Food Culture: America vs. Korea
I have been in Seoul for over a month now and with any new place comes new foods. Within Seoul, there is no shortage of traditional foods and western-inspired cuisines. There are many differences in the types of foods served in East Asia and the West, but there is also a lot of surprising similarities in the way certain foods are cooked and prepared. In Korea, it is not difficult to see how globalization has shaped everything from food, clothing and popular culture.
Before coming to Korea, I started to slowly prepare for the change in my eating habits for the next few months. I wanted to get used to eating traditional Korean foods and Korean-styled food. So when I arrived in Korea, I had some idea of what to expect with my new food options and eating style. I found that exposing myself to Korean food and eating culture before coming to Korea helped eliminate a lot of culture shock and the strong desire to only eat western food. So far in Korea, I have tried a lot of traditional and street foods that I have never had in America.
But fully immersing myself into a new food culture has taken some time to get used to. I have found myself craving food that is convenient and is readily available almost everywhere. In America, I am used to eating a lot of fruits and vegetables every day without thinking about seasonality or global trade. In Korea, so far I have found that living in a dorm without a full kitchen, it can be difficult to affordably gain access to and store these items. But alternatively, I found that many of the side dishes in traditional meals contain a lot of vegetables and fresh fruit can be found in shops outside of my college area. So planning ahead is really important because it can be really easy to skip out on these things if your schedule gets too busy.
Another difference I have found in the eating culture. Since being in Korea, I have rarely eaten any meals alone or have taken meals-to-go at fast-food restaurants. Maybe this is because I am an exchange student, but almost every day, I have eaten a meal with small/large groups of people. I find that the dining culture in Korea is more group-friendly than a lot of places in the US. I have come to enjoy planning and eating meals with my friends every day as it serves as a way to catch up and plan our next adventures around Korea.
My observations of the food here in Korea are only just the beginning of seeing and experiencing the differences between life in American and Korean culture. I look forward to seeing what’s next!