I’m finally back to slicing. I had to take a mini-break from my writing these past few days, due to an unexpected trip to Korea to attend my grandmother’s funeral. Now that I’m back home and finally have a free moment to myself, I’m finding comfort in being behind the screen and sharing my story. This was my first real experience of being part of a Korean funeral. Not only did I learn a lot about how different Korean funerals are, but there was one moment that brought some laughter during this time of remembering and mourning.
In Korea, funerals are a bit different than the States. Our grandmother’s funeral was held at the hospital, where they had a separate building just for funerals. The room was divided into two areas. One part had tables and a kitchen, where people were served food and drinks. There was a smaller room that people went in to pay their respects for my grandmother. Some funerals last up to 3 days, and the relatives stay in this room during the time to greet guests. I heard that some relatives would even stay overnight in the rooms, and sleep there, as many funeral homes were open 24hours. We went home around 10pm, and didn’t allow visitors past then.
Part of Korean culture is to take your shoes off before going into inside including homes and even some restaurants. In the funeral room, people had to take their shoes off before going in. The men that came to the funeral all seemed to wear similar looking black dress shoes. As the men would look for their shoes when they were leaving, they would often get confused about which pair was theirs. Many men had similar sized shoes and styles. One elderly man even put his shoes on the side on the shoe rack because he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t forget where he put them. However, at the end of the night, he couldn’t find his shoes and was a bit angry about this. He ended up going home with the black slippers that were given by the funeral home. There were a total of 3 missing pairs of black dress shoes during the two and half days of the funeral.
Even though funerals tend to be more serious and somber, my cousins and I, who helped greet guests, turn their shoes around, and helped take their jackets, found ourselves amused with the frequent missing shoes. I quickly found out that this is pretty common in Korea, as my other male relatives shared about having had similar incidents. Sometimes, when people leave restaurants or bars at the end of the night, people have fights with the waiters/bartenders about their missing shoes! So the next time you are in Korea, make sure you keep a close eye on your shoes.