There have been a lot of threads here lately about mis-communications in relationships and even Nations. I wanted to share how it actually enriches my
life instead of the opposite.
Many here know that my wife is Korean and that I met her over in SK where I lived for about 8yrs. I have talked a lot about her and have relayed some
experiences we have had together. I have mentioned that she is an amazing Woman and that her skills as a chef and baker are second to none. But I have
never told of the humor, laughter and joy that she brings to me and so many others. I won’t go into everything as this isn’t a love letter. This
is about the language barrier we encountered on our first meeting and still have to this day.
English, not being her first language, has been her nemesis since grade school where it is compulsory in SK. And although she didn’t need to
continue after school, she studied with books, movies and music from the West. She has always loved Western culture so it was natural that she picked
up more of the language by default. But this isn’t about her language lessons either.
This is about the humorous situations we have found ourselves in due to the language barrier. Language and pronunciation to be exact.
The very first time that I found myself laughing so hard that I got a gut ache was in Korea. It was shortly after we met and we were walking to a
Korean BBQ with my brother and his wife when my sister in-law asked Soo (her name) where we could find some salsa for later. It wasn’t easy to find
that stuff over there at that time.
Soo, wanting to be helpful pointed towards a building. My sister in-law crossed the street and came back shortly saying that it was a clothing store.
Soo said that’s ok, you can go there. Now we’re all confused. Salsa in a clothing store? Oh well, this is a different Country so who knows what
they do over here. We all go over there and look around but my wife is standing near the bathroom looking at us strangely. She is pointing towards the
toilets and saying ‘Salsa’. ???
We couldn’t figure this one out so just told her we should keep going and we’ll find some. As we continue, Soo is pointing out almost every
building and saying “You want Salsa?”..Over there! We see banks, hardware stores and snack stands. WTH? We get to the BBQ and the word Salsa is
brought out again by my brother as he’s talking to his wife. Soo gets this frustrated look on her face and grabs my sister in-law by the hand and
drags her to the toilets. She points and says “Salsa”. My sister in-law says “No, I want to buy some Salsa!” Soo: “Buy Salsa? Why?
So out comes the English- Korean Dictionary...”Salsa”. Soo starts to laugh and has tears running down her face??? Ah...Not “Solsa”. She turns
the page to the Korean side and there it was...Almost the same sounding word but hers means “Diarrhea” This would be the reason for the insistence
that my sister in-law go to find her “Salsa” in the toilets. I still laugh at that to this day...7 yrs later.
There were numerous occasion like that but the most memorable was when my wife came with me to Canada for the first time and we were met by my mom at
the airport. Soo is very nervous of course as this woman she is about to meet is very important as she’s the Mother in-law. Not a small thing in
Now my wife has a face that lets you know that there is a kind heart inside. Always smiling and very innocent looking at times. She doesn’t even
curse although I do... a lot.
We owned a few bars in Korea for Westerners and Koreans alike and as you know, Westerners use 4 letter words as
part of their natural speech. Many, not all. My wife was accustomed to hearing the Westerners talking and the cursing was just so natural to us that
she just assumed that there was nothing wrong with it as everyone there seemed to do it. Even the Women.
Back to the airport. We come down the stairs to be greeted by my mom. A very devout Christian little old lady that knows her baby boy ain’t so
innocent but loves him just the same.
I get the obligatory hug and introduce Soo. They hug, smile and start walking ahead of me while I bring the
bags. The first thing my mom asks Soo is how her English language is coming along.
Well, without a pause Soo chirps up and says “ Fine, I have learned to talk almost like a Westerner”. Mom asks what her favorite words were. Soo
looks at her and says “The same as my husband and his friends SH##, PI$$, MF’er, G-damn, A$$#ole...” Stunned silence all around. Even I had
never heard these words from my wife as she was always nervous about using them in the wrong context but she had no idea how out of context this was!
Mom turns around, she turns red, slaps me upside the head (I’m 43 at the time) and starts to laugh. She understood the situation but poor Soo
didn’t. She remained confused until we explained that these words were not acceptable when meeting the little old lady I call mom.
Lastly...2 more incidents at my sister’s house:
As we are getting ready for our first night back in Canada and are shown our room, (The bed still hadn’t been made up yet) Soo asks my sister “Can
I have SH##?” (Have to use this here Mods as it's the only way to explain the situation) My sister chuckles and leads her to the bathroom. Soo
stands there looking. “Where’s the SH##?’ My sister looks at her strangely and not having been anywhere outside of Canada starts to think (she
mentioned this later) that maybe Soo didn’t understand indoor plumbing for some reason. She walks over to the toilet, lifts the lid and shows Soo
how to flush. I’m watching this while almost peeing because I have been with Soo long enough to understand what is unfolding in this scenario.
Soo looks at my sister as if she is absolutely Looney-tunes. “Where’s the SH##?” she asks again and my sister holds up her hand and makes a
movement showing that the ‘SH##’ goes down the toilet and outside. By this time Soo is so confused and I know the look of ‘Crazy Westerners”
on her face.. I tell my sister to open the closet door next to her. She does and Soo reaches in and grabs a “Sheet” for the bed and walks out
leaving my sister absolutely red faced with laughter. To this day, Soo still has problems with the pronunciation between SH## and sheet and I still
use it to make her laugh.
Lastly, Halloween arrives and we are dressing up for Soo’s first Western Style Halloween. Not a big thing over there in SK so she was excited and I
was excited for her. She had decided on the witch costume and she looked pretty good! She was really enjoying herself and at one time she grabbed a
broom, pretended to ride on it and yelled “I’m a be-atch! Huh? Even I was lost on this one and thought she was just fooling with the curse word
again in the wrong context. I said “only sometimes sweetie” laughing with her. Soo looks at me and says that it was her favorite show. Now
everyone is laughing and I am the one confused. I ask my sister if there was a new TV show called be-atch and she says in a whisper...”Soo was
watching TV last night and we were watching Bewitched!”
So there are a few instances that stick out but believe me, there are many. I have to say that I have had quite a few relationships in the past where
mis-understandings have led to arguments and break ups but with Soo...I laugh so much that I have found it to be the most precious part of our
Thanks for reading (if you did) and I just wanted to say that although we all have problems in our relationships, sometimes we have to remember the
times of laughter instead of the tears.
edit on 25-6-2011 by jude11 because: (no reason given)