When people come to Korea, they want the Korean “experience,” food and all. Sometimes, I just want junk food and the Korean experience.
I got both.
Today, my good friend Alison and I were on the prowl for good eats. Long story short, we ended up at Lotteria, the Korean version of McDonald’s. As the only two foreigners in the restaurant, we stood for a long time, thinking about how we would order. I’ve been in this establishment before, only to order soft-serve ice cream, but never a full blown meal. We approached the counter, and thankfully, there were visual cards. We were able to point at what we wanted, however, this was not a plan that went off fully without any hitches. The patient cashier kept asking “Set?,” which is is also the Korean counting prefix for the number “3.” I couldn’t possibly understand why the young man would think that I would want three meals, but as it turns out, “set” means “combo.” I think I even threw in the word hada, meaning “one.” It was a cultural exchange for the books.
But what makes this trip to Lotteria so impressive, gentlemen and dames, is the fact that I ordered the Hanwoo Lady Burger. I have no idea why this is called the Hanwoo Lady Burger. It comes in a pink wrapper with crowns and jewels printed on the paper. Being the hoarder I am (I once saved shiny Easter candy wrappers), I wanted to save the wrapper so bad. It was burger fit for a queen, the Queen of Junk Food Cravings. Honestly, I don’t know if the branding is really sexist or just good marketing. Don’t care. It was delicious. With mayonnaise, a pepper slice, tomato slice, thin beef patty, and a thick Korean soy sauce, I’ll remember my first Korean fast food meal as long as I live.
Also, what also strikes me about Korean culture as a whole is the sense of conservatism. Not necessarily in the political sort, but in the material sort. Even in a fast food place such as Lotteria, there are separate bins for plastics, food waste, and paper waste. I spent a good two minutes sorting my trash, trying to get it in the appropriate bin. Even on the Jungwon University campus, there are numerous recycling centers. You may be thinking “Woah Sarah, are you saying Americans are wasteful?” Yes, I’m sort of saying that. Not all, but mostly. We throw lots of things away. It’s hard to even find a trashcan on one floor of a building here at Jungwon University. Things simply don’t get thrown away as easily in Korea.
With that being said, I’m adapting to Koran culture. My mother said that it would take about a month, and she was right (one point for Mama). I’m happy, content, and I’m glad to be in Korea representing the United States. Until I return, I’m happy to celebrate the life and occasional death of the American-style Sarah, as she discovers new things. Like pink burger wrappers and recycling.
Good morning America (how are you?) and geon bae from a different kind of south,
In other news:
FRIDAY: I find out where I will be teaching for the next year. I’m really exciting.
On Sunday, I’ll be taking a K-pop dance class in a city outside of Seoul with other ETAs and Orientation Coordinators. This is probably going to be dangerously hilarious.