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."


  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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