Language wise, this trip was a new opportunity because I don’t speak Korean at all. Usually when I travel, I go to places where I at least speak a little of the local language, even if I do so poorly. This time however, I was pretty limited to the “hello”, “thank you”, “nice to meet you” type of social niceties.
It seems that wanting to speak a local language is just part of who I am. Although I was only in Korea for 5 days, I spent 5 days trying to learn new phrases and maximizing the limited phrases and words that I was catching on to. I don’t really plan on learning Korean in the foreseeable future, but I certainly crunched a lot during my 5 days in country. What I observed along the way is how much people react to a person’s efforts to learn the local language. Once people found out that I liked learning words and phrases in Korea, I suddenly had millions of language tutors, cheerleaders, and a supporting cast. It was kind of fun to see how supportive everyone was at my efforts. People just bond together better when someone is making an effort to use a local language. (Although I must admit that people also react similarly when you make an effort to try local cuisine.) Everyone was so gracious in helping me learn a little more Korean. They got excited at my efforts, and their support and positive feedback were motivating for me too.
So, the lesson learned: Don’t sit on the sideline. When you are in a new country and surrounded by a new language, jump right in. I felt no negative vibe associated with my limited language, only tons of support, bonding, tutoring, insights, interactions, and fun with a whole new group of friends and friendly people.
Picture: We took in a Korean baseball game. Wow, the cheerleaders, the noise makers, the chanting, and the singing of the fans, it all created a whole new atmosphere for the sport. It was hard to even watch the game, because the entertainment in the stands was super fun.