It was exactly January, 2009 when I first visited Korea. I was accompanied by my Korea professor Mr. Kim. He was quiet, but kind. He could smile at any moment. He told me "Yasin, always smile when you meet others. It is good and it is Korean culture"and I started practicing smiling with myself. I liked it. I experienced many things in Korea, but what I want to share here are my food experiences in Korea while I was visiting Korea for the very first time.
It was time for dinner. He asked me to go out and eat healthy food, because it was the coldest time of the year. We went to Jimdak restaurant that served, chicken and potato with some noodles in a big plate. I saw more than eight other small side dishes with different tastes. I was confused where and how to start? So, I thought I should wait my professor and follow him. As he was older than me so was also supposed to start first. This is how the Korean culture is to waitfor elders to start first. Back in Kabul also we respect elders and we wait until the elders start first. So it was not a shock for me, but we have only two or three main dishes, not as many side dishes as Koreans. I didn’t know what I ate, because I had different tastes with each spoonful.
Toilet Paper on the table:
After we enjoyed the dinner I just took a look around and I saw some toiroles on the tables. I asked myself; Why don’t they leave the toilet papers in the toilet? And they can only use one toilet paper not too many like on the tables. Maybe it shows that there is a toilet as well in this restaurant. I decided to ask my professor. He said "it is for cleaning hands, take this and clean your hands"he gave me a piece of toilet paper. Oh my God! If I put toipaper on the table while I am having meal with my family back at home, my father would slap me on my face and would ask; don’t you know toilet paper is for toilets and napkins are for the table? I am sure he would think I am very rude and disrespecting the meal.
While I was eating the delicious Jimdak with long crispy noodles, I was struggling how to cut the noodles and I failed to cut the long noodle with my tooth, so I looked tired after strugtoo much with the long noodles. My professor asked me "Yasin why don’t you use these scissors?"ahh? I answered. He cut the noodles and used tongs to put them onto my plate. Using scissors for cutting and tongs for pickthing up was very strange to me. Not just to me, but to most foreigners, it is strange to see scissors and tongs on the table while eating. We use scissors for cutting hair and to say openly use for not clean things and use tongs for trash and garbage. So, how to use tools with Korean food can be very interestsometimes.
Naan VS Rice:
Wow! Such small rice pots in Korea. If we eat rice, we only eat rice and it will be as a main course but we don’t eat rice as often as Koreans. What matto us is Naan. Even if we have evon the table except for Naan, we don’t eat until we find Naan. We should wait to bake or to go bakery and buy fresh Naan. I served my first dinin Seoul without Naan. That is why I didn’t feel like I ate something.
But I see Korean food is healthier than our food and most other foods around the world. People care more about what they eat. I believe you will enjoy and never forget Korean culture and the delicious foods in Korea. There are cold noodles for summer and hot noodles for winter. I had never tasted cold noodles before. Things that Koreans use in a right way, I thought we cannot use things like scissors and tongs or using toilet paper for cleaning hands. Why not, we can use them and tools are for making our work easier whatever you use. So, I learned different things while I am staying in Korea as a foreign student. Learning is not always through schools, but also the main school is the society where we learn about life and people.