In most countries foreigners tend to get a bad rap and Korea is no exception. There are dozens of stereotypes (both good and bad) related to us foreigners and I’m proud to say that I think I broke a few last night.
A friend and I had a late dinner at a kimbap shop near my apartment. (Kimbap shop equals inexpensive restaurant that serves most Korean foods. Kind of like Korean fast food, but healthier in comparison to our view of fast food.) Being the delightful person that I am I make friends almost everywhere I go, especially in Korea. At this particular kimbap shop though I have have not really made any friends. They are always polite but I really don’t think they care if they have my patronage or not. They just take my order (several times a week) and hand over my food, generally without a smile. Making assumptions here, but I think it’s a thing with foreigners there. This particular place gets a lot of expat business because it is 24 hours so they may just be generally unimpressed with us as a whole.
Either way, it was about 1am when my friend and I were enjoying our dinner. (When you work until 11pm then 1am is a perfectly acceptable Monday night dinner time.) About halfway through our dinner a slightly (read: incredibly) inebriated man swaggered into the the restaurant to grab himself some dinner as well. He kept giving my friend and I the disconcerting looks that only drunk middle-aged married men can give. We ignored him as long as possible and continued to enjoy our meal.
After several minutes of awkward stares he decides to talk to us in broken English. He works at Hewlitt Packard. Awesome. He’s a student in English. Great! He hands us his business card showing that he’s being truthful. Cool. He would like us to call him for our life, job, or boyfriend problems. What? He invites us to his house to meet his wife and children. Sure! Let’s go right now! *sarcasm* The conversation quickly spiraled so we decided we were finished with our dinner and it was time to go. I have a very firm rule about not being rude to harmless drunk people so we politely say our goodbyes and head up to the register to pay. This is when he stands up and decides he will pay for our meal.
No, he won’t. He just doesn’t know it yet.
We politely refuse but this conversation proceeds for longer than it should with the kimbap shop ladies watching to see what the waygooks (foreigners) will do. Will we allow a drunk, married man that we don’t know to buy our dinner? He keeps telling us “it’s culture. culture. I must, culture.”
You’re blasted at 2am trying to buy two strangers dinner. That’s not culture. Come on, now. Sit down and eat your dinner. The ladies start to laugh when I order him (in Korean) to sit down. Doesn’t work. He steals the bill out of my hand and, feeling very proud of himself, says thank you and good night then heads back to his table.
Thankfully, his back was to the door so I flag down the waitress and quietly pay while he doesn’t see us. She seemed quite pleased with us for paying as she was smiling and giggling with us. I think she’ll be more friendly when I come get my take-out from now on.
Then the cash register dings loudly in the almost empty restaurant. Minor flaw in the plan. Oops. He jumps up. I run out the door.
Keeping it classy in Korea.
***Disclaimer*** I feel confident that he was past the point of remembering this event happened the next day. Had he been sober and in a clear state of mind I might have accepted his offer. However, stumbling drunk, wife and children at home, 2 am….. There is no sincerity in that. I will not take a drunk man’s money.