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Seoul Shock: First Week Encounters

Danielle Davidson is a Boise State student studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea.

This was my first week back in Seoul after the holidays, and I missed this city terribly while I was away. I didn’t realize how much it had grown on me, but now I am back and ready to continue my adventures

I didn’t practice Korean very much while I was away.

I woke up back in Seoul, groggy and trying to get over jet-lag. I looked at my phone and saw I had a missed call. No problem, I’ll just call back and see what they want, because no one would be calling me that didn’t speak English, right? A few rings later and an Ahjumma (older lady) picks up the phone.

Ahjumma: Yeoboseyo?

Why is she speaking Korean to me? … I must not know her.

Me: um, hello?

Ah, I should practice more.

Ahjumma: Yeoboseyo?

Who is this lady? I want to go back to sleep…

Me: Oh, ye, yeoboseyo.

Think fast, think in Korean.

Ahjumma: Ye, yeoboseyo. Nuguseyo?

Who am I? Who are you?!

Me: Danielle.

…and my Korean language skills just went out the window…

Ahjumma: Eh? Nuguseyo?


Me: …Danielle-iyeyo

Ahjumma, you called me first.

Ahjumma: Eh? Nuguseyo?

I’m going back to sleep.

Me: Um, joesonghabnida. Annyeonghi gaseyo (I’m sorry. Goodbye.)


Then I rolled over and went back to sleep. Note to self: learn how to say, ‘you have the wrong number’ in Korean. She tried to call me a couple more times, but I was already asleep. The phone call with the Ahjumma was the first bit of confusion that made me wish I could think faster or better in Korean.

The second bit came when I was talking with my Language Exchange Partner. He had just taken a final exam for one of his winter courses and had stayed up all night studying. Being the nice language partner I am, I thought he should go home and rest, so I decided to tell him this in Korean. I didn’t bother double-checking any of my grammar and just said what sounded right. It probably wasn’t my best idea, because I sort of left out a couple important words. Instead of telling him to go home and rest, I told him to go home and pee, and he thought it was the most hilarious thing. I had to try and explain through my laughter. Note to self: study harder and double-check everything.

My first-week-back encounters are little things I’ll remember for a long time, and hopefully they brightened your day just a tad.