Valentine’s Day in Korea

Koreans celebrate Valentine’s a bit different from the US. Apparently not all Koreans have gotten into the Valentine’s celebrations yet. On February 14th, women are supposed to buy candy for all the men in their lives. That can range from co-workers to bosses to more special people. And then on March 14th, or White Day, the men are supposed to buy candy for the women who bought them candy. And then on April 14th, or Black Day, all those who are single or did not get candy go out and eat black noodles.

We decided to celebrate the American way by getting each other gifts, which actually turned out to be a very interesting story. When we went on our lunch break, I walked to the flower shop and Rachel headed back to the apartment. I had seen the flower shop before, but had never been in. When I got to the store, I was not sure which door to enter because they had a lot of sliding doors, but none of them really looked they were entrances. Eventually I saw people through one door so I entered there. The flower shop was more of a greenhouse. I started out looking at the small plants and the Koreans were trying to talk with me and help me out. I ended up walking past a display of rose bouquets. I figured a whole bouquet would be like $100 because Koreans are crazy when it comes to gifts. But I did see a whole bucket of just roses. So I tried to tell the lady that I just wanted like 5 roses, and not a whole display. Well my zero Korean and her zero English left us confused. Sort of funny watching us stand there pointing at flowers. She was able to call someone and I talked with them to explain what I was looking for. Two older Korean ladies walked in with a little dog while I was leaving and I am pretty sure they all laughed at me while I was walking out.

It wasn’t until I was walking down the street with flowers in hand that I realized how funny I looked. Probably not many guys buying flowers on a day when the women are supposed to be buying things for men. O well. I stopped a convenience store on the way back to buy some Ferrero Rochers. Of course they had their display thing outside which just happened to be on a main street. Double awkwardness holding flowers and buying chocolate for everyone to see. Rachel had bought me chocolate as well so we enjoyed our spaghetti for lunch and chocolate for dessert.

After work we decided to go out to eat. So we went to Sorrento’s to get some Italian food. Just about every booth was full at the restaurant by the time we left so apparently Koreans do the whole taking people out for dinner on Valentine’s. We ordered Shrimp Alfredo, which rivaled Olive Garden’s but unfortunately the Koreans are not quite Italian Masterchefs. We also had some Bruschetta as an appetizer which came out different from we expected but still tasted good. All in all we had a romantic first Valentine’s together overseas.

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Date Night!

January 29, 2011

Saturday morning we decided to make the night a date night. After bumming around and cleaning the apartment , we thought we could go out to eat, grab Dunkin Donuts, grocery shop at Lotte Mart, and grab a taxi back.

Heading to dinner

Around 6 we got ready and headed out for the night. We ended up walking towards Lotte Mart because there are many restaurants and shops near the bus terminal. The bus terminal is about a 20 minute walk and Lotte another 5 minutes beyond that. We looked for a restaurant that looked like it had a picture menu, and people eating inside. Some restaurants had pictures but no customers…  After passing few restaurants down a side street, we walked in one that looked promising. We sat down and the waiter put some random side dishes and water on the table. Then the waitress pointed to a menu on the wall that was all in Korean with no pictures. And of course we had no time to ourselves to try to figure out the menu with my iPod. We kind of fumbled around for a bit. We pointed at a picture on the wall, but apparently it wasn’t available. One of the customers came over because he knew a few words of English. He wasn’t much of a help, but it was nice of him to try. I ended up typing beef into my Korean to English dictionary and showed it to the customer who was trying to help us. He then told the waitress. So we sat and waited. They brought out what looked like bacon rolled up and placed some of it on the burner in the table.

Bacon?

The strips were actually some very good beef strips. And the side dishes were all pretty good. Our side dishes were kimchi, lettuce, and green onions. The meal was good and not overly filling. I was surprised that they didn’t serve rice. I didn’t see anyone else eating rice either. We felt like we were being watched the whole time, but it was probably only about half the time. Two waiters who were sitting at a table playing with their phones waiting for customers to come would look over at us. I’m guessing they were amazed at our chopstick skills. They had given us forks, but we didn’t need to use them.

We weren’t sure whether to pay at front, or pay the waitress. None of the other customers looked remotely close to being done so we couldn’t just wait and see what others did. Well, I guess we could have, but we didn’t want to sit there all night! The other times we had been out to eat the person always paid at the register near the door. The restaurant was small and no one was at the register near the front door. After a few minutes we decided to start putting our coats on hoping they would show us what to do. Nope. They had a menu clipped to the light above our table and had marked what we ordered. So we grabbed the menu and headed to the front. As soon as we stood up a waitress went up to the front, and we successfully paid.

Coffee!

We then walked over to Dunkin Donuts which was less than 100 meters away from the restaurant. We wanted donuts, but still had to shop in Lotte, and they don’t want you carrying bags around their store. So Peter pointed at the pictures of what we wanted and of course the barista knew the English names for what we wanted. The coffees were good. The prices were less, but the quantity was about half. It was nice to have a hot drink though because the temperature was in the teens (F).

Shopping in Lotte was a headache because of the surprisingly large number of people for a Saturday night, or at least larger than what we expected. We got most of what we wanted. I was hoping to find graham crackers, but I guess I’ll have to try Costco. I read online that they can be found in Korea, but it’s difficult. I had a hard time trying to find ginger root. I actually knew what it looked like because of cashiering at Target, but I still couldn’t find it. I ended up typing it into my English to Korean dictionary on my iPod and showed it to a worker who then grabbed my arm and ushered me to the ginger root.

After we were finished shopping, we headed out the door towards the taxis. I found the picture of our address on my iPod and showed it to a taxi driver. He looked confused but motioned for us to get in the car. So we hopped in and hoped for the best. Once we got in the car we saw that he had GPS. Peter looked at the GPS and could tell he had the right place, so we weren’t concerned. We made it home in five minutes, and it only cost 3,300 won.