I try to like most people. I really do. Because God knows, i have my flaws, and i should be understanding of other people’s. But there’s one thing that irks me—probably more than it should—and that’s unsolicited advice.
I went to my grandmother’s yesterday for Chuseok, and she had some unexpected guests: my mother’s cousin, his wife, his son, and the son’s family. I don’t remember them from my childhood, but i think i remember the cousin and his wife (now in their late 60’s or early 70’s) from when my grandfather died. Only i couldn’t point it out with my grandmother there, because my grandfather’s death anniversary just passed and she tends to get emotional about these things.
At several moments of the evening, i noticed the cousin (let’s call him Mr. TOK, or Typical Old Korean) surveying me with a judgmental eye, the way older Koreans always do when meeting a younger Korean for the first time, or for the first time in a long time. Koreans are always trying to get a read on people. That makes me uncomfortable.
An hour into their visit, Mr. TOK started dishing out random pieces of advice for me. I didn’t catch a lot of what he said. I speak a very particular kind of Korean—my parents’ Korean—because i’ve only ever used Korean with my parents since moving to the States. Not that my parents’ Korean is any different from your typical educated middle-aged Korean’s Korean, but an individual’s speaking style is colored by his or her personality and way of thinking, and my parents’ particular speaking style is what i grew up on and have heard and used for the past 13 years. This causes a lot of problems when i communicate with any other Koreans, but i’ve gotten better at opening my ears to other speaking styles since coming here to live. This man, though—Mr. TOK—didn’t only use convoluted expressions i wasn’t used to, but he also rambled in a haughty and self-righteous manner. And i tend to immediately tune out such people, no matter what they might be saying and how relevant it might be to my life.