Last week while I was at work I suddenly received an email from the Korean embassy. The Korean ambassador was asking if my husband and I were available for dinner the following Tuesday evening! I was completely surprised, honored, and overwhelmed. After reading it numerous times to make sure that I had indeed read it right, I quickly replied that we would be delighted to accept the invitation.
Now, you may wonder “how does she know the ambassador?” because obviously such an invitation doesn’t just come out of the blue. I first met the ambassador and his wife when I won the Korean speaking contest last October. There I had the chance to tell them that I would be going to spend a year at Sogang University in Seoul from August 2016, and at that time the ambassador kindly promised to introduce me to a good contact he had at the university. Since the embassy had all my contact information, I figured I would receive an email with contact details at some point before leaving for Korea. Not once did I imagine a dinner invitation.
Before going to the dinner I was a bit nervous. I was wondering what I should wear, what we would talk about, and whether we would be speaking in Korean or English. I quickly realized that I did not have anything to worry about. Being perfect diplomats the ambassador and his wife both speak English fluently, and since my husband’s Korean is very limited we were sticking to English except from the occasional Korean expression and the ambassador’s wife surprising us with her impressive Danish skills.
We were dining at a lovely Italian restaurant, and at no point did we run out of conversation topics. We talked about the cultural differences and similarities between Korea and Denmark, the education systems, the nature and climate, and obviously the language. At some point the ambassador began preparing my husband and me for our stay in Seoul, explaining to us how to act in Korea in order to become successful there. He said that since Korea is so different from what we are used to there were many things we should be aware of. Needless to say we were extremely thankful to receive such valuable advice. The ambassador went on to say that connections and personal relationships are especially important in Korea, and that he would help us by introducing us to various acquaintances. At dinner he sent a message about us to one of his contacts, and even though it was in the middle of the night in Korea he received an almost instant reply.
Before we parted we exchanged presents. We had brought a Korean copy of my husband’s book and they gave us a Samsung powerbank for recharging your phone or tablet on the go. A very thoughtful present indeed. The ambassador’s wife also gave me a warm hug telling me that she was proud of me. We then promised each other to keep in touch, and as soon as we came back home I sent a text message to the ambassador thanking them for their kindness and valuable advice. He quickly replied with contact details for a professor I should contact in Seoul and assured me that he and his wife had enjoyed the evening too.
I once wrote about how much I appreciate having set out on this Korean language journey. Ever since I started studying Korean, I’ve had so many great experiences and personal encounters that I could have never even dreamed about before, and I cannot begin to describe how excited I am about what lies ahead. I’m so thankful to the ambassador and his wife and I hope to meet them again either here or during my time in Korea.