Journals from Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan
2013-02-22 South Korea!
Me, with my uncle, aunt, and cousins in South Korea
I have an uncle who is an English teacher living in South Korea. I had never met his wife and children, my aunt and cousins, and since I happen to be in East Asia, I recently took a week-long trip out to South Korea to visit them all. It was a wonderful experience that I'll never forget.
To begin with, I wasn't expecting Korea to be so startlingly different from Japan. The first thing I noticed was how many Korean people don't seem to mind touching strangers. In Japan, people generally don't touch each other except when crammed together on the train. In Korea, if I was in someone's way, I would simply be shoved aside. It is common to eat with metal chopsticks, which are a bit more difficult than plastic or wood. In Japan, people will generally stop for you when you want to cross the street, but in Korea, people will rarely stop. I saw cars go right through pedestrian crossings without slowing down while people were crossing.
Also, people didn't seem shy about talking to me at all. It's a rare occurrence for a Japanese stranger to speak to me unless I speak to them first. Usually, a woman would question my choice of outfit, asking if I wasn't cold. At a restaurant, a waitress repremanded me for the amount of salt I added to my food, and a few people called me cute and beautiful. Unfortunately, I don't speak Korean and all of this had to be translated for me by my Korean-speaking family. I do wish I had been able to speak to them.
When I left for Korea, I was feeling pretty poorly about my Japanese ability. I felt as though I had hit a roadblock where I wasn't really progressing, especially since I haven't had class. However, coming back from a country where I understood only a handful of words has definitely helped me feel more confident in my ability to understand Japanese. I still have a long way to go, but I'm not incapable. It was refreshing to be reminded of how far I've come so far. South Korea is a beautiful place and I'd love to return some day, preferably after learning a little Korean.