After living in South Korea for almost two years, I finally had my first visitor! My mom came to see me for 10 days!
We got to take a bus tour around Seoul and do some exploring in Cheonan. I asked her some questions about her experience. Since I’ve been in Korea for a while now and feel more adjusted to Korean culture, sometimes I forget about the practical differences between Korean and American culture.
- What were some of your first impressions when you arrived in Korea?
I was very surprised at how few non-Koreans I saw (*South Korea is around 96% ethnically Korean). I was shocked to have people ask to take a picture of me and to have somebody so excited to see me just because I wasn’t Asian. Everything was very clean. It was cool to see the juxtaposition of the old palaces and temples against the modern skyscrapers. I thought it was interesting that Korean women cover themselves from head to toe because they don’t want any sun (*tanning is not common here but it is getting more popular). I was really an oddity for having no sleeves on my shirt when it was 85° outside. I was surprised how openly affectionate girls were. They were holding hands as they walked down the street. Boyfriends and girlfriends dressing up in identical outfits was also weird to me (*I’ve seen many Korean couples wear matching t-shirts but sometimes they wear entire matching outfits, including their shoes and backpacks).
2. What were some of your favorite parts of your trip?
My favorite part of my trip was just being with my daughter (*I did not tell her to say that)! I enjoyed seeing the old temples and palaces. I thought the market in the middle of the city was fascinating. I enjoyed being able to eat a variety of foods, the pasta dish I had in the food court at the mall was some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten (*we went to a mall in Cheonan). The red chili paste was a little too intense in some of the dishes for my non-spicy pallet.
3. What were some things that surprised you during your trip?
I was surprised to see local farmers selling their produce on the street corners. All the spam gift-packs fascinated me (*I mentioned the spam before here), as did the grocery cart escalator. I loved having all the little restaurants everywhere so that you had amazing food choices that weren’t that expensive. It was odd to have complete strangers talk to you because they wanted to practice their English. I did start consciously not making eye contact with people as we walked along the street because it does get a little disconcerting to be stared at. It’s very odd to be a minority because in American culture we see every race and color of people and don’t even think about it. It’s very bewildering to not understand anything that’s going on around you when you don’t speak any of that country’s language. I would never have felt comfortable being in that country without having a daughter that spoke the language (*I would like to point out that I am definitely not fluent in Korean but I can get by).
4. What are some things done in Korea that you would like to see implemented in the United States?
It would be nice to be able to leave your purse, your phone or your wallet in the United States and know that nobody would take it, but that doesn’t happen. It would also be nice to be able to walk anywhere or go anywhere and not have to worry about your personal safety in the United States. I also liked the ease of buses, trains, and subways in Korea that could take you anywhere. *She did not, however, want to bring the tradition of eating while sitting on the floor back to America. She said her bones are too stiff after like that for a few hours.
5. If you get the chance to come back, what else would you like to see or experience?
I would like to explore some of the coastal cities, go to some of the islands. I would like to hike in some of the hills and see the DMZ.
Who else wants to visit me? =D
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