Thursday, July 17, 2008

# 42 Paper and Plastic Bags

Similar to the way Korean Moms hoard tiny condiment packets, they hoard paper and plastic bags. Like a Lay's Chip, they can never have just one. These bags can be from anywhere. It matters not. If you are like me, you know the worst thing you can do is throw out an empty paper or plastic bag in front of your Korean Mom. She will cry out as if her latest Korean Drama has been canceled, and shout "YAH!"(YOU!) in her loud, super sonic Korean Mom voice. As soon as either paper or plastic bag enters the Korean Mom's domain they are meticulously folded or knotted into complicated designs and stored in a drawer or cupboard for future use. She will pull them out from time to time and use them as garbage bags, places to store dirty laundry, lunch bags, even luggage. Korean Moms do not purchase REAL garbage bags. Ever. It is 'Waste Money' (see #13 ). Do not assume Korean Moms do this to save the environment. They do it simply because they do not have, nor will they ever have, enough paper or plastic bags. Let's be real, the average Korean Mom does not care about saving the fucking environment. She cares about her plastic or paper bag count, and she cares deeply. She is not thinking about saving a tree, she is thinking about what she will carry her bahn-chan(side dishes) in when she goes over to Mrs. Kim's house. Very often a Korean Mom will categorize her 'nice' bags from her less desirable ones. For instance, a Whole Foods paper bag, due to its sturdier nature and attached handles will have a place of honor in the Korean Mom's rotation of bags. She will use it only for important things: to carry her Bible or to bring pre-washed fruit to another Korean Mom's house. Bags from retail stores are also highly coveted and reused. You saw a Korean Mom carrying a paper bag from Chanel? No. There is no 5,000 dollar purse in there...but there might be some homemade bulgogi making its way to a church picnic. Anything with a zip lock is like the Holy Grail. It is washed, hung up to dry like laundry, and reused at least 100 times. Plain plastic bags are considered a lower category of bag, and will only be used to transport dog shit or kimchee that Mrs. So and So made, which everyone silently agrees does not taste good. My Korean Mom will filch bags from the local store whenever she is running low...which to her, is always. She coasts in, permed hair stiff despite the breeze, and with her tiny hands snatches any paper or plastic bag in sight like it is her job. Oddly enough, my Korean Mom will hardly ever steal paper or plastic bags from a Korean grocery store, only from 'American' stores. She has morals.

Props to Irene for the idea.

Ps- It's good to be back!

55 comments:

Sang-Sun said...

Hilarious stuff. So far, y'all sound like daughters of the unique species to which this blog is dedicated. I am a blessed/cursed recipient of #7. My one humble observation from life: All women are daughters of their mothers. So the unique species shall perpetuate.

dreams2ashes said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!

This is my favorite one. Everything is SO TRUE. ahahahahahhahahahahahaha she only steals from American ones too ahah

dreams2ashes said...

from xanga.com/myawkwardlife

Koreanism: just because a boy/girl is smart and very "obedient," they are your soulmate.

it seems like every few weeks, my parents are telling me about some new boy who is "an engineer at MIT, goes home every weekend, and is saving up to buy his parents a retirement house" (aka pansy or nerd) that i should go call up and convince to marry me. this began once i turned 18 and my mom started seriously freaking out that i hadn't found a potential husband yet. i actually met one of these guys in person (they ambushed me at my house!) and he called me a princess. ugh, so unfair. how would he know anyway? it's not like i even talked or looked at him the entire time. haha

Andrew said...

O! M! G! i just found this site and it's so true. except for the dog-shit thing. my parents don't own a dog! =)

Gerry said...

ah yes, harkens memories of mama kim. she put all of her grocery bags in the house oven (because who uses that when we have microwaves). gummed over knob amazingly got turned on somehow-- um buhl na suh.

B. as in bri said...

i'm a little creeped out that so much of this post also applies to my wife... who hasn't even started her thirties yet.

Anonymous said...

My Korean mom also saves rubber bands, twistie ties, and paper clips. She thinks it's an outrage that I don't save rubber bands.

twiz said...

OMG, so true! My mom doesn't give a shit about the environment, but she does love her some plastic bags! Whenever we go to a store, even buying the tiniest thing, when asked if we want a bag, mom always says, "Yes!!" (I tsk tsk, because I care deeply about the environment.)

Anonymous said...

Lol, this could have been a post about my korean mil!!!

