밥은 잘 먹고 있어요? Are you eating well? These words just flew out of my mouth when my language partner called me up yesterday around midnight Seoul time and told me how stressed he was because of his midterm exams and endless applications for summer internships. Without knowing it, I instantly went into complete noona-mode and started inquiring about his eating habits. Not once have I ever said that to anyone before in any other language! I was actually very surprised that these were my words of choice. However, I guess it just goes to show that what you keep pouring into your brain will eventually flow out of your mouth. And since I keep exposing myself to Korean non-stop, I’m bound to start repeating what I hear. In any case, asking if someone is eating well is really just a Korean way of showing that you care about them. In fact, as an equivalent to the English “How are you?”, Koreans will often start a conversation among close friends asking if they have eaten.
In the same manner sharing meals is an important part of forming friendships with Koreans. Food is an extremely important part of the Korean culture. If you ever do a Korean a favor, big or small, you’ll usually be met with a 감사합니다, 밥 사 줄게요. Thanks, I’ll buy you a meal. On a grammar note, the counterword for meal in Korean is 끼 as in 밥 한 끼 사 줄게요.
The importance of food in the Korean culture is also reflected in a variety of other Korean words as well. In fact, the Sino-Korean word for family members, 식구, roughly translates as those who you share your meals with. Another expression is the Korean word for livelihood or source of income, which is 밥줄 or directly translated, “rice line” in English. In other words, one’s job or main source of income in Korea is one’s rice line. It’s closely related to similar expressions in the West centered around the word bread, such as saying that one’s job is one’s “bread and butter” or being able to earn one’s “daily bread”. I love these peculiar expressions as they are so packed with culture and history.
Since today’s Friday (yay!) I’ll end this post with a classic K-pop song. My latest music postings have been with male singers so I’ll go completely aegyo (Korean cute) today with Girls Generation and their über-catchy song Gee Gee Gee! I cannot help thinking that this is indeed the Korean equivalent of Aqua’s “Barbie girl” if anyone recalls the mid ’90s. Happy Friday everyone!!! 주말은 잘 보내세요~~