Lost in Translation in Korea

We’ve been in Korea for a week, and it’s very different from Hong Kong. The food is spicy and pickled, and few people speak English. We learned a few phrases on the plane – “thank you” and “I don’t understand” being the most helpful – but Korean is still a mystery. Among our confusing experiences:

  • Everyone thinking Fred is Korean, and the exasperated sighs of cashiers and bank tellers when they find out he isn’t
  • Pointing to menu items for bewildered waiters, and misordered dishes – with mushrooms instead of without, nigiri instead of temaki
  • Going into a convenience store and not knowing what anything is
  • A waitress laughing when Fred played the audio on his Korean language app to ask for a receipt
  • Doing an interview through an interpreter

But once and a while, people are amused by our lack of Korean skills. This includes the two-year old son of our hosts, who dubbed us his aunt and uncle (in Korean, of course); a helpful security guard who called my interviewee and wrote down his office number for me; the owner of a barbeque joint who fed us some succulent pork neck and gave us a free Pepsi; and hopefully others in the next week!


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