Monday, December 18, 2017

Things I'll miss/Things I definitely won't miss: Episode 1

Hello friends,

I'm down to about six months left in South Korea, and I've officially begun my countdown....

I know, I know. We're excited, too.

So our expat experience has been interesting, to say the least. I've written about it HERE, and HERE, and oh, yeah, even HERE. We've had some good lessons, some rough lessons, some amazing experiences, and some unpleasant experiences. Overall, I'm glad we've had this expat experience. It's afforded us some incredible adventures. But once I get on a plane to go home this summer...I'm done, homies.

So since my countdown has officially begun, I have started compiling a list of things that I will miss about South Korea--the place we've called home for over 2.5 years--and the things I will most definitely, 100% not miss. I'm listing the things I'll miss to keep my mind focused on the awesome details about this experience. It's important to stay positive, right? Have an attitude of gratitude, right??

But I'm listing the things I WON'T miss, too........ because I really wish someone would've been honest with me before I'd moved here. Really, living in this pretentious little city in South Korea was presented to us like it was moving to the Promised Land. No, really, it was.

Everyone wants to be friends with the foreigners! All the kids in the school will clamber to befriend your children! The locals are so helpful and friendly! It's so much cheaper to live here than in the USA!


Sorry to pull an assistant to the regional manager here, but these statements are FALSE. And my new blog series will explain how, hopefully in a way that will make you snicker, and nod in agreement--if you've ever been here. My blog series should also make you smile....because there are definitely wonderful aspects of living in South Korea, that you can't find anywhere else. And they beg to be mentioned!

So here goes first episode in the Things I'll Miss/Things I Definitely Won't Miss series:

Let's start with the bad, shall we?

1.) I will not miss the unwavering, immovable devotion to all the rules.

Every South Korean waiter I've ever asked to change something on a menu.

Okay, okay, before you start ragging on me (you know who you are, and you know you want to) about how good it is that South Koreans follow the rules and laws to a "T" the rest of my point. 

When you go to a restaurant, and you can't alter your order, because the wait staff is trained to only take requests for the exact food that is described in the menu, and you can't explain to the wait staff that you need tofu left off of something, because you have a gosh-darned, legitimate allergy...that's a problem.

OR...when you go to a buffet with your 9 year old, Autistic son, who ate at home prior to going out, because he literally will not consume a single thing that restaurant offers, but leaving him home while you ate out wasn't an option, and the wait staff insists that because he is sitting at your table, he must be charged for the meal....that's a problem.

OR...when you're buying a suit for your teenage son, and want to have an extra inch or two of material added to the inside of the bottom seam on his slacks, in case he grows, and the tailor refuses to add it, because Korean fashion dictates that the pants are supposed to hit the top of the ankle, regardless of what the customer asks--and pays dearly--for....that's a problem.

OR...when you want to switch cell phones on your plan. Not the plan, but the actual cell phone because you bought a new one, and you simply want to activate it and move on with your day, but the cell phone company rep won't do that unless it's a Tuesday, and they won't allow you to do it without three forms of ID, a marriage certificate--written in the Korean language of Hangul (Yes, even when you're a foreigner)--and a cosigner.....that's a problem.

Gun laws? Don't bend. Safety precautions? Be unwavering and immovable. But in simple situations like restaurants or clothing stores or cell phone outlets? Good grief, loosen up, South Korea. It won't hurt you to let a kid sit with his family for free at a restaurant if he isn't going to eat. It won't kill you to add some extra fabric to the bottom hem on a teenager's suit when his parents are paying you through the nose to custom make it. And cell phones are not mortgages. There doesn't need to be 14,000 flaming hoops to jump through to get a cell phone. You're not handling government secrets. Loosen up for Pete's sake!

Calm down, South Korea. I just want to use my new iPhone.  Deep breaths, in and out.

Though, I find it curious that South Koreans take their rules, regulations, guidelines, and limitations so incredibly seriously....yet, their traffic laws are as lax and unimportant as they can possibly get without them actually not existing.

This is actually Korean traffic on a GOOD day.

But I'll cover that in another episode.

Now let's move to something positive, shall we?

1.) I will miss the "ding-dongs" on the tables in restaurants.

(No, I'm not talking about wieners. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

When you dine in a South Korean restaurant, it is a completely different dining experience than it is in an American restaurant. First off, they serve half a dozen side dishes, all in tiny bowls, none of which are offered in an amount that will satisfy any hunger you might have, which is ultimately okay, because many of them taste like feet. Then, they also serve you raw meat (at least at Korean Barbecue) and you are expected to cook and serve it yourself, which makes for a fun, communal, interactive meal. (But kind of sucks when you're feeling very lazy, and just want someone to plop food in front of you to gnaw on.) The other unique thing is, in South Korea, wait staff doesn't hover. They don't return to the table to refill your water glasses, or to ask you if you liked the meal--why would they? YOU cooked it. If it sucked, it's your fault, not theirs, duh. (Smart thinking, Korea.) This is also beneficial, because they don't accept tips, either. But, I digress. I'll cover that in a different episode.

The table ding-dong is a small doorbell that is usually taped or glued to the side or far top end of a table in a restaurant. When you need something (more water, more of those puny infant-sized portions of the foot-sides, etc) you just push the button, and a chime rings out. Usually within just a few seconds, a waiter will show up (often after a rousing cry of "Naaaaaaaaayyyyy?" from across the room--which is a verbal variation of the word "day" which means "Yes" or "Okay". So, in a sense, when you call out for help, they're saying "YEAH!" to you...which in some cultures, namely American culture, would be considered rude. However, here in South Korea: perfectly acceptable.)

Whenever we go home for the summers, and I am forced to raise a hand and catch the eye of a busy waiter or waitress, or worse yet, call out, "Excuse me!" (Which feels as rude as yelling "YEAH!" to someone, but again, it's not...) I cringe a little. The little table top ding-dong (as my family so thoughtlessly dubbed it) is extremely handy. You press it, you wait, they show up to help you. Bing, bang, boom.

I swear it would revolutionize American restaurants. Maybe not McDonald's but you get the drift.

Stay tuned for episode 2 of my Things I'll Miss/Things I Definitely Won't Miss series. It's sure to be as weird as this one. :)


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