In Korea there is something called 2차. No, not 2차 like 2 teas or two cars, but 2차 like second round…of dinner/drinking/playing/something social. I didn’t really understand it when I first came to Korea, but yesterday the weirdest thing happened to me which made me realize I had fully adapted to Korea life: I was sad to be going back to my dorm at 11:30pm and was looking for people to hang out with. After all, I had only been to 1차 with one friend group and it was a Friday…life not complete right?
Three months ago I would have been dragging my poor legs, dreaming of a hot shower, alone time, and my pjs. But present day, somehow extraverted and enjoying it me, was baffled as to why I would be returning so early when it was prime time to spend with friends.
What I have learned about and have grown accustomed to in Seoul though, is that even if you just make plans to have dinner–even if dinner is at 5:00 or 6:00–you should probably block off your evening until 11:00pm or later if its a week night, and you might as well plan to not return until 3:00am at the very earliest if its a Friday or Saturday. Very likely with the same group of people, but occasionally people friend group hop between the first and potentially fifth rounds.
Just having dinner with someone is lame. Having dinner and then going drinking and or to a cafe and then maybe 노래방 (noraebang aka karaoke) and then maybe to another place to eat or drink is so much better for spending quality time together and getting closer to one another.
I think one of the (many) reasons why this difference in culture and my adaption to the culture hit me so hard this past week was that finally I came to realize why Koreans value this multiple round/drinking and eating in one evening kind of system. On Monday I had my first actual conversation with one of the people at the language cafe where I frequent, and after going to 2차 together with the large group when we met on Wednesday we were able to greet each other like friends, and by Thursday we were Facebook friends and had dinner comfortably with a small group and had conversations just the two of us about random things. After 4 days–two of which included 2차–I went from knowing someone by sight to being legitimately good friends them. And upon writing this I am realizing that it was after going to some of the long, Friday night 2차 and 3차 events when I suddenly got close and formed lasting bonds with Korean people here.
Had I continued my American style of meeting people for dinner or just for coffee and then parting ways, or perhaps every once in a while going out of my way to do multiple “rounds” of things in one day, I never would have realized what I was missing. My point in writing this is to acknowledge that just by being in another country does not mean you will automatically adjust and recognize important customs and cultural nuances. It is really only recently in shedding my American need for a definitive game plan and end time that I have finally started making some great Korean friends….just in time to leave Korea T_T
I think I will return to America and not understand why my friends want to meet for dinner and then two hours later go home, or why people want to go home before 10pm (because even if you work the next morning or have class at 9am its totally possible to return around 2am and be fine). Or on the other hand, I may return to America and after a week of jet lag and way too many Christmas cookies and being lazy in front of the fire place, I may just 100% revert back to my American tendencies of being in my pjs at 11pm after finding a 2 hour long dinner without even going to a second round exhausting. I’ll keep you updated 😛
Thanks for reading todays ramblings ^_^ On a completely unrelated note, this weekend has been spent eating and eating and eating some more, and as I write this I am sitting in what I think might be my new favorite cafe in Korea, so look out for a cafe-related blog post in the future! 🙂