Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cultural Dimwittedness

This happens with too much frequency in Seoul, but this time it happened in a place of business after I went there to indulge myself.

Today I finally got my new fillings put in today. Ouch!!! As a treat, I figured I'd go to treat myself to a high calorie meal. There is a place called the Smokey Saloon in the Itaewon district of Seoul that has great burgers. It's not even close to a saloon, but just a small and dark restaurant with a few seats and a great selection of gourmet style burgers. I actually don't eat burgers that much, but this place has a great one with avocado or guacamole. I can't recall which, I just recall it was great.

I get there and I notice it has the same facade as a place that just opened down the hill from where I live. Then I realize that new place is a new location of this restaurant. Okay, cool...great burgers are even closer now. I say something to the waiter in English. He looks at me, grumbles, pushes the menu my way and walks away. As he's walking away I can see him talking to the cook who is a Filipina. I ask her point blank "did he just walk away from me?" She explained that he didn't speak English and, I guess, that was supposed to be an excuse for acting like a jerk. I explained that even if he doesn't speak English it was extremely rude to stomp off like that and that I would respond in kind by walking out. This happens with a fair amount of frequency, but usually the person isn't rude. Even when they're not rude I find it presumptuous and irritating, but they're probably right in their assumption most of the time and I have to admit that much.

What's funny is this. I speak enough Korean to place a food order in Korean. I can even order over the phone for Korean delivery. I put that level of language skill at survival level as you've got to figure out what to say when you want to eat. However, this guy, being a dimwit simply assumed I couldn't speak his language at all and chose to be rude. Now I could have made a big deal about it, switched languages, made a scene and called him out on it but, I just didn't care too. I figured walking out and never going back would be the best option. What makes it funny is, like I said, this is in Itaewon. Itaewon is the foreign district of Seoul. Most people can speak at least a little English and, if they don't, they're, at least, nice about it.

So be careful if you go to the Smokey Saloon location in Itaewon early on a Tuesday evening. You might end up getting snubbed because the help simply assumes you don't speak Korean.

Now it's dinnertime. Instead I went to Ho Lee Chow where they're always nice to me and which is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Seoul.

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  1. The location at Namdaemun in "The #" sometimes has a wait, but they're always nice. I can't recommend the one at Samsung. I went with a friend on July 4 and the poorly trained waitress spilled ketchup all over my friend - I mean ALL OVER. They gave us a free meal and some dry cleaning money, but something just seemed wrong about the place.

  2. I just noticed that MY reply to your comment didn't get published. (I'm slacking off it seems if I can't manage to publish my own comments.)

    I'm not much on burgers anyway, so I doubt I'll be seeking a replacement. However, thanks for the recommendation!

  3. You must have received excellent service in the States. That doesn't sound so bad to me. Of course, one of the last places I lived in the States was DC where the service is notoriously bad (slow like the South, rude like the North). I lived in Cairo before Korea, so I guess I am used to things like that.

    By the way, I was a waitress in college at a place where they trained us really well, so I do appreciate good service. It is just so rare!

    On another note, your Obama widget reminded me that I need to mail in my absentee ballot request. I am registered in PA so my vote might actually count this time!

  4. Well, I've never had someone be so dismissive of me, no. I would like to think that I'm not lucky. But, yeah, my expectation level comes from Los Angeles and San Francisco with a bit of New York and Chicago sprinkled in there. Those are probably some of the best cities in the States for service.

    I can't say about the places you named because I've never been to Cairo and I've not been to the rural south since I was a child. And, sadly, I've never made it to my nation's capital...go figure. I've got to squeeze that one in one day soon.

    For me, good service shouldn't be rare and when it's bad I'm going to react. My expectations are most definitely quite high.

    Glad the widget reminded you to register. Just click on the Vote From Abroad link and you can go through the whole process online and then print and mail the form.


Hey there! Thanks for visiting my blog. It's my first blog, and I'm glad folks are still stopping by even though I'm no longer living in South Korea. Feel free to comment. If you want a personal answer, leave your email, and I won't publish the comment. Nasty comments and spam links will not be tolerated.