Tuesday, April 10, 2012

America: The Land of Milk and Honey and Foreigners Who Can't Eat Spicy Food

Once in a while my students comment about America, and how it stacks up to Korea.

I forget what the topic in class was, but one of my advanced students mentioned that Koreans are very rude, while Americans are not. She explained it via door-holding policies.

"You go to a building, and a Korean person opens the door? They FWOOM" and a violent door-shutting motion.

"But you go to a building, and an American person opens the door? They keep and, 'Oh, thank you!' 'You're welcome!'"

Later that day, another one of my intermediate students was working on her homework in the teacher's room. She is a chatty sweetheart and always has something to say to me.

"Teacher, I think America is very fun."

"Fun? Why?"

"Korea mom and dad....'Yah yah yah!'" She made an angry, faux-scolding face. "But America mom and dad, nice."

"Not all American parents are nice," I replied. "Sometimes American parents are angry, too. Yah yah yah!" I made the same angry scolding face she did.


On more than one occasion, I've had a student give me a bit of ramen, I think more out of a perverse desire to see me freak out at ~OMG SPICY~ than a generous or kindhearted gesture. Considering every time they're always surprised when  I say, "Mmm, delicious!"

"Teacher, not spicy?"

"What? No! It's very delicious!"

Looks of bafflement abound.


  1. As an American, my totally unscientific theory is that personal space is a much bigger deal for us (especially men). So we interpret a push in the back down in the subway station as "rude," but for Koreans and most of the rest of the world it's more like a practical love-tap.

    I'll never get over the inability to form a proper line thing, however (which is even worse in China). Or how if your cell phone rings and you're standing in a doorway entrance, you should stop everything and answer the call right there.

    Oh, and spitting. I used the bathroom the other day and there was a big glob of spit literally inches from _the toilet bowl_.

    C'mon Korean dudes, how hard is it to spit in the bowl?

    It's all relative I guess.

    1. C'mon Korean dudes, how hard is it to spit in the bowl?

      Ughhhhhhh. I've never experienced bathroom spitballs, fortunately. Instead, my old apartment building had a granite-tiled lobby (like almost every building here) and more often than I'd like, I'd come across the loogie someone had just hawked. Like, you can't wait the thirty seconds it takes to get outside to do your business? Gross.