Monday, October 22, 2012

Oktoberfest: Korea Style

Last week, I was in a funk for no particular reason. You know, different country, same old stuff. That's life and you can't avoid it by just moving halfway across the world. So I had decided that I needed to get out of Incheon and just do something. And lucky for me, the Sou'frican that I work with had keyed into a foreigner networking event--Oktoberfest!

I was pretty intrigued to see the Eastern world's take on German food and beer and parties, so I accepted the invite.

Me and The Canadian took the bus there together, planning on meeting up with the Sou'frican and one of her friends at the restaurant. Of course, I took her word for it when she told us how to get there using public trans, only to realize our bus did not go where we needed to go. We then had to navigate the subway system with all-Korean subway maps. Needless to say, I am both relieved that I can finally read Hangul and proud that I got us there without any tears.

When we arrived at the meet-up point, we spotted some guys in lederhosen and knew we were in the right place. But we didn't see The Sou'frican. After chatting with the event planners, we found out that we were part of the third wave of arrivees. Relieved, we went with them, found the German restaurant (conveniently named Oktoberfest), and checked in.

But still no Sou'frican. We stood in line for food and beer for at least 20 minutes, passing time. Still no Sou'frican. Since the place was jam-packed with no available seating, we settled on standing and chatted. It was awkward, since we were basically alone in a crowded room that had zero music playing and everyone seeming to know everyone else. Except us.

Not five minutes passes and a guy from the table right next to us approaches. He says "Are you Sam and are you [The Canadian]?" We both looked at each other. I can't speak for her, but I was totally weirded out that a complete stranger knew my name. We replied in the affirmative and then the explanations ensued.

Apparently, The Sou'frican was caught in traffic and told him to look for a very tall girl and a short girl. Apparently, such seemingly bland descriptors fit us perfectly.

Enter The Five Guys. These are The Sou'frican's friends from high school (or earlier), some of her closest buds from the Motherland. We immediately set to talking, drinking, eating and enjoying as much of the minimal German atmosphere as possible. Later, the Sou'frican arrived and we continued the night.

Truth be told, the treatment of Oktoberfest was as a kitschy novelty, not so much a celebration of a culture. In the past, I've been to Greek Festivals and Polish festivals. They all included relevant cultural artifacts, like traditional dancing or a variety of foods. This event boiled down an entire culture to its most rudimentary elements: beer and sausages. Perhaps I should just stick with experiencing Korean culture in the future.


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