Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random Street Conversations

Today as I was leaving work, I was approached by a woman asking me, in Korean, how to get to Wangsimni Station. It seemed a little strange to me that a Korean would walk up to a foreigner, and ask directions in Korean. Most Koreans automatically assume that you speak no Korean and know nothing about Seoul. Then when they realize that you know more than they do about directions (even if you can't perfectly articulate it in their language) they are incredibly impressed. As if I know everything about everywhere in Boston, my hometown.

Anyway, I tried my best in my broken Korean to explain to her where it was. She seemed to get the point from my saying straight and left. Then she asked me where I was from. I told her that I was an American. I started to get the feeling that she wasn't Korean either. She then explained to me that she was from Mongolia. Well, I assume that that's what 'mongol saram' would be. She was extremely short, even to me, who is extremely short, even in Korea. I was quite impressed by the fact that a: she was from Mongolia and b: by the fact that she spoke Korean so naturally. I've been trying to think, but I don't think I've ever met a Mongolian before. She explained to me that she lives in Seoul. She told me how long she had been living here, but I couldn't get that detail of our conversation.

Anyway, we walked with her for a little bit, since we were walking in the same direction. I was happy again with my Korean skills, but while I'm good at this sort of conversation (the typical... how long have you been here, where do you live, where do you work, what do you do.. etc) I can't really have much more of a conversation than that. But, hey, it's great for meeting people for the first time...

Anyway, just thought I'd share this little cross-cultural experience of speaking Korean as a common language with another foreigner. :-)

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