Food For Thought: Always an overshare; hopefully never an undershare by Lindsey Huster

Always an overshare; hopefully never an undershare

I have two mothers; my birth mother resides in America, while my Korean mother sits conveniently beside me at work. Besides helping me with any questions and cultural conundrums I may encounter, she provide much of my dietary sustenance Daily, I am offered and bestowed copious amounts of cookies, candy, fruit ... anything that happens to be in her lunch and also within eyesight of my desk.  There is nothing that won't be offered, regardless of it's ability to be shared.  Oranges halves, cookies, kimbap will be split in efforts to procure suitable offerings for me and  others within close proximity. 

Most of our encounters end with my feeling full- first of food- but also of the uncertainty that comes from lack of cultural insight and context. How do I return the shared food favor that is second nature to Koreans? What constitutes as shareable fodder, and who do you share with?  

Even though divvying food for coworkers remains common in most parts of the world, sharing food remains a tacit and required measure to ensure a happy work atmosphere; it's an easy way to create and strengthen work ties.  

Sharing food, of course, falls from the branch of Confucianism. With relationships an obvious focal point, it's an important way to bring about social work harmony (the ultimate goal of Confucianism). Thus, coworkers must play the part that social hierarchy has bestowed upon them. For some coworkers, this means bringing snacks into work on a weekly basis; for others, it means sharing occasionally with deskmates or the boss. Although at times, a boss may bring food and treats on clearly marked celebrations  (namely birthdays and holidays), staff members tend to proffer the majority of the food and snacks to bestow among coworkers. Mutuality also remains significant in order to properly adhere to one's social duties; this means returning the food shares, (and that I have been shirking on my responsibilities as a desk partner).   

Additionally, sharing food with fellow workers is a mood booster for the Nunchi.  Korean coworkers listen attentively to the paralanguage and context (and stomachs) encompassing the work environment. If the week proves especially difficult, a few coworkers are bound to supply sweets to prop up the mood of the office.    
When it comes to the sharings, most consumables count as offerings so long as it is not too messy of a handout. Fruit tends to be a healthier sharing option, while other shareables take on the shape of the candy or cookie variety. Outside of snack foods, it may be appropriate to offer a piece of lunch or dinner that is new or not a typical dish. Regardless of how petite the treat may be, however, it always helps to come prepared for a possible share.  

When it comes to sharing food, it's best to start the handouts within closest proximity. Desk and cubicle neighbors should be first in line and offerings should branch out from there.  Eventually, offering to bosses must be done.  It's acceptable to not give food to people who are not present, but rejecting a person who asks for food is inconceivable. To be safe, it is always better to bring more than enough food for most staff workers, although some will always reject the food offer.  

Ultimately, there is never a bad time to share snacks with coworkers. Although the appropriate share may be more intuitive with Koreans coworkers. an awkward ex-pat share is always appreciated. Over time, it will may become like second nature to sense an ideal time to share snacks within the office. In the end, I brought a bag of Oreos to work to commence Monday that might had otherwise been blue.  Obviously, my Korean mom got first dibs at the cookies, proceeded by my bosses and other staff members. Regardless of how it's done, sharing is caring in Korea and an easiest way to be a good coworker and perhaps gain additional family members.  

Lindsey Huster is a writer who usually hails from Chicago. She enjoys listening to music,wearing cardigans and generally anything vegetarian. Send her an e-mail here: Lindsey Huster 

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