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Too Close For Comfort: A True Story

First-Hand Experience On The Cultural Differences Regarding Personal Space In Korea


So I go to the the gym today straight from work. It is common for gyms in S. Korea to issue clothing to patrons to work out. Very convenient for those that stop by the gym on the go. I normally go home first. Eat something, relax, perhaps squeeze one out, then I hit the iron. Today I switched it up.

I go in for a good work out. Mainly cosmetic. ‘Cause ,the weekend is here and that increases my chances of being naked in front of  someone by 4%. So, that means there is a 97% chance that I will get naked in front of someone else on any given weekend.

A cosmetic workout is defined, by me, as one that targets the main areas that women pay attention to when observing a nude man – aside from the obvious groinial region. If that isn’t right by now, no amount of gym time will help. But enough gym time can make a woman forgive your shortcomings. I’m talkin about the abs, chest, and arms. I know each lady has her own special preference, but these seem to be the key areas. I’m lookin’ to give the arms and chest that “pump” and the abs that “cut”. I’m no super model, but I work with what I got and keep it moving.

I finish my workout. It was good. Go to the locker room to take a shower. Everyone takes showers in the locker rooms in Korea. Everyone. If you don’t, you seem odd to the locals. Well, normally I jog my odd ass to and from the gym, so I usually don’t take a shower at my gym. This makes me come across as a bit insecure. But trust me, I have nothing to me insecure about in this locker room. I once was asked why I don’t take showers. I gave the reason that I just mentioned. I keep it moving.

This day was my first time taking a shower at this gym. Which meant, that this day was the first time getting completely naked in this locker room.  Not a big deal to me. I’ve showered in a gym before, moonlighted as a stripper, and participated in a few orgies in my heyday. Being naked in around others is no big deal.

well, not quite. Every one stares. Maybe it’s my brands, that happen to be all over my body. And by brands I mean; marks on my body left behind by glowing red iron being seared into my flesh for eternal, fraternal, pride and glory. I have fourteen total. Even back in the States those get a stare or two. At any rate I’m not sure why they are staring. Some even walk by the showers, repeatedly to catch a glance. I just figure it’s for the same reasons as the people on the street. I’m new and exciting. Go ahead. Look, but please, don’t touch.

Then all of a sudden, once I am out of the shower, before I get a change to get dressed, a dude that has spoken to me before in the gym, about weight training, supplements and related subjects,  approaches me. He stops and stares me up and down. Literally. Mind you, I’m still naked. I greet him in Hangul (Korean) and he greets me back. I smile and nod. He continues to stares, and eventually says, “your body, uh…(trying to find the right words) …very good.”

First: Allow me to explain something here. People in S. Korea, and Busan in particular (were this took place) are very direct. And there is also a language barrier, so things may not always come out as they are intended. I’m an international man of mystery, so I understand these subtle cultural differences. No harm, no foul.

Back in the locker room: My response, “I know.” by that I meant, I know I work out so my body looks decent. He continues to stare. “Wow! Very very good,” he continues. “I agree,” I think to myself.

Now, he’s not a little guy himself. Works out often. Drinks protein shakes. Takes creatine and other supplements. I figure that he’s just paying a compliment, and I take it as such. But then, with out any warning, without hint, or preview, or any permission, for that matter, the not-so gentleman touches… me. He starts squeezing my arms and proceeds to feel up my chest.

Second: Koreans in general are very touchy… physically. Men walk in the street holding hands, or with arms locked. Women also do the same, but that’s also common in the states.

When I first observed this behavior the first few time I thought that this place was like another amsterdam; open and accepted homosexuality. Didn’t bother me one bit. When in Rome… do you.

But I soon realized that people were just very close here, and touching or holding didn’t necessarily mean anything sexual.  So his actions did not necessarily constitute anything homosexual.

But, I can’t say that I wanted  to be touched in that manner, in that particular setting, by another man. If I were a woman I would feel violated. As a man, I was not quite sure how to feel. Now let me say; I do enjoy a warm cup of tea every now and again, but that’s just not my cup of tea. Ever. But, hey… no harm, no foul. Right?

Back in the locker room: “very strong.”, says the dude. “Thank you”, I replied, growing a bit tired of this now.  I proceed to take my clothes out of the locker. Then, as he sees the final moments of my nakedness coming to a close, he calls over to his friend around the corner, and tells him to come cop a feel as well.

Ok, this is getting out of hand! I start ignoring these guys and begin to get dressed. Yes, this whole time I was ass-naked. Another friend, apparently enthusiastically, agreeing in korean, (he points to arms), “very big…” Ok, that’s cool. (Points to schlong), “…and very very big”.

Hmm…  see, that’s not cool

Flagrant foul!

Get outta here

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