Big Meal For ONE Please

The first thing I always ask people when talking about visiting or living abroad is “What are some of the small cultural differences you saw?”  The big cultural differences I usually already know, you know, general Wiki’d knowledge.  So it’s the small things that fascinate me, the cultural trinkets of daily life.  So from time to time I will entertain you with a peek at some of the cultural trinkets I keep tucked up on my Korea shelf.

Today’s tidbit is of a culinary nature.  Today I ordered omurice, one of my favorite inexpensive Korean dishes consisting of rice, egg, ketchup and in this case some sort of gravy (costs less than $4 US).  It comes with a small side of salad, kimchi and other sides per the usual.  Looks like this:

Omurice

I got it to go.  When I opened the bag in my apartment there were two sets of chopsticks…as if I am not expected to eat such a large portion all by myself.  I appreciate the foresight, but I don’t think they realize how it comes across psychologically.

Some of you might think it was just a simple mix-up, but trust me, this extra silverware/plasticware/woodenware thing is a norm here.  The other day, no lie, I got 2 straws with my Lotteria soda. ???  I remember the first time I noticed this habit.  I was feeling ultra emotional that day, somewhere back in culture shock phase #2 (the irritable phase) and went to Caffe Bene with one of my girls.  I got one of those belgian waffles with the scoop of gelato on top (yes we are still in Korea) to indulge and the waffle is only slightly larger than my palm, so definitely a small dessert size for my American tendencies.  (See below note the size in comparison to the size of a normal coffee mug)

Caffe Bene Gelato and Waffle

I was already thinking I should’ve ordered a side of extra gelato to compensate.  When I went to the counter, vibrating coaster in hand, I was given a prettily arranged plate with TWO forks.  Seriously.  Do I LOOK like I can’t handle this dish alone?  Have you seen these hips??  Curvy is my best asset and I’m not going to stay all curvy if you expect me to share this tea-party-portioned dessert with my girl over there.

I’m not a big fan of sharing food to begin with, let alone desserts.  Ever see that episode with Joey and the sharing food?  JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!  If not, see below…

I’m a big big (did I mention big?) fan of Friends so expect more clips as they relate to my life…anywho, that’s me, the non-sharer.  Here, there are some foods that must be shared and they are some of my favorite foods here like Korean BBQ and Shabu Shabu, so I share there, but when there are individual menu items involved, they are meant for the individual.

I must also point out that it is a good thing that I’m not one of those girls who is sensitive about my weight because it is hard enough living in a country where pants don’t come in your size, but to then have the 40kg teenager behind the coffee counter hand you two spoons for a small dessert basically insinuating that you’d be a pig to eat it alone…it could be very detrimental to the emotional health of many a young, less secure women I know.

I realize it is just a cultural difference and they do it out of kindness because they are used to people sharing things here (you should see some of the fruit ice cream thingys that come in like fish bowls with 4 spoons!),

Fish bowl sized shareable dessert

but word to the wise dear kind servers, westerners I know are used to asking for a second fork or set of chopsticks if they really need it.  Thanks though!  🙂

Oh and before I go, I wanted to fill you in on Korea Tip #127, when finished eating your take out in your apartment, store the container in the freezer until you are ready to take your trash out.  Any remnants of kimchi will wreak havoc on your apartment’s normal fragrance for days.  Trust me, your date will thank me for it.

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