Monday, March 17, 2014

What Happens When We Take Our Baby to a Korean Restaurant


Are any of you familiar with Korean food? More specifically, have any of you ever taken a baby out to eat at a Korean restaurant? Over the past 7 months (aka since my son has been born) I have come to realize that there is something really great about taking a young baby out to eat at Korean restaurants (I'm talking about before they can sit in high chairs or really eat anything you're eating).

This might sound ridiculous, but hear me out. There is a huge, glaring difference between going out to eat at an American restaurant - or Italian, Irish, Mexican, you name it - versus a Korean restaurant. Before I reveal what this glaring difference is, though, I should point out that my husband and I probably only benefit from this cultural difference because our son is half-Asian. My husband, Michael, is half-Korean, half-Chinese (I feel like I say this all the time, but it's relevant information for anyone who  may be reading my blog for the first time right now). If no one in our family was Korean I am not confident that anything I'm saying would apply - because the restaurant employees would most likely follow the cultural norms of their customers.

Anyway, what on earth am I talking about? I'm talking about how every single time we have eaten at any Korean restaurant (that has not been short-staffed) there has been a Korean woman who swooped in to offer to hold our baby while we eat. 

...Let's let that sink in for a moment.

Can you imagine if this were the norm in other restaurants here in the U.S.? Imagine some random female employee approaching your table, reaching for your baby, and gladly whisking him away so you can eat with two hands (this is especially helpful if you've ordered Korean BBQ because that is one dish you really need two hands for). That just wouldn't happen.

I don't know about you, but if anyone else tried to do this I would react how I think most other American parents would probably react. I would be horrified. I would NOT feel comfortable letting this stranger waltz in and take my baby away from our table! No.way. (I can hear all of your American thoughts shouting, "What about germs? They could be ill. You don't know that person! What if they try and steal your baby?!" Trust me, I feel you. But keep reading and I'll explain why I don't have those thoughts - anymore.)

Even when we went to a Korean food court (in Koreatown) an employee of
the store located nearby left her store, approached us, and offered
 to hold our son while we ate.

In time I've come to realize that this is a very normal part of Korean culture. And isn't it kind of beautiful? Could you imagine living in a country with a culture that loves babies, recognizes something that would be helpful to parents, and just...offers to do it in order to enhance your dining experience? Don't get me wrong, I love having our son with us. But after having tried to eat Korean BBQ while holding a wide-awake, wiggly baby I can tell you that all it leads to is me starving while I wait for my husband to quickly eat, free up his hands, then hold our son so I can eat (I'm a nice wife that way and always let him go first. More so because he can eat a lot faster than I can, but still).

The first time this happened I was in complete shock and wasn't sure if I was comfortable with it. However, within a few minutes I relaxed, ate my dinner, and came to appreciate how kind this gesture was to the mother who would otherwise still be staring longingly at the bulgogi or galbi (so good) sitting right in front of her. I didn't die and nothing bad happened to Gabriel. Plus, every time someone has done this for us the woman has been wise enough to stay well within my husband's or my line of vision...and has returned our son promptly into our arms as soon as we make the slightest indication that we want him back with us.

Considering we are first-time parents, my husband and I discussed this together the first time it happened to us. We were both surprised that it happened, but agreed that we felt strangely comfortable with it. We both remarked that it made us feel sort of like we were with our (my husband's) family.

Once Gabriel is big enough to actually sit in a high chair and join us at the table I'm sure this will stop happening (and we will want him right there with us). But for the time being, this has been such a rare treat for my husband and me. Not only are we able to go out with our son and use all our hands to eat - at the same time because one person's arms aren't holding our boy, but we simultaneously bring joy to whoever the helpful woman is that eagerly holds our son for us. Personally, I love that our son can bring such joy to others simply because he is who he is and people love him for it. And sometimes I just like being able to use both hands.

Do you know of any other cultures that would consider this normal? I'm curious to learn about your experiences dining out with babies! 

"When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears."
-Anthony Robbins


  1. That's so sweet. It's nice to know that in this crazy world there is still some small measure of universal love and thoughtfulness.

  2. Yes! This happened to us when we lived in Korea and my daughter was an infant. The first time it happened I thought she was about to be kidnapped! But after I was told what was happening (and it happened every time we went out again after that), I came to love it. Korea is a beautiful place.