Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sense and Sensibility

Having come down with a slight respiratory illness, I've been consigned to the apartment for the last couple of days, and have settled into a routine of studying Korean, exercising and drinking Japanese apricot tea. With my partner out, I was also left to fend for myself when visitors called or the phone rang.

Many of the foreigners in Korea come here to teach English, so as someone who's instead very much embedded within a Korean family, I often wonder about their experiences compared with my own. In certain ways, I get to see more of real-life in Korean, as opposed to what might otherwise be a themed cycle of Hagwon classes and socialising with other foreign friends. On the other hand, I haven't had to fend for myself on a daily basis which means that I'm missing out on certain aspects of culture shock and the necessary crash course in the Korean language that would come with it.

Yesterday the phone rang and expecting it to be my partner I answered it in Korean. Apparently my normally tired and slightly irritated rendition of '
여보세요' passes me off as a local which only leads to more confusion when they launch into an explanation of why they called. Despite my hurried interruption in this case of '미안합니다. 한국말 못합니다.' - 'sorry, I don't speak Korean', it seems it didn't discourage the caller from turning up on the doorstep half-an-hour later, where the same sentences were repeated and a game of charades held after this failed to dissuade the visitor from going away. It seemed clear that he had come from the bank to drop off my partner's new credit card, but after debating the matter in his mind for a while, wouldn't leave it with me, but I finally persuaded him with some very bad Korean and help from my electronic dictionary, to come back at five.

More intriguing was another unexpected visitor armed with a document wallet but nothing else to give away his origin. He was treated to another round of Korean 'please go aways' but he wasn't dissuaded. In the surreal conversation which followed - during which I gave serious consideration to whether I could just close the door on him - we may have talked about the huge number of foreigners in Korea, whether I was married and had children, and had ever visited Spain. Or he could have been asking to borrow a spoon. Probably he was a Christian doing a round of conversions, but a spoon-less one or not I couldn't say.

So today, I decided not to answer the door.

No comments:

Post a Comment