Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Culture Shock: Hot water or both?

This is my first in what I anticipate is a long series of "Culture Shock" blogs that highlight the differences between American/Western culture and Korean/Asian culture. At the end, I will offer one of the following judgments: "I miss America," "Eh, its just different," or "I heart Korea." I know passing judgment on a culture breaks the first rule of being in another country, but it is only one mans opinion. So here goes my first culture shock entry:

Okul is the name for the traditional Korean method of heating buildings. Homes used to be built on top of ducts connected to ovens. The heat from the ovens would heat a layer of clay beneath the floor and provide radiating heat. Modern homes incorporate a modified method. Heating elements or pipes beneath the floor now do the heating.

So, the hot water for sinks and showers is connected the same system that is used to heat the floor pipes during the cold months. I was somewhat prepared for this. However, I had read horror stories about penny-pinching landlords who turn off the hot water completely as early as March. My apartment is lucky to have a tankless water heater run off gas that I control. I have the following choices
  • Heat on or off.
  • Run heat to entire system or just sinks and showers.
  • For the hot water, there three settings: warm, hot, and hotter
  • For the floor heat, I have a Celsius temprature knob

I guess those hot water pipes aren't very well insulated.

Judgment: "Eh, its just different."

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