November 4, 2008

Seoul Trip - Day One

Last Thursday through Monday we took a family trip to Seoul, Korea. Just an hour and a half from Kansai Airport, it was an easy flight, and we were excited to visit another country. The main reason we went actually was to visit one of Jacob's best friends from school here last year (and "girlfriend"), Jaewon, and her family. We had a blast with Tak, Hana, Jaewon, and little Su-Yong. They were incredible hosts over the weekend.

After arriving, we checked into our hotel, the Seoul Plaza, centrally located near City Hall in the older part of the city North of the Han River. We walked to nearby Myeongdong, a very happening area with tons of restaurants, shops, and street food.

It didn't take us long to find a down-home little Korean BBQ joint (one of many down a little alley off the main drag), where we had a nice warming meal of grilled meat, bibimbop (hot-pot rice and veggies), pajeon (korean pancakes), and many side dishes of various spicy kimchi delights.

Wandering around Myeongdong, we immediately noticed the incredible array of Western chains - Krispy Kreme, Fridays, Pizza Hut, Bennigans, Outback Steakhouse, and more Dunkin Donuts than in New York (seriously, we are talking 1 per block). We passed on the dried octopus, instead opting to indulge in a Krispy Kreme donut (or two). We just can't get those in Japan!

Because our perspective is rooted in Japan, the many differences between Korea and Japan were immediately apparent to us. Korea is more direct, gruff, dirty, and casual. The waitress at dinner was actually downright rude - no shitsuraishumasu (excuse me) when approaching the table; the food just gets slapped down. It felt more like the U.S. People talk on elevators and on trains. It was actually pretty jarring! We can only imagine how the many Japanese tourists feel.

The other totally bizarre thing to us that we hadn't really thought about was dealing with a language that we knew not one word of. Although our Japanese is far from conversational, we can greet people, order food in restaurants, ask for directions, and generally get by to the point that we now take it for granted. In Korean, we knew NOTHING. Pretty strange. (Though it did seem that, in general, more people in Korea speak English than in Japan.)

1 comment:

Alexis Jacobs said...

I can't get over how big the food looked. Sounds like an interesting, but fun trip! Can't wait to hear more.