Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Tonight I decided to be a bit more social and meet up with some of the parents from the girls' school.  I have been neglectful of my social responsibilities of late, and figured it would be nice to meet some of the adults attached to the kids my daughters hang out with.

The evening started fairly benign: light conversation over a nice seafood medley.  I quickly clocked who was who, being a bit surprised by one pair of parents who appeared far more Amish than I would have expected.  Still, the mom did have a smart phone.  Whatever.  The rice wine was flowing pretty steady, and I found myself having a pretty good time, chatting up many of the moms and a few of the dads.

As we moved on to the second round at a norae bang, one of the dads obviously had something weighing heavy on his mind.  I'd noticed him brooding in a corner during the meal, and when a moment presented itself I asked how he was doing.

He seemed to mull over the question as if it tasted like some exceptionally sour piece of kimchi, deciding whether it was actually tasty or some foul concoction that would best be reburied, when he blurted out:

You've lived here how long?

Coming on 14 years, yeah.  It's been a long road hahahaha

So why is it you still speak Korean so poorly?

All conversation seemed to cease, and the music seemed to suddenly become sucked into a vacuum.  I'm still in jovial fun mode, so I say:

Yeah, my Korean isn't fluent, sorry about that!  I still make silly mistakes, especially when I am writing.  But language is something that takes a good while to learn, and I'm always working on it!  Come, lets drink!  Where is your cup?

His frown seemed to deepen as he waves off my offer:  

You can't even speak well after having been here so long.  How can you hope to understand Korea and Koreans?  You can't know us since you can't even communicate well!

At that moment one of the other dads intervenes and drags brooding man away.  I don't think too much about what he said at the time, as I figure it wouldn't do much to enhance the mood of the group to go on about it.  I've had this conversation more than a few times; whenever it comes up, I inevitably remember some of the ijits I worked with back home, who were all about: learn English or GTFO my country!  I think of all the immigrant families I'd seen over the years, the parents unable to speak more than a few words in English, being berated by their kids who were fluent because they were busy being social in school while mom and dad slaved away at whatever job they had to bring in the cash.  I'd worked for a few such families over the years, and always respected the parents despite their inability to communicate well with the locals, knowing they knew full well the shit that some dished on them for their broken speech or bad accent while mocking openly: 'don't worry they can't understand!'  But saying all that didn't seem apropos, nor bringing up how if I couldn't understand Korea or Koreans, then only a European could really teach about Europe, only an American can accurately talk about America, and only a native English speaker can teacher English.  It all seemed inappropriate to mention, since, well, there was still rice wine to drink, and I knew I wasn't paying the bill.  So I kept my mouth shut and went to punch in the next song on the machine.  Let the good times roll, at least for tonight!  Pass that jug of wine!


Anonymous said...

I can't ever understand those guys. It's his loss for not being able to enjoy the moment.

One party-pooper/control freak/wanker out of the whole group doesn't sound too bad for a Korean event where a weag has asserted him/herself.


Anonymous said...

That guys sounded bitter. I have been here a long time. I am not Korean, never will be, don't wanna be. So no, I will never "Understand".

Kip said...

I'm not so much interested in commenting on the topic of language, as I am about talking about the situation itself. I call it "wheels turning." So often I find myself in a social situation where I am the only foreigner in a group of Koreans, and among them, thankfully a small minority which is almost always 100% male, will clearly show signs of having their "wheels turning." By this, I mean that look in their eye. Just looking at me they are experiencing doubts and reservations, over-thinking what to say and how to say it, or even if they will say anything at all. Sometimes they do say something, but I appreciate it when they don't, because it usually comes out wrong, makes them look stupid, and embarrasses them in front of their wives. I'm an easy going guy and I will indeed put up with "you use chopsticks well" and "it's not too spicy for you" and "do you know soju?" and "how about me?" But beyond that, it can get pretty shitty pretty fast if I'm not in the right mood. So when I sit down at the table, I immediately know who has the "wheels turnin" and who doesn't. Thank god a lot of Koreans don't give a shit and simply want to drink and eat meat without raising cock feathers to put the waeg in his corner. Nice post. I know exactly who that brooding guy is. He's got the wheels turning.

F5Waeg said...

It wasn't such a bad time at all, I've become more adept at just forgetting about those kinds of situations and getting on with having a good time....

F5Waeg said...

Wheels turning is a perfect analogy, so true... That's what makes it easier to usually ignore, although I'm far from perfect and have in the past responded like a dick. Oh well.

matt said...

Digging the Big Black. Makes me want to answer 'Steve Albini' next time someone asks me who my favourite singer is.

F5Waeg said...

sadly there wasn't any on the noraebang machine

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