I remember when Hyo first introduced me to 불닭 (bul dak). I wrote about this dish briefly in another post, but didn’t really talk about it. She has introduced me to a lot of new Korean foods that I never tried my previous 2 years in Korea.
Going to the Bul Dak spot near Dongam Station in Incheon was really a spur of the moment thing. We have a favorite Galbi place we like to go to near there, but decided to look for something different. She suggested Bul Dak. After she explained that it literally meant “fire chicken” and was very spicy, I was a little weary, but I was up for it and wanted to try something new.
We got there and she ordered the dish with cheese and some beer. After it came out, it smelled very good and I couldn’t wait to dig in.
I grabbed a piece, ate it, and waited. It tasted good upon the first bite and after swallowing the chicken…then it hit me like a wave of fire. Now considering my time in Korea, I had gotten pretty used to spicy food. I usually add MORE pepper paste to my bibimbap….but this was ridiculous. I quickly grabbed the water and drank a whole glass…then I grabbed some of the beer.
After a minute or two, I started to dig in again, and although it got easier and easier as the night went on, I was sweating and drinking water and beer like crazy….but it was delicious. We went to the same restaurant a second time later on, and she asked to tone down the spiciness for me, and it was better. It is now one of my favorite dishes and I crave it many times though I don’t eat it often because my stomach usually feels bad the next day and I’m going to the bathroom like crazy.. (TMI? haha).
Anyways, just sharing my experience.
So when it comes to dating someone from another culture, there are several things I think that are important to do, in order for you to help understand each other and lessen misunderstandings between you two. Relationships already by nature will have their share of miscommunications and misunderstandings, but maybe even more so when two people come together from two different countries and cultures.
First of all, I feel very lucky to have met Hyo. I mean, I’m a pretty introverted guy who doesn’t talk much when first meeting people, but luckily, I wanted help with learning Korean, and was able to meet her. Hyo is also introverted which means we mesh pretty well and can understand each other better most of the time.
So here are some things that I felt have been important for us to do:
1. Learn the other’s language.
This might seem obvious, but it really is something that just makes sense. It shows that you take an interest in the other person’s culture, and later down the line, it can ease communication problems. My Korean is far from being fluent, but slowly but surely I am picking up phrases she says and my vocabulary grows daily. I’ve been a little tired lately so studying has been at a minimum, but it’s much better than when we met. Her English was much better than my Korean when we met, but her speaking has improved as well. We used to communicate the best using Kakao Talk and face to face rather than over the phone.
2. Visit the other person’s country.
This gives you a chance to see how your partner lives and interacts right in their own culture. I had already been in Korea for a year and a half when we met, but it wasn’t until this year in January where she came to my hometown and met my family and friends. This also gives you a chance to see where they got some of their personality traits and quirks from. I was too happy when Hyo came to the states. It was too funny seeing her get hugged by everyone. She said she was hugged more in 2 weeks than she had been in her whole life haha (comic will be coming about that).
3. Travel together.
Traveling together can be fun and you can see how you guys mesh together over a longer period of time. Different problems seem to pop up when traveling, and it can be a chance for you guys to grow as you tackle them together. So far, we have been to Sokcho, Busan, and Mokpo in Korea. Hawaii, Detroit/West Virginia, and New York in the states. Hoping for Europe next year!
4. Learn to cook some of their culture’s food.
It’s fun. We love food. That is all.
5. Meet their family and friends.
This obvious with any relationship, but maybe even more so in relationships like these. The families and friends will always be curious about your new “main squeeze” and will be curious as to why you are dating someone from another culture. It also gives you a chance to see how they interact with people whom they have known all their lives. You can see another side to them which is fun 🙂
This is probably one of the most important as neither one of you may be fluent in the other’s language. If you guys have a problem, it may be best to just take some time to think so you can gather your thoughts and communicate them correctly. This is where learning the language comes in handy as well.
7. Respect their country’s cultural norms and differences.
Now I’m not saying you will understand or agree with everything about their country, but there is a way of going about it that is respectful and shows that you understand that things may be a little different than where you’re from. I once had a disrespectful attitude towards the Dokdo/Japan issue, and it really annoyed Hyo. It was my disrespectful nature and the way I said it more than what I said.
8. Go to another country where you guys are both tourists.
We are working on this, but this allows you to to see a new place together and feel the same experiences (kind of the same as #3, but a little different). Like I said above, we hope we can visit France next year, as well as Australia, maybe Japan, and who knows where else.
For those of you in similar situations, do you have any things that have helped you in your relationship?
Translation credit: Hyo
So yes, I love chicken (cue black stereotype j/k). But seriously, I think I love it a bit tooo much. One thing Korea has a lot of are chicken restaurants. Hyo introduced me to 불닭 which is a very spicy chicken (literally translated it means fire chicken). But I do trust that if I turned into a chicken, she would step up to the plate and kiss me to turn me back again ;p.
Translation credit: Hyo 🙂
This has actually always happened to me at some point or another in Korea (except without the nicknames Hyo made lol. Koreans seem to be fascinated with the curly hair that most black people seem to have.
And yes they do ask to touch it. I generally don’t find it offensive because it’s done in a curious manner. Some do get offended, but it’s really not that big a deal to me unless they do it in a negative manner. I’ve never had Koreans from the street actually ask to do this (but some of my female friends have), but at every school I’ve worked at, the student have always asked to touched my hair and were too amazed when they touched it.
They are even more amazed when I let it grow for a little while, then cut it all off (that’s when Hyo calls me Kiwi Dom). Actually this episode of her touching my hair reminds me of that scen from the new Karate Kid movie. It’s always funny that something as simple as my hair would garner lots of attention in a completely different culture. Here is another woman’s experience, but in China:
Until next time
Hyo absolutely hates peanut butter. She really can’t even stand the smell of it lol. This is one thing that is interesting when dating someone from another culture. You can both try different foods and there will always be food that you like or dislike from the other person’s culture. It’s always interesting how one food that is a staple of your country’s culture will be completely disliked. Everyone has different tastes, and that’s fine.
Naturally, I like Reese’s, and I found that most Koreans I have come across, do not like peanut butter. I think it is one reason why Reese’s Cups can only be found at the Foreign Food store here while Snickers, Twix, Hershey’s, and M & M’s can be found in pretty much every convenience store. So frustrating so when we went to the states this winter, I bought like 10 Reese’s XL bars (can’t even find those in the Foreign Food Store), and a big bag of Reese’s that were much cheaper. I was happy for about two weeks.
Anyways, I hope maybe one day Hyo doesn’t hate PB so much :p
This is one thing that can be frustrating for people trying to learn Korean (or any language for that matter). Just a simple difference in pronunciation will leave you facing dumbfounded looks from people in restaurants, taxi drivers, etc. It can be frustrating, but you get better with it as time goes on.
Pronouncing “물” has always been trouble for me. For some reason, I sound the “oo” sound too long, and yes, it does sound like a short piece of speech from a cow. Hyo is a great teacher though and hopefully I can be kind of fluent by the end of the year. I can understand about 20% of what’s being said.
But this situation happens all too often. How about you? Can anyone who is learning Korean relate to this?