My Deliciously Awkward Moments with a South Korean Family
Last week as I finished teaching a class in South Korea, a friend informed me that he would be traveling to his hometown to celebrate his mother’s birthday with his family. I asked him to send my birthday wishes, and instead he asked if I would like to travel to their hometown and tell her in person. Although it was last minute and I would have to travel outside of the city, I was happy to be invited to a South Korean event and so I accepted.
I quickly bought a slice of pie as a gift and set out for the subway with the idea that the trip would take no more than two hours. When I arrived at the subway station I was confused about which direction I should be taking and since I was in a hurry, I decided to just jump on the closest train. If only I had taken a moment to calmly gather my thoughts and figure out exactly where I needed to go! It turns out I took the wrong train but didn’t even realize it until quite some time into the trip. It took me a good hour to finally get on the correct line going in the correct direction.
I was told to eat a lot because I had worked hard getting to the restaurant.
At this point I was a feeling a little stressed and guilty that I may possibly be delaying my friend’s family from eating dinner. But both my friend and his older brother were understanding each time I called, and they told me to relax and take my time. When I was finally getting closer to my destination and feeling a little better, the train stopped for a long time and I was told to just wait. I waited, but it turns out this train goes back in the direction it came from!
Splendid. I quickly got off at the next stop and returned to where I had come from. As I exited the subway, the first thing I saw was the familiar smile of my friend and I immediately felt better. As we walked to the restaurant where my friend’s family was waiting, he asked me what I thought of his hometown. My first thought was that it was very quiet, but it felt nice, after running around like a mad woman, to be in a town where things were slower paced.
When we walked into the restaurant his family told me how they were worried and felt bad that I had to come on my own but were impressed that I had made it–even if it did take me three hours. I was told to eat a lot because I had worked hard getting to the restaurant. I didn’t need to be told twice and promptly filled myself with delicious South Korean barbecue.
She wanted us to sleep in the same room together, but my American hesitancy about personal space must have shown because her sons swooped in and said I would probably be more comfortable sleeping alone.
I had thought that after dinner I would head back to the city, but the family had other plans for me. They didn’t want me going home alone late at night so they insisted I stay the night in their home. After putting away their feisty little dog, who clearly wanted to find out what I tasted like, I was allowed to enter. The floor plan was spacious and open with two balconies that let a breeze flow through the apartment. I immediately felt comfortable and relaxed as I sat down on the couch and took everything in.
Because my friend’s mother is the only woman in the family, she seemed very happy to have another female present and helped me find something to sleep in. She wanted us to sleep in the same room together, but my American hesitancy about personal space must have shown because her sons swooped in and said I would probably be more comfortable sleeping alone.
I had an amazing rest, and when I woke in the morning there was a huge traditional South Korean breakfast set on the table.
I wish I had agreed right away, because I know it would have made her happy and the room I was given was huge. Since I’ve been living in a closet-sized room for the past 6 months, I felt a little uneasy sleeping in such a big space.
I had an amazing rest, and when I woke in the morning there was a huge traditional South Korean breakfast set on the table. I felt a little queasy afterwards from eating such heavy food early in the morning, but the taste was worth it. After eating and saying our goodbyes, we hit the road back to Seoul so that my friend and I could get to our jobs.
It’s funny how only two weeks ago I wrote about conquering the subway and not getting lost, and then of course I got very lost last week. I’m sure I will get the hang of it one of these days. Despite the three-hour subway ride around the South Korean city, I’m glad I was invited to my friend’s mother’s birthday. It felt nice to be in a family environment in South Korea after being away from my own family for so long.