You won’t be in Korea long before you hear the words 빨리빨리 ppali-ppali meaning ‘quickly, hurry up, faster!’ It’s a well-known phrase, as there exists a feeling of haste embedded in modern Korean culture. Taxi drivers are in a constant rush, servers turn tables at the speed of light, and if you’ve ever tried buying a Kpop concert ticket online, well, you know the speed of Korean purchasing too.

This fast pace of life is thought to have begun after the Korean war, as a survival method. The country and its people had to work hard and fast to rebuild the damaged economy. Now, it’s the third largest economy in Asia and the 13th largest economy in the world. So isn’t it time they earned a break? Not so. Take, for example, the Busan mother in law featured on My Neighbour Charles who’s impatiently chasing her new Bulgarian son-in-law to hurry up with his showers, his job-seeking, his… everything.

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It’s not just her. Many of the other foreigners’ stories featured on this KBS show highlight hurry-up attitudes from Korean co-workers, family and friends in a variety of situations. It seems that Koreans expect people to adjust to living and working in Korea quickly. And learn Korean quickly, too.

While it might be tough to adjust to, there’s some great advantages to ppali-ppali: you’ll never have to wait long for a bus, a food delivery, or for a new cafe to open up. Plus, in which other country would idols be able to perform their dance routines at double speed so flawlessly?

Here are some more thoughts on ppali-ppali from ex-pats.


About Author

British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.