Getting Wotsited (Part One)

It started out innocently enough. My colleague mentioned that I’d been having a rough day (or week, or month, or quarter, depending on the specific thing that was bothering me) to her new love interest, whom I’ve taken to calling Mr. Cling due to the (to my mind) excessive number of calls and text messages they exchanged within 48 hours of meeting.

Mr. Cling, being the generous spirit he is, invited me out for dinner with the two of them. This was the first thing that freaked me out a bit. I’m all for socializing, meeting my friends’ significant others, actual or potential, and I must really enjoy being a third wheel, because I can think of no other reason why I’d do it so often.

However, this is Korea, and there is nowhere on earth so far that I’ve felt more in the dark about appropriate social behavior, or been told so many times that something I do out of habit, courtesy, or joy is simply not done here.

When I’m hanging around with other expats, there’s a sort of anything goes feel to it. We’re all aware that all our customs and niceties are different, so generally speaking I don’t twitch too hard when somebody asks me if they can sit down next to me (my usual response being: “I don’t know, can you?”) and nobody teases me too much for apologizing to the person who has just stepped on my foot.

That said, the amount of socializing I’ve done with Koreans is limited, largely because of my almost complete lack of Korean speaking ability, and (for the same reason) normally takes place in a learning setting of some sort.

I was petrified, and justifiably so, that Mr. Cling would think I was an uncultured buffoon. In and of itself, this wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. Part of the experience of travel, living abroad, and really experience in general, is making an ass out of yourself from time to time. I’ve made peace with my buffoonery, and the embarrassment that goes with it.

However, that doesn’t mean I wanted Mr. Cling to think my colleague hangs out with buffoons (even though, at least in my case, she totally does).

The number of times I’ve been “corrected” about something because I’m doing it in a different way than Koreans usually think is normal or good is probably well into triple digits. But I had (almost) convinced myself that even if I made an ass out of myself, I cloud probably avoid dragging my friend down with me. So I really couldn’t decide whether, when she  let me know that Mr. Cling was bringing his brother, it made me feel better or worse.

On the plus side, the third wheel pressures of making a good impression for my friend’s sake were mostly off. On the other hand, I might have been on my way to getting my very own Mr. Cling.

Either way, I knew I was going to need more mascara.

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