Thursday, October 20, 2011

First Impressions

As I start this journey of emerging myself in a new culture, not just visiting, but living within the culture for an indefinite period of time, I begin to think about first impressions.  What kind of impact do they have on our overall judgment of a person, place or thing?

Coming to the end of my first day living in Seoul, I begin to think about my first impressions and how they will affect my overall feelings about being here.   When you have first impressions, do you tend to focus on the positive or negative?  I guess for me, it probably has a lot to do with my preconceived ideas or stereotypes.

What I have come to  know, in just a short day, is that Koreans are extremely friendly.  I'm talking, over the top, out of your way friendly.  They do not take “No, Thank you” for an answer.  I think having a three year old with blonde hair by my side, certainly draws a lot of attention, but I’m surprised by all of the attention.  Most surprising is that the majority comes from Korean men.

From the moment I landed in Korea, I had Korean men offering to help me.  Perhaps it was the fact that a single mom with a three year old and seven suitcases in tow looked obviously needy, but I was touched by their kindness.  With little vocabulary, they simply nodded, smiled, picked up my suitcases and walked with me.  If I was in a store and asked a question, if the man/woman behind the counter didn’t understand me, they went out of their way to call for someone who could help.  Young teens stopped us on the street just to say, “Hello”, literally, just-to-say-hello.  Several men throughout the day also stopped to touch or pat Braden on the head.  Braden, not necessarily thrilled by this outpouring of attention said to me, “Mom, it’s rude for that man to just touch me without asking for permission.”  Ah- yes, how do you explain this to a three year old?   I want Braden to be friendly, open minded, spirited, and compassionate.  I want him to be loving, gracious, respectful and accepting of others, at the same time, I also want him to know and have his own boundaries.
So how do we teach our children to be open minded, friendly, compassionate, and accepting.   We walk the walk and talk the talk. We expose them to environments that nurture awareness of others. We teach them sand-box etiquette – which is; we don’t throw sand, we help to build the castle, we don’t knock it down or kick it, we share our shovel, we help each other and work together.  Most of all, we smile and are friendly.

Seoul reminds me a lot of Europe and there is a sense of comfort in that. The smells are different, unique to Korea, but I recognized the noises of the street, the buses and cars, the sound of children playing in the school yard, the local produce stands and cafes, and the hustle and bustle of old city living.  Of course there is the obvious difference of people and language, but the sounds are very familiar and reassuring.

It feels good to be here.  Braden seems happy.  The happiest I've seen him in a long time.  Perhaps it's because Mommy feels complete and settled.  Perhaps it's because I'm the happiest I've been in a long time too.  I'm looking forward to all that Seoul has to offer our family.  Nothing like jumping in the deep end and taking it all in.  We are definitely taking it all in...

Until the next adventure...



  1. what a joy to read. I am so grateful; Braden and I are so lucky. yes, enjoy in action.

  2. You are all lucky to have each other. I am happy for you three and look forward to hearing about your adventures.

  3. Welcome to Seoul, Arianna and Braden. It's an awesome place, and in a way I envy you your 'fresh' eyes. Bianca