Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ill communication

Like the Beastie Boys said in 'Root Down', "Like Ma Bell, we got the Ill Communication." Well, my communication here is ill quite a bit of the time, but most of the time it doesn't bother me. Most of the time I just lay back and wait for my cue to talk...then I do my English teacher thing...then I go back into mental hibernation. It's not hard work and it used to annoy me that I couldn't understand anything but when I stopped worrying, work actually went better anyway.

But from time to time, there are moments of serious frustration at my ignorance of the language. One of those times was when I went into a hair salon recently. When I came to Korea, I had decided that getting a hair cut was something about which one couldn't afford to have miscommunication. It was something about which I didn't want any miscommunication and so I set about finding a place where the barber would be able to speak English. I found a place in Itaewon (for those in country-it's on the road which Roofers is on, and from which Hooker Hill turns off) where the barber had been a barber for five years in Britain and so I knew there wouldn't be any fear of having him unexpectedly chopping massive holes in my scalp on the grounds that he thought that was what I wanted. I've gone to this guy steadily for 21 months now. He does a great job and my attitude about most things is "why fix what's not broken?" But it's a little far away and one day I was around my home and thought I could probably communicate adequately what I wanted in a hair cut without making a trip into Seoul.

So I went into a salon near my house and went to the reception desk. The salon itself was quite nice. It was quite spacious, the waiting area had some comfy-looking sofas and there were probably six or seven hair-cutting stations. The lady at the reception desk asked me, I presume, what I wanted. Of course I don't KNOW that's what she said and if I had responded, it would have been in the broken language which I too often have to employ. I guess most of the time this doesn't bother me but being in an unfamiliar environment, I felt a little more stupid than usual and obviously I didn't KNOW what the lady was asking me. I said something like "cut-uh, cut-uh", hoping this was a universally understood term for getting a trim, but instead I got a blank stare. This isn't really surprising because obviously I don't speak Korean well but I was hoping that because I was at a hair salon that it'd be self-evident what I wanted and that I'd be understood. Obviously that didn't happen though and since I really had no follow-up ready in my Konglish arsenal, I felt a little off-balance and awkward. I feebly, very unconvincingly, repeated, "cut-uh, cut-uh" but with less conviction this time.

At this point, the lady probably now thought not only that I was probably crap at Korean, but also that maybe I was trying to take her scissors. So finally I just mumbled something about choesong hamnida (sorry) and stumbled out like Napoleon Dynamite.

Anyway, as I said, most of the time, not knowing Korean too well doesn't annoy me. And all's well that ends well, as I ended up going to a nice salon and chatting to a cute Korean girl and I actually had a little conversation with her in Korean! Ha! So the lesson here is either shave one's head or learn Korean better, ha ha.

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