It’s midterm week here at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and I have absolutely nothing to occupy my time. I barely have any midterms which surprises me immensely since I am taking regular courses. However, that is a post for another day. Today I want to discuss the sense of community that all of South Korea has.
If you know Korean culture at all, you should know that it is a sharing community. I don’t mean sharing as in: “Please pass the corn.” “Thank you.” No, not like that. I mean, using the same spoon, eating out of the same bowl—basically the equivalent of French kissing everyone at the table, swapping spit with everyone. I know that sounds gross and everyone is definitely sharing germs. However, it grows on you and I sort of love it. Plus, I haven’t gotten sick since I got here and we are already at midterms. (Photo: the big bowl was shared amongst the whole table)
Sharing everything, mainly food, has opened my eyes at this Korean sense of community. Sharing food so intimately with everyone, whoever it may be (friends, strangers, coworkers, ect.), really builds your relationship. The act of sharing food is so intimate to me since in America the only thing we share are appetizers. Though even sometimes people want those all to themselves. “Those nachos are mine. Not yours.”
In Korea, it’s another story and even though it may take some getting used to, it is really awesome. Not only do you get to try more variety of food this way but you become closer with the person you are eating with. Now the question here is: what if you’re alone? What if you have no one?
That’s the problem. It is quite difficult to eat anywhere if you are alone. Forget about eating alone, if you are in public. Unless you find a coffee shop, where you can arm yourself with a cellphone or a book, eating alone in public is not going to work. Most of the dishes in Korea are meant for two or more people, so even getting fried chicken to go is basically stating that you have a friend back home who will eat with you. They are going to give you at least ten pieces of chicken.
It’s hard being alone in South Korea. There are tons of other reasons but I’ll once again make this post have multiple parts so stay tuned of being alone in Korea.
The next post will focus on couples and the relationships but I wanted to touch upon the cuteness now because I can. You can’t walk down the street and not see at least one couple doing something couple-like (holding hands, ect.). They are everywhere. And sometimes they are even easier to spot because they have some sort of couple wear on. Everyone should be aware of the idea of promise rings, even though the idea is very old-fashioned and not really practiced much in America anymore. Promise rings is basically the exchanging of rings, a statement that this couple is committed. Well, Korea takes it to a whole different level. You can walk down the street and see couples in matching shoes, matching bracelets, matching backpacks, literally matching anything and everything. And when I say: takes it to a whole new level: couples will match everything. I’ve seen couples, more than one, on numerous occasions, dressed exactly the same. Whatever this is doing to their relationship, it is working. Divorce rate in South Korea must have something to do with their couple culture. Not only mentioning their outfits but just how couples act toward each other in general. The divorce rate in America is around 50%, where any sort of couple wear would probably be made fun of or looked down upon. In South Korea, the rate is at 36% (according to wikipedia, because I am currently pressed for time but will try to find a valid source later). I think it would be fascinating to study couple culture and for my final project, in one of my classes, I’m examining a part of the relationship culture (so maybe I’ll even post my findings when I’m finished). (Photo: The Heirs… notice the matching shoes)
With all these couples, South Korea seems to discourage single people. They even have a day devoted to sad single people. It is called Black Day (April 14) and it’s a day, where single people have to eat black noodles alone. It sounds utterly terrible and I’m sort of glad, I won’t be around to participate in the holiday. It sounds like a holiday where the people who made it wanted all the single people to sit in a corner and think about what they’ve done.
If you are alone in South Korea, like I am, don’t be too upset. The goal here is to make friends fast, or at least find another person to eat food with. Otherwise, Seven 11 and other convenience stores may become your only friend.