Cindy & Brian said...

This is excellent!

vsoy said...

I know for my Chinese mom, in addition to plastic bags, she luurves saving glass jars, and plastic containers like those big yogurt containers.She also hoards and takes huge swatches of napkins from restaurants (think Starbucks etc)and bathrooms. I moved all her stuff to my house and as I was unpacking, I found boxes of unused napkins. WTF? I moved boxes of napkins and jars 1500 miles?

Hannah said...

oh my god. I thought this bag thing was normal behavior. I do the bag thing. I am a single Korean 31 year old. I am destined to become a Korean mother. At least my mom will be happy that I am on my way to motherhood, as it implies "grandchildren."

Jullietta said...

My mum uses a special cloth bag to store the plastic bags. I love it!~~

tracy said...

LOL julietta I can do one better - my korean mum's cloth bags (for there are several) are hand-made. Yep. She sewed them herself to hang in the laundry like two alien egg sacs with an elastic hole at the bottom from which to pull each plastic bag out.

Do you know how disturbing it is to reach into that orifice to pull a bag out??

Spyre said...

OMG same here! Mine sewed THREE drawstring cloth bags to store plastic bags. Each are reserved for different sized plastic bags that are measured by comparing them against various kitchen cupboards. wtf.

Marlene said...

Hello there ^^
I loved this blog, but I must say some things you've mentioned are not related exclusively to Korean moms - my mom is Brazilian and she does the same here. What about those colorful papers [in which you've received a present] that you would just throw out at the nearest recycle bin? Ha, forget it. If I let my mom know I throw them all out, she'd kill me, haha.

Very nice blog, indeed ^^
Congrats from Brazil ^^

Jane S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My Korean MIL hides them in discreet corners in our house when she visits, even if it's only a week. She also has a system of bagging garbage after each meal, having the 'bag of garbage' on the counter top which grosses me out. Those cheap grocery bags usually leak. I can imagine how her garbage cans smell. I, myself, invest in the luxury of Glad kitchen garbage bags.

Heids said...

Apparently my 93-year-old German/English grandmother is secretly Korean! :) She also hoards any packet of free condiments/sugar/etc. from restaurants, and has never eaten a meal from which she could not take home leftovers -- usually in a plastic bag that she brought with her to the restaurant for this exact purpose.

The Morning Clam said...

My Korean wife has a real problem with saving plastic bags. She ties them in a not and puts them into other plastic bags. I usually wake up in the middle of the night and throw some of the countless bags away that seem to be stashed in every corner of our place.

It's gotta stop!

Yum said...

My mom stores her plastic bags in the dishwasher. You know, since she doesn't use it to acutally wash dishes. (#16)

Richard said...

Nice post. Im adopted Korean, and my mom must have absorbed this trait when learning to be a mother of a Korean....When they had a $40,000 kitchen installed, she had a special drawer made for storing paper and plastic bags...lol

dreams2ashes
-don't hate on korean engineers :(

-they were probably just trying to very "obediant" to their mother

-their parents are probably screaming at them for not being married yet too!

Anonymous said...

LOL it's not lay's chips, it's Pringles

Lauren said...

I think that is true for most mums. Mine loves to save them and has good strong bags to hold the others in, lol. Plastic bags are being stopped gradually here, then what will they do? lol

Anonymous said...

Hilarious!
Get this - When my Korean MIL came to the US for my wedding, she took home no souveniers --- only about 20 bags from the various things we did during their visit. Bags. Bags and rubber bands.

haha - then my husband defends her with a side order of guilt: "You know in Korea, you have to pay for bags sometimes." haha
Anyway, this blog is pure genious.

Bora said...

Hilarious. My mom even made me save brown paper bags and zip lock bags from school lunches. Oh the shame in front of my non-Korean friends. In Korea, they put seaweed in foil and they make you bring THAT back too!

jennifer west said...

My Korean mom totally reuses ziploc bags. She also buys those cheap disposable gladware containers and makes it a point to demand that I return them. Mom, really? It's not Tupperware! And they're kimchi-stained. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

This blog is hilarious - glad that I stumbled upon it. ;)

Sue said...

Everyone I show this site to, points to this particular entry and says, "that is so you."

Anonymous said...

