Overheard in a Cafe: Korean-Koreans Lamenting Their Weight
When I lived abroad in Korea, I spent a lot of time doing work in cafes. Probably a 100 or more during my 2 years there. As such, I eavesdropped on thousands of conversations. And nearly every one of those conversations was about two topics: complaints re studying English and complaints re losing weight.
When I recently moved back to Boston, I thought I’d left the world of Korea far behind. I was foolishly mistaken. In Boston, I hear Korean spoken at least four times a day, from four different clusters of people. When you consider how my daily social interactions are limited to: “A small decaf, please,” and “Would you mind moving your bag so I can plug in my laptop? Thanks,” that is a heck of a lot of Korean to overhear on a daily basis.
Today was no exception. I was doing work in Starbucks (I know, I know; but there are virtually no non-Starbucks or non-Dunkin Donuts coffeeshops in Boston proper; all the artsy-fartsy indie cafes are across the river in Cambridge; yes there’s Espresso Royale and Pavement, but there are never any empty seats and the music’s too loud and more often than not I’m about to get side-swiped by some kid with a guitar or cello strapped to his back), and the only seat with the outlet was next to a group of Korean students. I’m not talking Korean-American like me; I mean, Korean-Korean. Since we were in America, there was probably no need for them to talk about studying English; today the group next to me was talking about their diets.
The group consisted of two girls and one guy. I would have ignored them chattering on in Korean and continued with my work, if one of the girls hadn’t slapped her belly with both hands.
“I need to lose weight,” she lamented. She looked thin to me, at least, based on the legs poking out of her flowy short dress. But who knows: maybe under there she had a ddongbae, or literally: “sh*tbelly”– it’s the Korean word for FUPA.
The guy of the group (he was younger than her bc he called her “Nuna”) said, “Why’d you wait to start until the summer? You should’ve started your diet in the spring.”
“I know, I know,” she said. “I heard that one hour after you work out, you’re not supposed to eat carbs. Or was it protein? Or both? Oh…”
The other girl–whose limbs were rail-thin–said, “Yesterday I worked out. I want to try to get some muscles. I heard there’s this organic kind of yogurt that’s good for your diet…”
The whole time they’re all talking, I was wolfing down a turkey sandwich.
Then another Korean dude from a neighboring table approached the group. The two girls whooped and said to the guy, “How’s your diet? You look like you lost weight! How many kilos?”
The guy shook his head. “I was doing exercise for a few weeks, but then it just got too tiring. Now I’m trying to lose just through my diet.”
They began to talk about what they would eat for dinner: vegetables, shredded chicken, mixed together with red pepper paste.
This made me think of more food, so I went up to the register to procure more. As they continued talking of kilos lost and gained, I wolfed down a banana in 4 bites and washed that down with swigs of tea.
Then I wrote this blog post. The end.