Toothbrushing: we all know we should do it. I floss and mouthwash too, as my dentist who took my bracers off 10 years ago said I should. The dentist I visit in Ulsan after my annual company mandated medical said I should have my wisdom teeth taken out while she was scaling my teeth. This is called an addon-on sale, and since I used to sell this kind of service; my advice to the customer was nearly always don’t buy since a $60 toaster doesn’t need a $20 product insurance; I could see what she was doing. Besides, I’ve already had four teeth removed so crowding isn’t an issue.
It’s generally not a good sign when your dentist is grinning and rubbing their hands together as you walk in to their office.
Anyway, Korean schoolkids do this a lot. It was one of my first ‘culture shock’ when I was a teacher; Antipodeans usually brush their teeth twice a day, morning and night. Here’s a video about it (you may want to mute the sound though)
In the world I operate in, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. The office workers on my floor all swarm into the bathroom every morning for their ritual. It wasn’t always like this though. We’ve recently had an IT team and a taskforce team (my company loves TFTs) take residence on our floor so there is a mad rush for the prime toothbrushing positions in front of the mirror. The IT team’s name in Korean and English seems to have been created to intentionally obscure their function. Since its only a small office with three men on the cusp of retirement as its only inmates, it’s likely this is where they are parked before being promoted and then retiring, or as punishment.
The punishment scenario is unlikely because if they were to be be punished, the powers-that-be would make sure someone of a higher rank would ride them all day. I’ve heard stories of a department head (부서장) being punished with a transfer to a department full of men of the same rank, and thus going from a god among mortals to the guy that does the photocopying.
If you miss the prime toothbrushing positions, the options are to stand behind the alpha toothbrushers and hope that they finish before you (not always the case so you have to contort yourself around someone else at the basin to spit) or to stand near the urinals and get the job done there. Some masters of multitasking can actually use the urinal and brush their teeth at the same time. This is not something I can do (ladies…). It’s also pretty awkward when from the corner of my eye them multitasking looks like something you’d more associate with a truckstop somewhere.
Some of my coworkers take oral hygiene to extremes. Two coworkers brush their teeth at least five times a day, shortly after their cigarette break. I guess they don’t want others in the office to know they had a smoke (their absence is noticed, though since they are both at 부장 “general manager” rank, no one will mention it to them). I used to see them smoke on the landing but these days it has been annexed by the TFT men.