Repatriating Expatriating Tips

While watching TV, Good Man says, “Why is she calling the baby ‘pumpkin?'”

Mothers in the Jeollas tend to call their sons “puppies.” I learned this from Good Man when I asked why some guy in an ad was wearing a giant dog head. “Remember the puppy commercials? It’s the same thing.”

***

I teach Good Man a bit of Spanish so he says “poyo” instead of “pollo” and “fahita” instead of “fajita” at the Mexican/El Salvadorian restaurant we’re at. Each time she stops at our table, our waitress starts speaking Spanish before apologizing and switching to English.

“So,” Good Man says after our meal, “we need to tip here? How do we do this ‘tip?'”

I had totally forgotten about tipping. And tax, for that matter. I miss Korea. Standing in front of the register with the slip, I ask the waitresses how much tax is.

“Five percent.”

“OK, so you take this $1.99, make it $2. Now triple that, so $6 is the tip.”

“Fifteen percent,” he asks, “not ten?”

“No, ten if it’s really bad. Well, nothing if the service is horrible, but fifteen should really be standard,” I answer.

“Twenty percent. Twenty percent is what you should tip. Always,” the waitresses giggle.

“Yeah, twenty percent if it’s really good.”

The waitresses are eying us. “Where are you from?” one of them asks Good Man, kindly.

“Korea. It’s my first day here.”

“Oh! Welcome to America!” they say in sing-song accented English.

The Mexican/El Salvadorian restaurant is sandwiched between a Vietnamese pho place and a Chinese restaurant. Across the street we find a plethora of shops, including an American deli, an Indian place, and another pho place. Across the other street there’s an Asian market, a Thai place, and yet another pho shop.

Inside the restaurant, we are the only non-native Spanish speakers. I am the only native English speaker.

The United States has no official language.

I like that.

***

Good Man falls into bed. His voice is muffled by the pillow. “Your country is too large.”