“I do not own a fork”

Is the statement I made out-loud to myself today as I was standing next to my kitchenette, still wearing my work clothes, still speaking like an English teacher: slowly, deliberately, “I do not own a fork.”

I have lived in Korea for almost a month and only today am I realizing that I do not own a fork. Actually, I don’t have a knife either. I assessed my inventory: one set of chopsticks, one spoon, a pair of scissors and, oh look, a spatula in the bottom of a drawer. The oddest thing is, I haven’t needed a fork or a knife. I’m pretty awesome at using chopsticks (or at least as good as the five years olds that I dine with at lunch) and I’ve adapted the Korean way of using scissors to cut everything– including slicing up the Costco pizza the school ordered for us yesterday.

Pondering my lack of cutlery inspired me to think about some other cultural adjustments. Like, my shower or, my lack of shower. It definitely didn’t take me a month to notice this one-in fact- it was the one thing I paid attention to when my landlord showed me my flat on my first night. On first look into the bathroom, it appears as though there is only a toilet and a sink-but wait!- attached to the sink is a hose with a showerhead: turn the faucet to the right and you can brush your teeth, turn it to the left and you can take a shower! Unfortunately, this shift is taking some getting used to-especially when I forget to switch the faucet back and I am just about to head out the door, all dressed up for work, and I stop to brush my teeth right before I go and- lovely- an extra shower before heading out into the literally freezing weather.

One more- in the Korean language there is no word for after someone sneezes. There is no version of “bless you” or “health” (like “gesundheit”, “salud” or my favorite, “prosit”) they just say nothing. They don’t even acknowledge that someone has sneezed. I guess it is a bit silly to go about in our modern world, blessing everyone who has a slight irritant in their nasal cavity, but still. Call me old-school but, I appreciate the acknowledgement. And, not being much of a religious person, I prefer to say ‘gesundheit’ which-especially when said during the middle of a lecture- has the added benefit of confusing the heck out of some already very confused little kids.


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