With three 50-lb rolling suitcases, plus one small rolling carry-on, and a backpack, I’m loaded down. It’s okay because it gives me space to bring enough professional clothes for teaching.
I was prepared to pay someone to help me carry my bags occasionally. And that I’d have to keep an eye on them at all times. But what I found here is different.
There aren’t really people around to help you carry things, but on the other hand, you can leave your stuff and it’s perfectly safe.
- Getting from my hotel in Seoul to the train station, I thought I could have a taxi driver or porter at the station help me. But no, there aren’t people standing around to do that. So, instead the front desk clerk came to work at 7:45 am to go with me to the station before he had to be back at the hotel front desk. He walked me down to the street, crossed the road and caught a cab with me. He came down the escalator with me and helped me get my bags on the train. When I tried to give him a tip, he refused. I offered three or four more times, and still he said no.
- Getting off that same train, I unloaded the bags onto the platform. Fellow passengers and the train all cleared out and before I knew it I was on an empty platform with three large bags and no one in sight. Now what? I went back on the train and asked a male employee for help. He shook his head no with forearms crossed, which meant either no or maybe no English?. I asked the female employee. She looked worried (I think she was supposed to be cleaning the train.) But she hopped off and in her skirt and heels quickly walked with me, wheeling two of the bags to the base of the escalator. There she grabbed a passing male employee, who rode the escalator up with me, as she ran back to the train.
- Today, when I got off the subway in Seoul, twice I had a stretch of 2 or 3 flights of stairs up. This time I just had one 60-lb rolling suitcase, but nobody offers to help.
So, I guess it’s a trade-off. In the US, Latin America, Africa, someone definitely helps you carry stuff. But you always keep an eye out to make sure they don’t just keep going with it.