Apparently one of the stereotypes of Westerners in Korea is that we like to put ketchup on everything. I was made aware of this on my first night in Ulsan, out for dinner at a Korean restaurant with an Australian fellow-teacher. After delivering our food (I had some vegetable noodle dish, my friend had squid), our waitress returned quickly to deposit a large bottle of ketchup on the table with a knowing smile. The idea of putting this condiment on either of our meals was, of course, repulsive.
You can read about what kimchi is here. It tends to be pretty spicy, and my low tolerance for spicy food has been a challenge for me here. I’ve been forcing myself to eat at least a little bit of kimchi almost every day in order to build up a tolerance (it is always served in the school cafeteria at lunch), and after a couple of weeks of this, kimchi still burns my throat on the way down, but it no longer makes me feel like I am being punched in the face.
I’m not a big fan of either of these condiments, but I liked the alliteration and the obvious East/West dichotomy of the title.
If you have found this blog and don’t know me personally, I am an English teacher through the EPIK program, working in Mugeo Middle School in Ulsan, South Korea. I’m here on a year contract that started in late March, 2009. If you have questions about any of these things, feel free to contact me.