Warning: May contain large doses of sarcasm. Not to be taken 100% literally 🙂
I consider myself a pretty modern, high-tech, new-world-embracing kinda gal. I’m all for new technology that now connects us to anyone anywhere at any time, and I have several apps installed on my phone for that exact purpose. Skype, Whatsapp, Line, KakaoTalk… Wait, did I say KakaoTalk? Yes, though globally available, this seems to be THE most popular chatting app in Korea. You cannot go out of your house without instantly hearing the annoying, cuts-through-your-bones, signature KaTalk chirp from someone’s phone.
For Koreans, texting is the preferred method of communication. Forget phone calls, people will just have a long chat going on KakaoTalk instead. And here’s where it gets tricky. To unknowing foreigners, the KakaoTalk app (or KaTalk as Koreans call their go-to communication tool) can be a true landmine field of unwritten rules, secret etiquette and, well, pure hell. Even the sanest person will, with time, be driven mad by the KaTalk paranoia that follows from the frequent use of this app.
Don’t be fooled by the seemingly innocuous emoticons with names like Frodo, Peachy (who’s really just a bare butt – I mean you are you kidding?!), and Ryan. There is nothing cute about these little minions what so ever. They are just designed to make you captivated by their cuteness, so you don’t realize that you’re gradually being pulled into a dark underworld that will continue to mess with your brain.
Koreans probably learn how to do this in school, in fact, I’m confident that they even attend private academies after hours to learn how to torture each other with this devilish app. Here are a few examples of such torture:
- Being in the middle of a chat back and forth with someone when the messages just stop coming in. You then notice the little yellow “1” which indicates that the other has not “read” your message. Sure they have, they just don’t want to reply right now, and now you are left wondering what suddenly came up that was more important. You can literally go from exchanging hilarious emoticons one moment to deadpan silence the next. Here’s where it get’s tricky. You are now left with two choices. A sane option, and an option that will slowly drag you into a slavery where KakaoTalk and your conversation partner are the only omnipotent masters. Curious what they are? The sane person will assume that there’s a reasonable excuse, leave the chat themselves, move on with their life, and not give it a second thought until the other one decides to return to the chat (note: this may take days). The dark road (which sadly turns out to be the road most traveled), involves obsessing over the fact that they did not reply, constantly checking in on the chat to see whether or not the message has been read, and if you are really out of the good graces of the KakaoTalk gods, you’ll notice that your message is being read while you’re still in the chatroom, and a reply ticks in before your clumsy fingers hit the escape button. Your chatting partner will notice that the yellow “1” on their side disappears the moment they send the message. Congratulations, you are now a desperate stalker with no life. You may as well walk out on the nearest bridge spanning the Han River and throw your phone into its muddy waters.
- Receiving the “Hey~~~~” message with absolutely no follow-up. Koreans love adding a ~ after everything. It conveys the same meaning as when we write “heeeeeeyyy”. Whatever you do, do not fall for this one! It’s a trap (the KakaoTalk version of emails from Nigerian princes) with the sole purpose of luring you back into the dark realm of KakaoTalk agony. If you reply with “hey, how are you?” you can be absolutely sure that your message will go unread and/or unanswered for anywhere between 5 and 48 hours. Especially if you respond with a question mark. Obsessed-Ville population: You!
- The much-dreaded “read, no reply”. You’ve finally started thinking that the KakaoTalk gods have forgiven your sinful ways and agreed to again look upon you with mercy. You’ve been having a fun ongoing chat for hours, and without thinking about the constant power struggle that you know constantly lurks under the surface, you send off a breezy message. A few minutes later, you see that the yellow “1” has disappeared = they read your text. Not again wanting to be labeled as a stalker by your judgmental subconscious mind, you hurriedly exit the chat (something you’ve even practiced doing when mindlessly playing with your phone) – crisis averted. And then you just wait. If they read it, surely they’ll respond within seconds. You then realize that ten minutes have passed. Still. No. Reply. Please refer to example #1 for available options.
If you’ve already been dragged into this mess as an ignorant foreigner, I feel your pain. If you’re not yet caught in this vicious web, here’s some useful advice for staying sane when navigating the KakaoTalk world.
- Exit a chat room the second you send a message and never expect a reply.
- If you don’t want to feel ignored, avoid sending messages that end in a question mark and therefore justifies expecting a reply.
- Tell yourself that the outside world is much more important, leave your phone indoors and go for a walk.
- Take your time responding to a message. Think about if this really requires a response. (If you have just a shred of evil in you, you might even enjoy the thought of leaving them out to dry.)
- Suggest calling each other instead. Oddly enough people consider it rude to just hang up the phone, but not rude to just ignore the last message in a chat.
Do any of you have any experiences like those mentioned here? Do share!