Don't know how it happened or when it happened, but I too caught this particular habit (and work damn hard to keep it in check). Suspect that it's part of maturing process: at some point, I began to realize that there was a method to my mom's madness :) However, whenever I visit my parents, I still engage in little stealth cleaning of plastic bags, plastic containers and rubber bands.

As for other KM-isms (or mother-isms), I wonder about the following:
(1) Why are KMs so slap-happy (my mom, aunts, other ajummas)?? As alluded to in different comment, penchant by KMs, almost cobra-like, to administyer stinging slaps (generally back or side of arm, but nearest body part will suffice) for slew of different reasons: love you, hate you, discipline you, reward you for witty remark, reward you for good deed, punish child in lieu of father or vice versa, punctuate verbal reminder. Seriously, once my father said something which displeased my KM and due to proximity, I got the slap on bare thigh - WTF?? On the other hand, I recall times when we'd misbehave and my mom would blame my father! Oy!

(2) Why does my KM, upon entry into my apt, immediately head into kitchen and inspect fridge and cupboards?

(3) Related to #2 above, why does my KM not understand that she doesn't live in privileged neighborhood - that I too have supermarkets nearby and know how to go grocery shopping?

Method to the madness said...

@ anon#3 "She also has a system of bagging garbage after each meal, having the 'bag of garbage' on the counter top which grosses me out. Those cheap grocery bags usually leak. I can imagine how her garbage cans smell. I, myself, invest in the luxury of Glad kitchen garbage bags."

I actually find this really convenient and for my KM at least, explains why she hoards plastic bags. Fact: Korean leftovers smell. Kimchee gone a little sour, the bit of rice drenched in soybean soup, the sauce left over from duk-boo-ke...all smelly shit. Leave those puppies in a trashcan for more than 3+ days, your whole house will stink. And if you're using a trashcan high as your waist (standard kitchen trashcan size) it'll take a few days to fill it to the top....better to just dump your smelly trash and get rid of it in under a day. This also saves on having to be unnecessary amount of trash bags. And the fact is, since all the stuff going into the trash is "new" (not been sitting in the trash for days), it's really just a quick thing to disinfect the counter after you dump the trash. As for leaking in trashcans...never a problem b/c if anything leaks on the counter, she double bags.

@anonymous above me
(1) Why are KMs so slap-happy (my mom, aunts, other ajummas)?? I swear my mom says it's good luck and keeps the demons away. I suppose this is akin to Greeks spitting on their kid's heads? Albeit more painful ;)

(2) Why does my KM, upon entry into my apt, immediately head into kitchen and inspect fridge and cupboards? Fear that you are no feeding yourself adequately. Plus nobody can feed you like your mom ;) I also wonder if this has anything to do with how many KMs still remember the days in Korea when there wasn't a lot of food to go around.

(3) Related to #2 above, why does my KM not understand that she doesn't live in privileged neighborhood - that I too have supermarkets nearby and know how to go grocery shopping? Eheheh...I reckon b/c she has always done the shopping for family and believes her "experience" tops yours. Also, it could be a bit of a 'mother' thing...to your mom, no matter how old you get, you will always be her "baby." ^_^

Aileen said...

This is hilarious and SOOOOO true! Another potential topic - church. Lots of mentions within entries, but none specifically dedicated to church attendance. I would like to add my own 2¢ and note that from my experience with my Korean ohma (mom), going to church and watching her Korean soap operas/dramas are both on the same level. Mom goes to church seven days a week and watches her dramas every day as well.

joannagirl said...

YES - the church comment - my KM (and Korean Dad, obvi), wake up every morning at 4:30AM to head to church for "sae-byuk-gee-do" (early morning prayer).

And oh - my - god... I TOTALLY do the plastic bag thing too!! I have three reusable supermarket totes full to the brim with plastic bags... and two big shopping bags full of other paper shopping bags, only to be used for special occasions! I am my mother's daughter. :)

OH - and another thing - does anyone else's KM change the rug in the living room for the summer? During the winter my dad lugs out this huge Oriental rug (how appropriate), but for the summer they bring out this bamboo/wooden mat thing that they lay out. Which they will subsequently sleep on during hot summer nights. With their rice pillows!

I slept on their bed one night when I was visiting, and it felt like I was sleeping on the FLOOR, I woke up with the biggest headache. Hardest mattress ever + a mattress cover that felt like plywood. It's "good for the back" according to my KM!

And how acupunture can cure everything - from allergies to back pains (to kidney infections)!

