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Big Differences Between Korean and American Food Culture: Student

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Ji-Yoon Moon
12-year-old grade-five student Ji-Yoon Moon says the food culture in California is very different than in Korea.

SPECIAL GUEST COLUMN (originally published on TKN March 25, 2014)

A student from South Korea says she was “shocked” at how differently food is treated in the United States compared with her homeland.

On a recent trip to California, grade-five student Ji-Yoon Moon said she was surprised at how freely junk food is advertised and made available in the United States.

Twelve-year-old Moon travelled in January to the U.S. as part of a program for students, sponsored by Stanford University. She said that she was shocked at the differences in the way South Koreans and Americans view food and the amount and type of food advertising in the U.S.

“[The food] was very salty… Also the food they gave the children was so different from what they give us to eat at school [in Korea],” she said.

Ji-Yoon says that in California the students in her program were served mostly meat and bread, or pasta and generally no vegetables—“just tomatoes in a hamburger.”

The school meals in South Korea, she said, are very carefully planned to provide students with a balanced and healthy diet. Each school tray is designed to control the portion of each kind of food. The trays have two large sections on the front half and three or four small sections on the back half. On the front half, students are served soup and rice. On the back they are served sides which include one type of meat or fish, a cooked vegetable side, and a fermented vegetable side, usually kimchi.

“At school [in South Korea] they only give us spaghetti or pizza on special days, but [in the U.S.] they only gave us meat and bread foods,” said Moon.

Moon was not only surprised by the lack of variety in her food but also in the drinks that were available to the students. “We could only drink Coke… we couldn’t choose water,” she said.

Moon said that at her school in South Korea, as well as at home with her family, she and most children she knows only drink water with their meals—soft drinks are reserved as treats. In South Korea nearly every household has a water filtration system that not only makes water safe to drink but also lets people to adjust the temperature of their water from ice cold to lukewarm or boiling hot for making tea or cocoa. In addition to water being accessible at home, every public school comes with several of these machines, up to one in every hallway, making drinking water available to every student.

When Moon was asked which food was the most common one she saw in California, she mentioned not a food but a brand. “Coca-Cola,” she said. “I saw an ad [for Coke] almost every day, maybe two or three times a day. When we walked on the street, many stores had [a sign that advertised Coke] in their window.”

Moon said that while Coke and other cola drinks are widely available in Korea, people always have an opportunity to choose water instead. “In Korea, many people can order water in a restaurant, but in America we were just given Coke. Nobody (in the program) asked us if we wanted anything else.”

But despite the food differences, Moon said she feels very lucky to have gotten the chance to visit the United States. “The food was very yummy… and it was fun to practice my English with Americans.”

This article was written by Ji-Yoon’s English teacher in South Korea, as told to her by Ji-Yoon.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Ji-Yoon describes the food tray her school uses. Describe a typical lunch that you eat at school.

Reading Prompt: Demonstrating Understanding
Create a T-chart in order to show the similarities and differences between Korean and American food culture as described in today’s article.

Primary
Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by identifying important ideas and some supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Junior
Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by summarizing important ideas and citing supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Intermediate
Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing important ideas and citing a variety of details that support the main idea (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Grammar Feature: Square Brackets [  ]
Today’s article includes a pair of square brackets. Square brackets are used by authors in several ways. In today’s article, they are used in order to include additional information within a quote. Because a quote can sometimes be unclear, an author can add additional information in a quote by using square brackets. This lets the reader know that the speaker did not say these words and that they were added by the author. The rule is, a writer can only include information in the square bracket which the reader intended. For example, if someone were to say, “They won tonight!” an author could make this quote easier to understand for his readers by writing [“The Ravens] won tonight!”

What do you think Moon’s original quote was?

When Moon was asked which food was the most common one she saw in California, she mentioned not a food but a brand. “Coca-Cola,” she said. “I saw an ad [for Coke] almost every day, maybe two or three times a day. When we walked on the street, many stores had [a sign that advertised Coke] in their window.”