This past Friday one of the families I do conversational phone English with picked the kids and me up and took us to their home in Suwon. This was our first meeting with them, and our first time to be invited into a Korean home. I was a little nervous about doing something to insult them or their culture. We met them in a parking lot right outside the post. U (the lady), ran to meet me with open arms, so we hugged, which is something I would normally do, but I was totally prepared to just bow to her. Then with her husband, I blew it, I put my hand out to shake his hand, he shook mine back, but I feel he was a bit uncomfortable with this. I should have bowed to him, but I was so thrown by U hugging me that all my Korean culture teaching blew out the window. We drove for about 40 minutes to their home where the kids S & H were waiting. When we arrived, we took our shoes off, which we are becoming accustomed to doing here in Korea and gave them the gifts we brought. I was very excited to meet the kids I have been talking to for over a month on the phone, but to my surprise, they were VERY SHY in person. S couldn’t even be in the same room with us for a few minutes. H was very cute and giggled like she does when she is on the phone with me. She has a very cute giggle. I tried to make them as comfortable as I could, joking and talking about things we would normally talk about on the phone, and soon after S started coming around.
Their house was very simple and small. U showed us around the house, first she showed us H’s room, it had a piano, a desk and a hanging rack full of clothes, and I thought to myself, “Wow, H has her own study”. Then she showed us S’s room, same type thing, a dresser and a desk, then she showed us her room, which was a little bigger with a dresser, TV, & desk. After she showed me S’s room, I realized they sleep in the traditional Korean way, on a “yo” a sleeping mat on floor. Boy 1 was very shocked to see this and ask me if they have pillows to sleep on. I am not sure, so this will be one of my questions I ask them when I talk on the phone with them tonight.
I must tell you about the bathroom, I have been wondering why shower curtains and bathroom rugs are hard to come by in Korea. Well, it must be because they do not use them. When we went into the bathroom, the entire bathroom was wet. There was no shower curtain, not carpet, no décor on the walls. There is a bench in the bathtub for you to sit on while showering and the shower head is removable so you can sit and wash. You don’t need to worry about getting water everywhere, because that is what the bathroom is for. There is even a drain in the bathroom floor.
Our host were very hospitable, they served us a traditional Korean lunch of bulgogi and duck (no, not the duck you are thinking of, this is a Korean dish called duck. There is no duck, or meat anywhere in this dish), with many little side dishes. We sat on the floor and ate on a low table. The kids thought this was very cool. In fact we now want to get one of these little tables. I’m sure we will use it for eating sometimes, but we think it will be a perfect game table, and it folds up so you can put it away.
In the picture below Boy 3 and Girl are helping U cut up a very expensive watermelon on one of the small tables. (I am still having a hard time with how expensive watermelons are here! $20 USD for a watermelons this size)
Below are H & S.
After we ate and hung out at their home for a while, they took us ice skating where U spoiled my kids! She gave them each 5,000 won to use at the snack bar for anything they wanted. Of course they all ate 5,000 won worth of candy. Girl and Boy's 2 & 3 had never been ice skating before, even though it was challenging, they all had a great time and they did very well.
Our first experience hanging out with a Korean family was a wonderful one. We had good food, great fellowship; learn a little more about the Korean world and we made some great friends to top it off. Next time they will come to our house. I'm sure they will think American are totally spoiled (because we are), the way they live their lives is so different than ours, not better, not worse, just different. I am so thrilled to have had this experience.
PS….I forgot to mention, most Korean households do not have OVENS (or dishwashers)!!! I was freaking out, how do they bake?! They don’t, that is why there is a bakery on almost every corner here. I don’t know if I could live without my oven.