Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Upon Landing in America

Being that I have been in Korea for the past year, overhearing a conversation in English has been an extreme rarity, so I have been rather "in tune" to my surroundings since landing in the US today.   I've heard numerous other people who have lived abroad speak of this particular phenomenon.  One thing that I've learned is that Americans can have such shallow conversations sometimes (lol).  Koreans probably have similar ones, so I am glad that I am ignorant to that possibility.  Here is a conversation that I overheard while sitting in the airport in San Francisco:

Male:  "Oh my God!!  Look at all those DVD's!!  Did you buy all those?!?!"

Female:  "Yeah. I just LOVE three ninety-nine DVD's at Target!!"

Male:  "Isn't it the greatest??!!  I bought Bring it On's 1 and 2 last week!"

Female:  "Aren't those such good movies??!!"

This one was a phone conversation:

"I just, like, totally love my new spin class.  You should totally come...  It's SO fun!!  ...  Aren't our husbands watching UFC next weekend??  ...  Isn't there one, like, next weekend??  ...   If there is, we should SO skip out, and do spin class together."

I laughed out loud when I heard this one:

"Whoa!  You're sitting in first class??  You have SO much class!!"

"Stop.  What row are you sitting in?  I'll walk back, and bring you guys some cookies."

"I don't want to tell you.  I feel like such a loser."

I'll be in the States for the next three weeks.  I am currently between contracts.  I signed for another year with the same school in Gwangju, so I will be back in Korea on May 1.

I have always strived to be truthful in my opinions and observations, both positive and negative, correct and incorrect.  I may be ignorant regarding some issues, but I certainly am not stupid, and I never want to be foolish, so when I am incorrect, I welcome correction.  I welcome your thoughts, and input, but when leaving a strong dissenting opinion under the comments section, don't expect to do so without expecting me to defend mine.

I was previously in sales before teaching English in Korea, and rule #1 in sales is to love the product that you are selling.  Rule #2 is to defend the product when somebody speaks negatively about it.  If a client speaks negatively about a product without a response from the salesman, the salesman is validating that the potential buyer is correct in his/her negative opinion.  These two principles can be applied to numerous other things, even writing.  Much like a salesman with a product or service, as a writer, I've learned to love and embrace my true feelings and insights regarding my observations and opinions, regardless of whether or not they are politically correct, or even if they offend some people.  I've heard it said before that you can't please everybody, and if you do, you are doing something wrong.  I have learned that, like those of most other people, most of my opinions and observations are reasonable, not baseless, and they matter.  I have learned to write about things that I love, and am passionate about.  The truth, my passions, and my honest opinions and observations are always more interesting to write about, and are certainly easier to defend.      

Upon landing in America, I immediately noticed two things.  The first thing that I noticed is that a large number of Americans are extremely overweight.  Although there certainly are obese Koreans, it is significantly less common there.

It doesn't take a nutritionist to figure out the reasons behind the weight problem in America, and the lack thereof in Korea.  In Korea, when eating out, the side dishes are usually a variation of kimchi (heavily seasoned cabbage), bean sprouts, spinach, seaweed, and radish.  In America, the side dish is almost always a form of potato, and they are usually fried.  When they are not fried, they are usually saturated with butter.  On the rare occasion that steamed vegetables are served, they are almost always doused with butter as well.  When having a salad, the primary ingredient in most dressings is usually some sort of oil.

I realize that I am being rather critical of an aspect of American food and society, as Korean food is not without fault.  It is extremely heavy in sodium, but the truth is evident.  A large number of Americans struggle with weight issues, and most Koreans don't.  And that truth has become apparent during my particular experience.  During my first year in Korea, my diet consisted primarily of Korean food, and I ate out almost every day.  I lost a total of 26 lbs (11.79 kg).  I don't want to even think of what I would look like if I ate out almost every day in America.

I am not saying that it is horrible to indulge in a hamburger with fries, and/or a pizza, and I am certainly not an advocate of government regulation of the fast food industry.  I love fattening food just as much, or more, than most people, but like everything, it is something that must be enjoyed in moderation.

The second thing that I quickly noticed upon landing is that a large number of American children can be rather disrespectful when addressing their parents.  I realize that I am now able to overhear a lot more conversations, especially words, but the truth is more evident in the tone than in the words.  Upon landing, I heard, "Mo-om!!  I already told you!!  I don't want that!!  I want this!!"

I also heard, "Mo-om!!  Where are my Nintendo DS games?!!  I want to play my Nintendo DS!!"  On a few separate occasions, in the San Francisco airport, I heard American children talking to their parents as if they were stupid, and below them.  I realize that I don't understand most of the language, but tone is unmistakeable, and I never hear that agitated borderline angry tone, that is unfortunately too common in older American children, from Korean children when addressing their parents.  Although Korean children can sometimes be rather disrespectful towards us foreign teachers, as they are not ignorant to the cultural differences, I have never seen them speak that way to a parental figure, or even to a sibling, in public.

Despite that, I am extremely happy and excited to be home.  I am excited about spending time with my family, relaxing, mowing my grass, eating delicious food, and seeing friends.  It will be fun.


  1. Reverse culture shock is an interesting experience, huh?
    Congratulations on completing your first contract in Korea, Chris!
    I look forward to seeing you around on the rebound. Hope we can play some guitar somewhere along the way, too.

  2. I blame The Disney Channel for making kids think that they're above their parents. Watch any teeny-bopper show and tell me if you see a strong parent that isn't an idiot. It's pathetic!

    Enjoy you last week in the US! PS... if you could fit a few (dozen?) pounds of crawfish and a boiler in your luggage, I would totally help you eat them :)