow, now. You cannot have feelings yesterday. There is only the now, and if you do not embrace exactly what it is you are feeling right now, it is gone forever.
It is this total acceptance of the feeling that surge within, without consideration prior social barriers or judgments to tell you what is good, or fun, or should be nice. You simply decide yourself, and deem it so – you deem it cute. It is that warm, reassuring feeling deep within you that tells you, that your inner child is happy.
I see this trend as a generation slowly, yet surely, pushing the ideas that it doesn’t take the wisdom or knowledge of millennia of history for you to decide what makes you happy. You should simply be allowed to decide so yourself, at any moment, if you please.
And for many of us, it means keeping that part of you that was always there – the inner child – and allowing him or her to be a part of that decision-making process. Allowing him/her to make the decisions they never got to, perhaps, if you had a tough childhood. Giving him/her the proper attention, acceptance, love, that they always wanted, but never received.
Ï am not saying for you to be completely irresponsible, or immature. Maturity is simply knowing when it is appropriate to be immature. And your inner child is always accompanied by the adult you – who knows how to let them run and play freely, away from danger and risk.
Do not grow up because you have to. Grow up to allow yourself to play every day of your life.
One last thing. What do we do, should we face adversity? What if we are not silencing or repressing our feelings ourselves, but it is external from peers or society? What if enough people around you tell you that what you’re seeing isn’t there? There is a real reality-changing effect at work when this happens, according to Thaler & Sunstein’s Nudge (2008). My perspective is this:
If the Universe has a theoretical infinity of possibilities, is it not possible for your perspective, that you are sure about, to be true?