I like Korean Food. Well, let me rephrase that. I like some Korean food. But I don’t always want to eat it. And that’s normal. I was raised in the U.S., in a western household, where we eat typically European-style food. Asian food is not an everyday item to us, just as bread-based dishes are not typical of Asian households. I don’t expect them to be. Many Asians residing in the US eat their traditional Asian-style meals, containing rice and other vegetables or fish that are not a staple in my household. I do eat rice at my house once in a while, and after having Asian roommates, I ate it more frequently in college. But I do get that urge for bread or tomato sauce and cheese once in a while. It’s natural. My dietary habits and Korean dietary habits can be quite different.
Now, I know I should like Korean food more since I live in Korea but it’s still so hard to me. Food is always a tough issue with me. When I’m not hungry, I hate food. When I’m hungry, I don’t mind it but it still is a chore. I really dislike going out to eat with people but I also hate eating alone. Odd, much? Yeah, I don’t understand it either. But, it seems to be a recurring thing here that everyone will tell me to eat more rice or eat more Korean food. But yet, I would never ask my foreign friends in the US that they need to eat more American food. I recommend dishes for them to try if they haven’t had it based on what they like but never would I really force and actively try to persuade them to eat it. But you can’t escape that here. And it makes life so much harder.
When going out to dinner with friends, especially when going drinking, in the US, you order a dish or two and drink. And when your meal is over, you keep drinking. You don’t stop unless you’re tired, full, drunk, etc. And then we enjoy our drunken stupor or something of the sort. However, in Korea, they order a dish and keep ordering dishes. Next restaurant, next drink, next dish. It gets to the point that each dish loses it’s individual purpose. I eat, not because I’m craving that food, but because I need to eat something while drinking. And this is not always the case, but very often it is. So much money is spent on food. I was looking on Facebook and saw my American friends’ dinners and breakfasts. It was a one-bowl rice dish with lots of mix-ins. Couscous with cheese, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and… olives? I forget. But it was very simple. And that was dinner! But in Korea, you can’t just have that. You have to have so many things. I feel like that dish would be lost in the whole scheme of things if you put it in a Korean dish. Yes, they have a similar dish, Bokkeumbap (볶음밥), but usually you have Kimchi or radishes or other stuff on the side with it. It’s never alone. I miss that specialness of each dish.
So Sunday, this was my big concern. And then, today, I come into work and there is an article on the front page of the Korea Times that reads “US TV host says ‘Korean Food is healthy and Delicious'”….
Why the hell is this front page news? Is it a slow news day?
It just seems that Koreans are very insecure about their culture, and especially their food. They think no one likes it and that it’s such an amazing thing when we can eat it. And don’t even get me started on the whole “Can you eat spicy food?” question that bothers most foreigners here. Yes, we have heard of Korean food. No, we don’t eat it as much as Japanese or Chinese food but we eat it more than Ethiopian or Singaporean food. And this isn’t the first article like this, they always post something about Korean food in different parts of the world or Korean culture hitting other countries. If Korean’s are so proud of their culture, why does it come off as insecure? It’s really strange.
Korea spends so much money on tourism (yes, I know tourism is a big ticket item for most countries) but they spend much of it domestically. They try to convince the people already in this country to go visit their historical sites and natural wonders. It’s a bit strange. I’ve never seen it to this degree in Germany or in Japan. You just kinda knew what you wanted to see before you went or you looked it up on the internet in your hotel room. It’s not littered over every subway, major art center, etc etc. I am tired of these kinds of advertisements. As someone who lives in Korea, I would like Korea to not think of me as a tourist. I would like them to think of me as someone who lives here and probably actively participates in everyday life. I don’t need to be told which places to go for visiting, just suggestions. I don’t even travel in my home country, why is your country any different? This isn’t a vacation to me, this is work, life. I will eat Korean food occasionally but please, let me have my food heritage back. And respect it, as I respect yours.