I would like to start by making a disclaimer. I have lived in Seoul, South Korea for almost five years now.
I like it here, and sometimes I even love it here. It has become my home. So. Everything I say about Korea, I say with an understanding that no place is perfect.
When I lived in Michigan I loved my home, but I was not the biggest fan of the weather, or the drivers who forgot how to drive in the winter, or the drivers who had intense road rage, or the drivers… okay , I wasn’t the biggest fan of driving in general. But that is getting outside of the circle of the story, as I tend to do.
The parents arrived in Seoul on a Thursday evening. We took the bus to my apartment, dropped off their luggage, and immediately went to eat Korean BBQ (no surprise there).
I learned how to introduce my parents and tell everyone that they were visiting me from the USA and I told every Korean person that we met, literally. So of course this is the first thing I say to our server. Then I order us three servings of meat, drinks, and all that jazz. My dad, who always gives me a hard time for not speaking Korean fluently yet, was pretty impressed by my ordering skills. Hey, a girl’s gotta eat, you learn the basics fast.
By the time the meal was over a server brought my dad a fork without him asking for it, after watching Dad stabbed the meat with one chopstick (he is resourceful) and they gave us a full extra serving of meat. And that was the beginning. The beginning of My Parents Korea.
I had warned the parents that Koreans can be a little adverse to foreigners, and that there are a lot of people in this city. You may get “sshhed!” for speaking English on the subway, or shoved as people try to get past you. You may have people standing so close to you in line that they are breathing in your ear. You may get mean looks, or someone spitting on your shoes (okay, that usually isn’t on purpose as they just spit wherever, whenever).
My parents went out to explore my neighborhood while I was at work their first full day here. After a while they tried to find my school just to pop in and say, “hi”. They got a little lost, and I may not have drawn the most detailed map… Anyway, a young man asked them if they needed help. He ended up getting a cab for them and figuring out where my apartment building was, when the only thing my parents remembered was that it was across the street from a BMW dealership. The man offered to pay for my parents taxi ride since he wasn’t sure if they had Korean money. My parents wouldn’t allow him to pay for the cab ride, but were so grateful for his help.
I come home to my parents telling me how nice every one was to them today, and so so helpful.
That night we take the subway. It’s a bit crowded, and I get my loud voice that carries from my mom… so I was worried that we would get “shh’ed” more than once. People jump out of their seats to let my parents sit down. Uh? And then, when we go to exit my mom stands up just as the train is jerking slightly to stop, loses her balance and lands right on top of my dad, who is still sitting. Loud enough for China to hear, my mom exclaims, “At least it’s my husbands lap!” The whole car is laughing, thinking the parents are just the cutest things since Hello Kitty. Uh?
The next day I take my parents out for bulgogi (my second choice after Korean BBQ) with about 12 different Korean side dishes. This is just a random fact, for fun.
Afterwards we go to explore Chunggyecheon Stream. As we come out of the subway exit my dad’s eyes light up. We have found ourselves on hardware street. Both sides of the street are lined with little tool shops. Across the street it says, “Tools n Joy”. This is exactly how my dad feels. He goes into his version of “shopping mode”. Walking into each shop with my mom and I following excitedly behind. Because when Dad is happy, I am happy! Of course, being the man and amazing dad that he is, he isn’t looking for something for himself. He is looking for a small hallow tube to cut into pieces so I can propped open my broken cupboards and put stuff away without having to hold the heavy door up and use one hand.
We find a store dedicated to tubes of all shapes, colors, and sizes. When we find “the one” (like… perfect width, perfect length, perfect color-bright!-, everything you could ask for in a tube) we ask the store owner how much it is. He smiles and says, “service!” which in Korea means, “free!”. I looked at him and said, “What? Really?” My dad said, “Thank you so much!”
We leave the hardware street, though we know we could leave my dad there for hours and he wouldn’t have noticed our absence. I take them to one of my favorite places in the city, the Chunggyecheon Stream (as mentioned before). When we get to the end I see a tourist stand and think, “Oh, good! I need to buy my parents a subway map— they might have one here.” I asked the lady selling guide books and maps for what I need. She looks at my parents and says, “Oh, I am sorry we sold out of all our maps. But here, take this book for free.” And she hands my dad a Korean guide-book, that has a SUBWAY MAP INSIDE. For free.
After the stream we meet up with my lovely friend Hallie (and were later joined by the fabulous Zara and some friends of hers, side note, side note) who is all about festivals and found ourselves some awesome front row seats to the Lantern Festival’s parade. At the end of the parade they start giving away the lanterns, and we happened to be sitting where the parade almost ended. My parents both get handed lanterns. Hallie and Zara both get handed lanterns. Who doesn’t get a lantern? Oh, just guess.
By the end of their second full day in Korea my parents couldn’t stop talking about how nice every one was, and how neat that they kept getting free things. Oh yeah, these stories happen to me all the time too…