Random Acts of Kindness in Korea
Before coming to Korea I would hear a lot about something called “the Korean surprise”, and no it’s not anything to get excited about. The Korean surprise is different things – anything, really – that’s really important and it’s sprung on you at the last possible minute; sometimes the last possible second.
For example, last semester one of my classes had gotten switched to a different time. Not a big deal. Only no one told me about it until ten minutes after the class had already started.
As the foreign teacher, my day ends at 4:30. The Korean teachers have to stay because most times there are still classes to teach. One day I was packing up and getting ready to go home, only to be told as I’m putting my coat on that we have a teacher’s dinner we have to attend at 5pm. Good thing I didn’t have nay plans.
And this happens often to people. Sometimes with much worse things, such as not being notified of when important documents need to be submitted until the day they are due even though it will take days (or even weeks) to get the required documents and signatures. Luckily, i have not had to deal with that extreme, but you will find stories like this all over the internet. Korea will definitely surprise you. But the surprises are not all bad. In fact some can truly take you off guard and put a smile on your face for the rest of day.
If you are new to this blog, hi, I’m Celina and I live in a tiny town down in Boseong, South Korea. There isn’t much going on here and I often think about ways to get the heck outta dodge, but I want to share a few “Korean surprises” that have made me smile and think twice about leaving. These are they, in no particular order.
Just this past weekend, I was doing my grocery shopping. As one of maybe 5 (?) foreigners in this town, and the only African American one, I am not hard to remember. Through a game of charades early last semester, the grocery lady asked me if I had a car or if I walked to the store. I told her I walked which completely shocked her because I almost always buy the huge sack of six 2 liter water bottles. And yes, I carry it all the way back.
So fast forward to this past weekend, it’s raining. But I need to go grocery shopping and get some more water. I decided to tough out the rain and get my groceries. Well this same lady happened to be working that day and saw me with my water. Through another game of charades and badly pronounced words, she asked me where I lived and if it was okay to give me a ride home. Looking like a deer in headlights I said yes. She then hollered out across the store to one of the male workers to give me a ride home (thankfully I was the only customer in the store at the time. Perks of living in a small town. Nothing is ever busy).
The man, who actually had some English ability gave me a ride home and even carried my water up to my door. I thanked him and felt all fuzzy inside for the rest of the day.
Another grocery story. I decided to stop at another grocery mart while walking home from school one day. This one is closer to my school and I figured I’d go in and get some things since I have to pass it anyway to get home. Well, sometimes when I am checking out, the grocery lady will give me free drinks that are on promotion at the time. One day, the drink on promotion happened to be a favorite of mine and I got excited. I ransacked my brain for the Korean word for “good” or “I like it” and blurted out “좋아!” (good!).
She asked me in Korean if I liked it. I nodded, said thank you and continued to pack my groceries. Then she reaches back, grabs another one, and hands it to me. Yay, free drinks! Lol. I was so excited and probably had the biggest goofy grin on my face.
One weekend I went to go visit another English teacher here in Jeollanamdo. We had a little girls night sleep over and I headed out in the morning to come back to Boseong. Once again, I was in a town where there aren’t too many foreigners. I walked in to ask for a bus ticket and the transaction went smoothly enough. Seeing though i had no schedule, I had no idea when my bus was supposed to come. So I just sat in the bus station waiting until I saw a bus with a paper in the window that said “보성”.
I probably sat there between 30-45 minutes. When my bus finally arrived, I could barely even stand to my feet before the ticket man came flying out the ticket booth to let me know that my bus was finally here. I was in so much shock at how quickly he got out the booth and how excited he was, I could barely thank him. Also, I thought he was rushing me at first lol. So I bowed slightly and rushed out to my bus.
Usually when you get on buses out here in Jeolla, no one talks to you and bus drivers don’t care that you’re on the bus as long as you have a ticket. Well this bus driver, took one look at me (foreigner) and started asking to make sure I was on the right bus. Boseong. Yes. Okay. And we’re off! It wasn’t until I sat down in my seat that i started smiling to myself and thanking them silently for looking out for me.
I will end with one more. Towards the end of the semester last year, I had stopped going to lunch. Even after six months, my taste buds have still not adjusted to Korean food. If it isn’t bland then it’s just straight up nasty to me. Well the teachers that I share an office with, noticed that I hadn’t been showing up and the math teacher even tried to asked me why. I just kept it simple and said that I wasn’t hungry.
Well one day, my head teacher ordered from a nearby chicken place called NeNe Chicken (quite good actually). They set the food on one of the office tables and urged me to eat some. I thanked them and took a few little chicken bites. Throughout the next few hours, no one touched the chicken and they were trying to urge me to eat more and even “feel free to take it home too!”. Bless their little hearts. They just wanted me to eat.
I’m thankful for that because I really thought that no one would notice. And I appreciate that they cared enough to actually buy me food.
So those are my stories and I hope they can put some warm fuzzies in your heart just they did mine. If you come to Korea, I guarantee that you will get hit with a “Korean surprise”. But just know that they aren’t all bad.
Till next time.