And yes... according to my KM, I have barely kissed any boys when dating, and I'm in my mid 20's. And my KM has recently put me in a Korean Singles matchmaking database to find me an appropriate Korean husband.

My KM is absolutely crazy, but I love her all the more. :)

Anonymous said...

My mom so does this and is also "convervative" with paper towels! Again, not for the environment, but because it's a waste of money if I use more than one paper towel or if I use one for an unworthy cause. Worthy would be to clean the kim chee juice off of the glass table after dinner. However, drying my hands is unworthy...I should instead use a towel for that!

Aileen said...

I probably should have noted above that I have half of a problem with keeping the bags. Maybe because I'm a half-breed. I only keep the plastic Target bags and the paper bags with handles. Target bags are used for garbage in my bathroom and other smaller garbage bins, but I will actually buy plastic garbage bags for my kitchen. As to why I keep the paper ones? I have no idea, since I almost never use them. Maybe it's just the hoarding of the bags that's inbred into me from my KM.

Also, anonymous above me, you're soooo right about the paper towels! My mom also refuses to get rid of sponges once they've overstayed their welcome. Most people throw them away when the scrubby side is no longer scrubbing things away - not my KM! I have to sneak upstairs when she's already asleep and throw them away in my garbage can! In its own way it's hilarious...

xAcasiaLeavesx said...

The only place we shop regularly at that has plastic bags is the korean grocery we go every once in a while (Costco, BJ's and Sam's Club for everything and anything else) Yet we have a stack of the plastic bags lying around to be used as garbage bags.

I'm in charge of meticulously folding all of them. I got so fed up one day that I cut up the plastic bags and used them to crochet a large bage. I must have used up at least 30, but our supply has yet to show signs of running out.

Japana said...

Does any other KM wash and dry used papertowels? Usually hung on the dishrack to be used for a later mess. Anyone?

ngf said...

i like to steal the plastic bags from the produce and frozen sections...you know, the ones that come in a roll...

i take like 3 or 4 at a time and look around the section like i really was going to buy something...

then i buy a case or 2 of noodles...

Anonymous said...

oh god. this explains why the cupboard under the sink is always full of plastic bags ive been hoarding like a squirrel on nuts for the winter. and im so used to having paper bags stuck in the crack between the counter and the fridge that when i reach in there and find nothing i get really really confused and disoriented.

Mc Bon said...

haha I'm from Vietnam and my grandma is also a big fan of plastic bags hoarding!! I can always find a column of plastic bags tucked between the wall and the door to our kitchen, and some beneath the shelf too :) It's amusing to know that Korean mothers have this habit too :)

Anonymous said...

Holy moly...this is my mom exactly. She saves plastic bags, paper bags, twist ties, rubber bands, and glass jars and plastic tubs get washed out and used for storing panchan. I am unable to throw out or recyle any of this stuff without feeling slightly guilty.

Every time she goes to the grocery store (only the American grocery store, now that I think about it) she grabs huge handfuls of those little plastic bags you use for produce. These get folded up (if there was a kid around, we'd do it) and stored in a special drawer. She uses those bags for storing 'wet' kitchen garbage, which she then puts into another plastic bag, which she will finally deposit into the outside garbage can. Because my mom's trashcan has to be CLEAN!

GetMarried4Less/LadyT said...

bwahaha!

my mom's black and i can certainly attest to this. NO container, be it a plastic or paper bag. or a bucket, or pair, or cleaner bottle or any container that most ppl would consider trash is thrown away. its her good quanity (yes, like the number, NOT "quality") something or other and you had better not act like u're throwing it away.

embarrassing....

Anonymous said...

oh wow... my childhood is flashing back...

When me and my sister were little, my grandma used to make an afternoon of us getting ALL the plastic bags that were shoved into the slim vertical cupboard, folding them in fours, stacking them nicely, before returning it to the cupboard. I honestly thought this was normal...
And in EVERY house of apartment I have lived in, there has existed this slim, vertical cupboard that I ALWAYS assumed was for the hoarding of plastic bags... to use as garbage backs, for traveling, for food containers, etc. and that it was also the norm for this cupboard to NEVER be empty...

As for the paper towel thing? My Asian grandma takes it one step further to napkins. Neither paper towels nor napkins are to be thrown away unless there is ACTUALLY dirt on them... otherwise they get re-used at least 3 times before it actually goes in the trash...

