Do you speak English?

For a city of 4.5 million, I expected to run into more English speakers in Busan: Americans, Canadians or Europeans even. Ever since I left the airport, I’ve seen almost no non-Koreans: on the train, on the subway, out on the streets, in Dunkin’ Donuts or peeking into Starbucks even.

The first day, the only English speaker I encountered was my new boss. I heard one person the next day on the phone on the elevator, and he is from India.

The couple times I’ve asked for help in English has been not helpful. The cleaning lady and I talked for awhile and neither had any clue what the other said, so we smiled and walked way, acting like we weren’t confused and that our interchange had been enlightening. I was trying to ask someone about the celebrations in the plaza last night, “Buddha’s Birthday?” and the response was shaking heads and walking away.

While many of the signs are in English, it doesn’t seem like on the spur of the moment, most people speak it.

As an English teacher, I guess it’s good to be needed. The other two English speakers I met are my boss and two fellow teachers. I think I spotted two Americans at my hotel breakfast today, but nowhere in public yet!

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