Idiot’s Ramen

There’s one persistent risk with living in a foreign country: sounding like an idiot.

That’s essentially what my friend Stephanie told me when I told her I wanted to go live in China, back in 2002. “Living abroad,” she said to me, “is like going through adolescence all over again.” She’s right, and I kinda dig it. The major difference, now, is that I have the ability to laugh at myself.

Case in point:

I went to my local farmers’ market this afternoon for one of my regular grocery shopping trips. The market is my area of linguistic expertise: I know most of the products by their Korean names, and I can ask for prices and quantities without any problem. But once in a while, one of the vendors throws me a curveball.

Today’s curveball came from the lady selling Korean sweet potatoes (goguma). I have no idea what she was saying, but the word ramen kept coming back. I just shook my head and looked confused, so she took me by the elbow and started walking me over to another corner of the market.

Ah, I told myself, she wants to take me to her ramen shop. So I told her in Korean, “Sorry, I’m not hungry.” She gave me a blank stare, and turned away.

A few minutes later, I passed by the spot she was pointing at when I went to buy some eggs. Turns out she was taking me to a small table where people were selling ramen packs for incredibly cheap. I bought a pack of five for $2.50 USD, and it came with a $1.75 USD coupon,which I used to buy farm-fresh eggs. The ramen were a way to draw people’s attention to the booth, where they announced the market has a new smartphone app. Only in Korea.

The lady was asking me if I had a coupon from the ramen stall. And when she tried to show me where to get it, I told her “Sorry, I’m not hungry.”

What an idiot.

I tried to find her again to show her my ramen pack and tell her I understood now, but she was gone. Ah well; at least I got ramen now…

About Daniel Roy

Daniel is a writer, backpack foodie, slow traveler, and endurance runner. He is the author of the upcoming book, “The Way of Slow Travel: A Hands-On Guide to the Best Travel of Your Life.”

2 comments

  1. Bonjour Daniel,
    C’est vraiment très généreux de ta part de nous faire partager tes expériences. T’s indications pour prolonger notre exemption de visa thaïlandais à Chiang Mai nous seront bien utiles. Ciao !

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