What would you do if you found a wallet full of money on the street?
It’s something many people are asked as a child – a hypothetical test of their character.
The honesty of Koreans was something I had heard stories about before arriving but seeing it for myself really restores some faith in humanity.

I have a head for numbers and my memory for random facts, numbers and useless tidbits of pub ammo is pretty good if I do say so myself. I’ve even managed to memorize almost all my student’s Korean names. However, I’ve also a unique ability to misplace valuable items when I’m least expecting it.

No more so than on buses.

In New Zealand, I bought a chunky new pair of winter gloves. Merely one hour later I stepped off the bus in the midst of a phone call and then turned to watch the bus ride off with my gloves still sitting on my seat. I liked the gloves so much I bought them again a few days later. The second pair lasted a few days before I set them free on another bus to oblivion.

Three times. That’s how many times I’ve lost my wallet in the past year, plus an extra time for my bank card. In Korea, buses are an everyday occurrence and apparently I’ve upgraded my skills and now only leave genuinely valuable items on the bus. My misfortune and carelessness has helped me learn about the honesty of Koreans and the code of honor the people live by in this country.

My wallet

After paying on, I’ll sit down and set the wallet beside me before becoming entranced by my phone.
Then as my stop appears, I’ll wrench myself to reality in time to disembark in a rush, only to realize my forgetfulness in the aftermath.
That’s how it happens every time and yet I’m still doing it, still testing the honesty of Koreans.

So far they have faithfully held my wallet at the depot awaiting my arrival to collect every time. Just like when they waited for me to pick up my mobile phone that time when I thought it’d be a great idea to run an experiment on New Year’s Eve.

Alas, despite my efforts, I have been reunited with my belongings on every occasion, finding them unscathed, in one piece with every dollar and dime accounted for.

The last time I pulled the trick on myself, I didn’t even panic. I cursed slightly less than the occasion when I had to trail a suitcase 500 yards down the street in the stifling humidity to retrieve my wallet from it’s final destination. This time, I merely rolled up to the depot this time and smiled as I walked through the door, knowing full well it would be waiting for me.

The old geezer behind the desk had a laugh as we went through the now-familiar routine of him pretending I’m not as good-looking as the photo on ID card suggests.
Handing me the wallet back, he jokingly called me “ba-bo” (바보), which I like to believe means, “he of great patience”.

Unfortunately it doesn’t mean that but they do say ignorance is bliss.
This modern money-saving technique of distancing myself from my wallet isn’t easy to implement.
One thing is for sure, the people of Korea will not let me get rid of my valuables too easily. I’ll keep on trying, but for now, it looks like I’ve quite a challenge ahead of me.


On your travels, has trust and honesty conquered language barriers? Let me know in the comments below!