Moments in Cultural Assimilation 1 & 2


Good news everyone! 5 months into living in Gwangju and I’m finally integrating!

Moment 1 – Kimchi Binge

I don’t know if I made this really clear or not, but things have been pretty tedious with no friends around and no (pressing) work to do.This has resulted in boredom trips to the marts in my neighborhood. All of these excursions lately have ended with me buying ungodly amounts of kimchi. There are just so many varieties, people! I feel compelled to collect them all. And it’s so very good for you!  Pardon me for being a girl for a minute, but if someone is all, “Hey try this food! It’s delicious, you can eat as much as you want, and your butt will STILL get smaller!” YOU DON’T WALK AWAY FROM THAT – YOU’VE BEEN WAITING YOUR ENTIRE LIFE TO HEAR THOSE WORDS.

Then there’s this, which makes me real Koreanish…it started out innocently. I just didn’t have any other food in my house. But now the habit has formed…I really like eating kimchi for breakfast. It’s so incredibly bitter it does almost as good a job of waking me up as my coffee.

Breakfast du Jour. Someone on the internet, care about this.

Moment 2 – Open A Window

We’ve made a few references (cryptic haikus and all) here to the curious habit of the Korean people to leave windows wide open in the middle of winter. Like seriously. Wide open. I watched this behavior unfold as we cleaned up my classroom from winter camp. Task 1 – open the windows. Real wide. Wider. Pay no attention to Erin Teacher squawking at you in English to cut it out.

You may also recall that my house is the smaller than your typical American hotel room.(Just scroll down two posts for picture proof.)

So, minifridge loaded to the gills with kimchi, you can imagine what might follow. Opening the refrigerator released a creeping, sneaky perfume of fermented vegetables. At first I wouldn’t notice it, as the odor crept along the floor. But then it rose – rose and diffused until my little room was filled with the rather rude smell of kimchi. I would get used to it; I would leave; I would return, and recoil. The smell lingered. Something had to be done.

Today, as I left my house, despite the low temperature and threat of snow, you better believe I left the window all the hell wide open. You don’t understand exactly how bad the smell of kimchi in an enclosed space can be. I can only assume this was the genesis of the Korean open-window practice: home + kimchi = rank, inhumane odors. Similarly, once your entire family consumes a katrillion pounds of cabbage, you’re going to want to crack a window too*. Just sayin.

Methinks a Korean doth live here

*We’ve been up as a blog for a whole year and I think that was our first fart joke. Megan, this is what happens when you leave blog content up to  me.

3 responses to “Moments in Cultural Assimilation 1 & 2

  1. The whole “leaving the windows open when it’s ridiculously cold outside” is because Korean’s believe you need to change the “chi” in the home when you clean. The way to do this is to open the windows.

    Trust me, the first day my coteacher opened the windows when it was -987340697436 degrees outside I thought she was off her rocker. I asked her why and that’s the answer she gave me. Now I just know to bring an extra scarf or blanket into work while the windows are open.

  2. Haha! Good stuff. Kimchi is stinky.

    That is really weird that Koreans open their windows in the dead of winter, who the fuck does that?!

  3. Kimchi for breakfast…yikes!

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