Some broad observations in bullet point format for easy digestion:
- My grandmother is 93 (not 90) and still as sharp as a wit. Within seconds of seeing my father and me, she was already complaining and forcing food at us. Her memory is also completely intact, better than my dad's even.
- Everything's really clean, from the streets and department stores, to the subways and even the taxi's. People take quality seriously.
- The train system, e.g. KTX, is superior to Amtrak. Smooth ride, flexible ticketing, and free bottled water and snacks.
- Over half of the women have the same unattractive bowl haircut. But prevalent plastic surgery makes their faces look ridiculously attractive.
- Service is better, from ordering food to hotel staff to taxi drivers.
- Everyone thinks I look Japanese, as evidenced by multiple greetings of "konichi-wa" by hotel staff and random women on the street.
- I can understand conversations in Korean, though I couldn't tell you what each word meant. I think my unconscious brain interprets language because my parents talk to me in Korean sometimes so it's in the back of my head somewhat.
- Soju doesn't really hit you till the third bottle.
- Kimchi is really a staple. I ate enough kimchi the first two days to completely cure a cold I had on the flight over. That is some strong, spicy stuff.
- My dad's side of the family is very loud. At dinner or other meals, it's like they were yelling at each other, but really we were just chatting. Now I know where I get it from.
One thing I've realized, though, is that I'm American. As much as my family is Korean and I grew up with some Korean culture, my thinking, habits, language, and philosophies are distinctly western. So there was a distorted "Joy Luck Club" epiphany but I've come to accept this truth. While I enjoyed learning about my past, the future remains my chief focus and priority.