August 3, 2010

Kindness is the most important thing.

Life in a strange land is hard, the language barrier and cultural differences make it difficult to be friendly, or even polite. A few people have impressed me and really overcome those to be truly kind to me. One is a young women working in the PC room I frequent, who used an online translator to write me messages, explaining prices and how becoming a member was free but would save me 200 won an hour, and always -always- said hello, thank you, and goodbye to me... in ENGLISH. To me, that is just above and beyond what I would expect from anyone. All of the computers are, of course, set to Korean, and when I can't understand the messages it displays she is more than happy to come over and help me grasp meaning, even through the language barriers. Today, I struggled to log on (since I couldn't actually read the labels for my new member's username and password), and she helped me, then brought me a cup of coffee and told me it was free. After my hour was up, I rushed back home, grabbed a box of chocolates, and hurried back to hand it to her (with both hands, as the Korean custom). She asked me why (in English), and I told her, "you've been the nicest person to me in Korea, it is the least I can do." She was taken back, but processed my hour purchase and waited until I was seated to open the chocolates (once again, Korean custom), some time later she brought me a Lipton can - a flavored iced tea? - and thanked me, because the chocolates were delicious. I waited for her to leave before opening her gift to me, the drink, out of respect for her customs.

I couldn't ask for a better night in Daegu.


  1. Awesome to hear that there are people who are so willing to help rather than brush you off as some foreigner.

    "the language barrier and cultural differences make it difficult to be friendly, or even polite"
    I have to wonder if people are being unfriendly in general or if you're perceiving it as unfriendly because Korean friendly isn't American friendly.

    Got any stories about people treating you like crap?

  2. Reading this made my night better (I'm studying for a final exam tomorrow, so it's been a little stressful). It's crazy how little things can be so nice.

  3. I really think the niceness of a total stranger is infinitely valuable. She had no obligation, no need, no reward for it, and that is what makes it truly special.

    Alec- no stories about people treating me like crap. Really, to most people I am just invisible, I think. It isn't that they are treating me badly, its just indifference. And yes it may be due to the cultural barrier, which is why this interaction was so special to me.

  4. My dark little heart just grew two sizes reading this, my darling.
    I have been angsting on just.not.being. the.rude.american. and here you are, waxing on kindness. I'm so glad that life can be generous in these small ways.

  5. I should have sent Velcro with you, strangers can't resist the dogs, people ALWAYS approach me..sometimes I wish I were invisible.

    Keep your chin up. Send out good vibes, smiles are universal..and apparently so is chocolate!!
    love mom

  6. Unfortunately, mom, smiles are not universal, actually.

  7. happy to hear things are coming together for you!!!! i miss and love you !!!!gram look for a bike let me know if you want one.