My 3-day trip to Korea was interesting and a bit exhausting. The purpose was to meet with members of a company that will play host to a big meeting we will hold in 2017. I found the group to be engaging and cordial. The first evening we were hosted to a Korean barbecue. All hopes of being vegetarian went by the wayside as there was a large quantity of pork served steaming at the tableside. Our hosts were fond of making “boilermakers” — a shot of Soju (a Korean liquor similar to vodka) mixed with beer. I lost track of how many “bottoms up” toasts we celebrated, but the quantity of alcohol was impressive. It was an evening of good food and camaraderie. We enjoyed several good meals together. Ok, I did eat octopus tentacles that were still wiggling on the plate. That pretty much pushed my level of acceptance for new foods to the limit of where I’ll go.
With the destination of our meeting to be Gyeongju, South Korea, we spent some time looking at the area and visiting some of the historic landmarks. Our group included 2 Japanese, 2 Korean, a now-Korean who was born and educated in the US, and me, the American. Conversations were often interesting. Everyone spoke English, and we defaulted to that most of the time. The Japanese and Koreans often compared expressions and word usage, finding a number of similarities as well as differences.
I often found myself struggling to understand all of what was being said. Despite their English proficiency – and all did speak English very well – the accents were sometimes challenging for me to deal with. Quite a few things just went by the wayside, and I was embarassed to have to ask people to repeat things so that I could understand. I think this will get better as my ears and brain begins to adjust to new sounds that flavor the English that I’m used to.
This was kind of a first taste of this extraordinary blend of cultures that I will experience in this job. I think it is going to be a fascinating experience.