Seoul Survivor
Dining with Kids


by Brian Heuvel

A few nights ago I went to one of my favorite restaurants in Seoul. I won't mention precisely which one, but suffice to say it was a moderately priced, sit down, western place. Being a single man in a foreign country I find myself going out to eat frequently and I usually enjoy the experience. However, on this particular occasion disaster struck.
The menace took the form of two small children, aged somewhere around 5-7. Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not particularly fond of kids to begin with. These two, however, would have made even the most patient of people contemplate double homicide (or at least a leash and collar). Throughout the 45 minutes I was in the restaurant they were running around tables, screaming, waving their arms, jumping on the furniture, etc... "Where were their parents?", you ask? Why, right there sitting in a booth enjoying their meal, of course!

If you've never had a similar experience at a restaurant in Korea, then count yourself lucky. Many Korean parents seem to feel it's quite acceptable for their children to behave this way in most public places. In fact, when confronted during such an episode, some parents actually respond with anger! Perhaps it's just my rigid, western thinking, but I find this attitude to be exceptionally inconsiderate to the other people nearby. When I ask people why parents don't do something about this sort of thing, I usually get an answer that goes something like "childhood is the most carefree time in a person's life and therefore we should not do anything to interrupt our children's happiness." Another justification I've heard is "Children must be free to express themselves."

I'm all for children's happiness and self-expression, but there's a time and place for everything. Allowing your children to run around a restaurant and disturb the other customers is just plain rude and inconsiderate. Other customers are paying a lot of money (over 30,000 won per person at the place I was at) to enjoy a good meal in a pleasant atmosphere. This means not having to be subjected to children running, jumping, and screaming (or even worse a continual chorus of "Hello! Hello!"). A restaurant is not a playground, and parents need to realize that they have a responsibility to make sure their kids behave appropriately. To this end I can only offer two suggestions, teach your kids proper table manners or get a baby-sitter.

Other columns by Brian Heuvel

foreign friends

a day in the life . . .

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