Question though: Does any one else's Asian mom/grandma hoard food enough for at least a year or two? Like there would be some sort of end-of-the-world disaster tomorrow and they would have enough food to feed a small army for at least 6 months straight? I swear, there used to be a time when Grandma only had 2 fridges... now I think the count is up to 4, and 2 freezers for meat...

Anonymous said...

omg. I've become my korean mom. Did you know that simplehuman used to make a kitchen trash can that used regular grocery store bags as liners? It has a compartment in the bottom to store the extra bags.
My mom came over to our house for the first time, saw it, and made me track one down on the internet and have it shipped because the store I bought it from stopped selling it. She thought it was the best idea ever.
If you want to make your korean mom's day, go get her one. It screws onto the inside of a kitchen cabinet, and you hang the bag from its handles on these plastic hooks. Genius.

clover787 said...

haha! this is great! I'm half korean, my mom isn't dead on about the straight A's thing (thank god) but yeah...she's into the save-a-plastic/paper bag-for-later culture =P
there's a cupboard in our kitchen stacked with bags n there is another bag which has those "showroom" bags
and another drawer which has those acclaimed environment-friendly bags =D

Kimchikraut said...

When ever I go to a nice store, I always ask for extra gift boxes and their nice paper bags, saying that each item is a gift for someone else. I actually hoard them in my closet. Sometimes I make book covers from them.

John said...

That's odd. I though it was normal that I specifically use Wholefood bags to carry my lunch while Albertson's bags are used to pick up animal droppings? I could have sworn Target makes their bags to fit perfectly in my bathroom trashcan. I always thought it was a rule of thumb that if you could cleanly pull out a single bag from the stash, you're running low. I mean, really, you just don't have enough if the cabinet door isn't slightly ajar from that ever-growing mass that smells slightly of spicy Korean pickled goodness because, indubitably, one of those kimchee byungs leaked. And god forbid that a bag was relinquished before it's structural integrity failed, how dare you even entertain the thought.

Dory said...

Today I saw at target that a company is selling travel sized pre-packaged plastic bags. WTF roll up or fold 4 bags and put them in your luggage! WTF no asian I know would ever purchase plastic bags!

holdfast said...

gosh, i'm not even korean or a mom, and i do this too!

i just wanted to comment that the reusing of a department store bag is definitely not just for korean moms! i live in ny and go to a korean church, and i see this all the time from the young girls too. always carrying some designer shopping bag full of who knows what! we went on a retreat for a few days, and some of the girls even packed for overnight in designer shopping bags. quite ingenious, i think. (:

holdfast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Koreans are damn tacky, with this kind of behavior. The worst thing is, my Korean family is blissfully oblivious to the fact that taking sugar and ketchup packets from every damn restaurant (and every single last hotel toiletry) is behavior that actually turns most people off. Thank God for Korea...at least when we go there they find millions of other accomplices to validate this madness. I wish Koreans would get some frickin class.

Julia said...

OMG!!! I did not realize I was a KOREAN MOM!!! I am so embarrassed - I do all of those things and for Pete's sake I actually think those things about my bags. I have them stashed in the back cabinet where no one can find them! I thought I was okay with the constant jar of Kimchee in my fridge but obviously the fumes have been affecting my brain...

I'm not even lucky enough to BE Korean!!

qing said...

This comment comes 2 years after your entry---but I LOVED this and had to say something!!

From the above comments, plastic bag hoarding is a trait that transcends cultures and generations, it seems! Haha! My grandmother and mother have passed me a habit of hoarding bags too, and we also seperate our bags into different grades!!! xD

Dori Dori! said...

THIS IS SO FREAKING TRUE. BENEATH THE OVEN THERES A compartment FULL OF PLASTIC BAGS.

unchienne said...

We once found a dead roach in a package of dried pollock that we'd purchased from our local Asian food store. The plastic was sealed, so it probably came like that from wherever it was processed. I pointed out that we should return the package and get our money back. Sacrilege! An immediately volley of "Nooooooo (tongue click) aiya..." It's not the owner's fault. Why should we force her to lose her money? But let there be a dented can or piece of bruised fruit from an American store...they should give back twice the purchase money to compensate for having to put up with inferior goods.

Anonymous said...

For instance, a Whole Foods paper bag, due to its sturdier nature and attached handles will have a place of honor in the Korean Mom's rotation of bags.

HAHHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHAHHAH