Weird Pets in Korea

14 Mar

The most popular pets in Britain tend to be cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, Guinea pigs; the usual furry cute looking creatures. Sure, there’s the occasional pubescent boy who decides to adopt a tarantula or snake, (usually with the motive, I imagine, to impress his friends or scare his sister).

In my experience, the pets of my household growing up included a tabby cat, named Oliver, my Mum partly regretted naming the cat this when she found herself pregnant with my younger brother, since one of her favourite boy names had already been taken. There was Christie the hamster who became Chris on discovery that it was male. I and my brother both took a bereavement day off school after a distressful morning trying to resuscitate the cold, stiff, furry ball before and finally burying it in a lunch box coffin in the garden. We had Sophie the German Sheppard, who lives to this day, happily frolicking in the fields of a farm somewhere, at least that’s what I have been told... My brother, with his first pubescent teen spot making an appearance, had a slightly less conventional choice of pet. He had a brief period of owning two giant African land snails. He said he needed two because he “didn’t want them to get lonely”. The notion of err…togetherness was reaffirmed in the snails behaviour. As if giant snails weren’t disgusting enough, I seem to remember the slimy things used to spend the vast majority of the time slowly sliding on top of each other, glued to one another, humping their days away.

In Korea they also have an interest in some alternative pets. How do I know this? Because they bring them into school! One of my pupils recently for example, proudly showed off his giant pet beetle. My boyfriend, Lawson, also told me about an occasion when his class was interrupted by a persistent chirping chick that had been brought into school by its owner, one of his pupils. I can see how a chick might be an appealing pet, it has those traditional qualities required of a pet; it’s both cute and furry, in fact it probably earns extra cute factor for being more fluffy than furry. But what will they do when that cute little chirping chick morphs into a big clucking chicken?

That had me thinking, now that I thought about it, whenever pets were brought up in class discussion my pupils never EVER said they wanted a ‘dog’, ‘cat’ or any fully grown animal. They wanted a ‘kitten’, ‘puppy’ or ‘chick’. I seem to remember a campaign as a child with the tag line ‘a dog is not just for Christmas’. This campaign obviously didn’t reach as far as Korea. I have also noticed many stray cats in Korea in the area that I live too. Is this purely coincidental? I can’t say I blame the idealism of having a cute miniature sized version, especially when you walk past the Korean pet store windows crammed with glass cages with puppies and kittens staring out at you with their pleading eyes. A trend in Korea, and a possible solution, are the cat café’s that are all over the country. They house cats and serve coffee so customers are able to sip their cappuccinos and enjoy the companionship of a feline friend for an hour or so.

I also wonder what part us foreign teachers have to play in the purchasing of pets. I see many foreign teachers advertising the re-housing of their pets because they’ve decided to leave Korea and return to their home country.  I know a couple, for example, who had a pet hedgehog named ‘Shakespeare’, if I remember rightly, that, was luckily enough to find a new home. What’s your view on adopting or owning pets on a short-term basis? Are you a TEFL teacher or ex-patriot who has adopted a pet or thinking about it adopting one? If you have any views on weird and wonderful pets please leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think about it.

I’ll leave you with this video about the cat café in my neighbouring town presented by fellow TEFL teacher and friend, John Avery.

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