For instance: Nana and I were riding home on the bus the other night with a bus driver we'd seen several times before. (I've seen a grand total of about five different drivers on our route.) The bus can be a bit awkward sometimes--a lot of Korean spoken, and always the fear that we'll do something wrong and be left completely unable to understand the driver's directions. We're mostly just satisfied if we can get home without breaking our spines (these guys take those speed bumps hard!).
Anyway, the stop before ours, the bus empties. We're the last souls destined for Save Zone tonight. Then, at the last stoplight before our stop, the bus driver looks in his mirror and starts speaking--in English! Very good English, too. The exchange goes something like this.
Driver: mumble mumble
Justin: I'm sorry?
Driver: You are getting off at Save Zone?
Nana: Yes, this is our stop.
Driver: Do you speak any Korean?
Justin: Not much!
Driver: Can you say "ahn-yung-hah-say-yo?"
Nana and Justin: "Anyunghasseyo!"
Justin: Yes, and "konggibap"! (bowl of rice)
Nana: "Dongaas!" (pork cutlet)
Driver: Ah! You can speak Korean!
So, anyway, long story short, I ran this by Paul, our resident expert on being-whitey-in-Korea, and apparently this isn't uncommon. Many, many Koreans speak pretty good English, especially around Seoul . . . but they're terrified of using English in front of other Koreans. (If your English is bad, you look stupid, and if your English is good, you look like a smarty-pants.) But the second you get a Korean alone with English-speakers, out come the z's and the f's! (No z or f in Korean.)
And: we're helping the bakery guy with his English vocab. He now knows that "miles card" is only for airline rewards!