I’ve been living in Korea for a little over 3 years. During that time, I’ve invested time and effort to improve both my language and my culture skills there. I live in Paju so I speak Korean on a daily basis. I should point out that I’ve never been to America so keep that in mind.
What happened to me in Guam was strange. I feel like the best way to describe it is culture shock. I simply couldn’t understand why everyone was speaking English! Even the children could speak English. It wasn’t just that, the whole way on the island was different. Nobody was in a rush, everyone actually seemed to enjoy their work, nobody actually looked like they worked at all. I even saw people out running, like a lot of people. They weren’t running to anywhere in particular, they were running for the good of mankind. Imagine having weather where you have nothing better to do in the evening but go running around this tiny island where only 160,000 people are native.
As I passed the staggered buildings, all I could think was “what a waste of space, they should build up like the Asians”. As I ate my meals, I looked around certain that both the side dishes and the chopsticks would arrive shortly. Of course they didn’t, so I had to make do with the knife and fork idea.
People are also super friendly. I think it’s fair to say that one look at me would tell you that Im not from Guam. So, as a starter to every conversation, ” where are you from” was commonly heard. The second I tell them Im from Ireland, their faces light up and usually I’m the first Irish person they’ve met (or claim theyve met)
I bought an $11 hat in the Calvin Klein sale the other day. Now $11 is hardly going to be the making of the store daily takings but the lady behind the counter had me literally convinced that I was their most prized customer. I wanted to stay and lap it up.
I’ve just never really experienced this before. Theres no fighting to explain it all in Korean or having to get assistance from assistants who are terrified of foreigners. It’s such a shock to the system.
They even go as far as calling me ma’am. Randomly I bought vitamins the other day and the guy who served me passed by me in the mall later and was all “Hi maam its me from Vitamin World”. Like we were best friends. I was stuck to the ground but may have managed a smile and a hi. And it’s not just that guy, its everyone. The people in the stores, in the hotels, the people who give towels for the pool, the taxi drivers, all of them.
Only thing is that they don’t bow. Bowing comes as an automatic reaction to me now. I bow to the people here all the time and they look at me like I have some muscles spasm that’s causing it. I just can’t help it. I dont even know I’m doing it until after I’ve done it. It’s a real awkward turtle moment. If the people here bowed, it would simply be the icing on the cake.
For now I will continue to drink this delicious drink that the guy in the Hilton insisted on making for me. It’s a tough life but someone’s got to do it…….
More on Guam island in the next post………