This time is my second time in Seoul and I’ve already been here for almost a full week (meaning only one week left *sobs*) and I absolutely love it. It feels so great to visit well-known places like Gwanghwamun and Kyobo Bookstore for the second time, and compared to last year there are so many things that have become infinitely easier since I speak the language much better now. I’m no longer dumbfounded by coffeeshop personnel who asks me in Korean if I want my coffee hot or cold, to stay or to go, or by shop owners who ask me if I have a membership card or whether I want a bag or not. I understand what they say and I’m able to answer. At one point I caught myself thinking “when did they slow down their speech?” as I kept thinking last year that everybody spoke insanely fast. The Korean people also seem to enjoy when foreigners speak their language. At one shop I was asked if I had a membership card to which I politely said no (없는데요), prompting the girl to smile and say “우와, 한국말 참 잘 하시네요!”. I appreciate being complimented for my Korean, but one word hardly qualifies as sufficient background for assessing my level. Anyhow, I also chitchatted with a local fruitshop owner, who gave me some free fruit for just being able to speak Korean. Koreans sure are friendly. For you Korean learners out there; an important thing to remember when being complimented by Koreans is to reject the compliment. In the West we’re used to saying “thanks” when people say something nice to us, but in Korea you should politely deny whatever nice things they are saying to you. Therefore, one of my most fluent sentences is “No, I’m not good at all. I make so many mistakes and definitely have a long way to go.”

This visit also differs from last year in the sense that I speak to a lot more Koreans. Since one of the many reasons that I’m in Korea right now is to promote the Korean edition of my husband’s most recent book we obviously have a lot of official meetings. Yesterday was no exception, and in the evening we were invited to a fancy restaurant by the CEO of the publishing company. This CEO spoke no English thus putting me in an excellent position for practising my Korean. You’d think I speak a lot of Korean over here, but honestly I spoke much more when I had my daily meetings with my LP back home. Usually my Korean conversations here are very simple exchanges of pleasantries with sales personnel. Anyhow, the elderly CEO knew about me (or 소희 교수님 as he called me) before meeting with me, since he had read about me in the Korean newspapers a month ago. He even requested an 인증샷 (a picture proof) of our meeting before parting. It was, however, my husband who was the one handing out autographs as the guests at the table all wanted signed copies of their books. (This experience was definitely a first!)

Before the dinner I had taken the subway to Hongdae, where I had a coffee meeting with fellow Korean learner and blogger Mena from Eunha. We met at the ever cozy You Are Here Cafe (what better place to meet a Korean learner?) and just had a great time. On my way back from Hongdae to Cheongdam (a subway ride of just over an hour) I was recognized by a couple sitting opposite me in the train car. I noticed the girl gesturing to her boyfriend to look at me, then she wispered something to him and he quickly took out his phone, searched something, looked at his screen then back at me several times back and forth, then nodding to his girlfriend, and then he looked at me again to find me smiling and nodding letting them know with my expression that I did indeed know what they were talking about. They quickly looked down and giggled shyly to my huge amusement. (That was also a first!)

Today I’ve been doing a bit of shopping in Gangnam, and in about an hour I plan to be eating the most delicious bulgogi in a restaurant in Jamsil that I accidently stumbled into last year. (This will be a second!)

 

 

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