A few years ago, at the Pennsylvania university where I work, I shared an on-campus office with another instructor who was originally from South Korea. One day, as we chatted, she told me that she felt jealous and unloved because her father had given her brother’s fiancée a watch.
“In our culture, the gift of a watch is significant,” she explained.
“Did you tell your father that you wanted a watch?”
“Yes, but he said: you don’t need a watch. You have education!”
I felt sad that her father wouldn’t gift her with education and a watch, but I often try to help people look at the bright side of a situation, so I said, “You don’t wear jewelry.” I based my statement on observation. We’d shared an office for a long time and over the years, I’d noticed that she never wore necklaces, or bracelets. The piercings in her ears were always empty. She was married but didn’t wear a wedding ring. “Why do you even want a watch?”
“You can’t wear jewelry in the United States,” she exclaimed. “You’ll get mugged.”