Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's Neutral

I've been asked a lot recently how I like Korea.

I have yet to come up with a great response to that, so for now I'll just say that it's neutral-literally.

We've driven all over Seoul and I would have to say that 98% of the cars here are either black, white, silver-grey and a select few are beige.  The rest are delivery vehicles and they are typically a different color.  I can count 4 cars that I have seen that aren't a neutral shade.

The parking lot at the grocery store...neutral. 

The people in our area tend to dress the same way.  Black pants, white shirt.  Grey pants, white shirt.  A pale blue shirt may be thrown in for a little bit of diversity...if you see someone in blue you know that they are the risk taker in the group.

I asked the other day how to say "no" in Korean.  I've learned "thank you" and I knew "hello" from Arrested Development, so I figured I'd round out my Korean vocabulary with "yes" and "no".  I was told that Koreans don't really say no, they just say yes in a way that implies no.  I'm not sure how accurate that is, but that's what I was told.

All this to say that I don't really understand Korean culture.  I'm trying hard not to compare to my beloved Nicaraguan culture, but it's hard not to.  I feel so at home in one, I understand one and the other is completely foreign to me.

I'm sure how I feel is how most Americans feel when they land in Nicaragua.   Everything is different and a little crazy.

I love the crazy, it's the extreme order of things that gets to me.

I love color.  All neutral all the time gets to me.

I love communication.  I can't communicate here.

We're going to try and get out of Seoul this week to see other parts of Korea.  I've seen some of the traditional dress and it's colorful and pretty so I know somewhere out there are Koreans that will appreciate my bright teal shirts and green flowing skirts.  I just have to find them.

The bottom line is that I feel like an outsider who is tolerated.  And I don't think that it's the Korean people that make me feel this way...they are very polite and accommodating.  I just don't understand the culture and the big city lifestyle is so new to me that I'm having a hard time adjusting.

I would probably feel this way in any big city.  The fact that I'm in one where I don't speak the language just magnifies my feelings.

So here's to finding someone, anyone, here in Korea that can appreciate my crazy-cuz I've got a lot of it and I'm rather fond of sharing.

Peace and love,


Kara said...

I know the Japanese will do just about anything to avoid saying "no." They will dance around an issue so politely, it's hard for a Gaijin to figure it out. The Chinese are pretty blunt about it, and will not only tell you "no," but magnify it to "no-no." Rob says the Koreans will say "no," as well.

I understand the disorientation arriving in such a structured foreign country. When I got to Japan, I quickly discovered that my 3 years of High School Japanese was woefully inadequate to actually communicate. A great deal of adaptation was required to fit into a host family who spoke absolutely no English.

I know you'll adapt, thrive, and come back with awesome stories and pictures!

We love you!