Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cultural Differences

Update: last night's sleeping was no better.  This jet lag is really painful on the kids, and I hate it for them....but I am just about at my limit of how much one person can function with such little sleep.  Thank goodness my mother and sister are helping with the kids in the morning so I can catch a quick nap.  Still....I'm getting about 5 hours max (night and day combined, never consecutive), and that's just not enough!  I feel a permanent state of blurriness.

The next question in my series of questions provided from facebook friends comes from my friend "E".  E lives up in Virginia near Langley, and I met her through a mutual friend while we were stationed there.  She sells Scentsy, is a party planner, and we always had some great conversations.  So, I'm not surprised by her question: "What do you think are the major cultural differences between Korea and the U.S.?"

Besides the obvious differences of language and food, one of the things I have noticed the most in Korea is the respect paid to elders, and the way they use their "elder-lyness" (not a word??) to tell other people what to do.  The older Koreans are the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and command a certain level of respect.  In my interactions with the members of the community around Songtan, I have been told multiple times by an Ajumma (an older Korean woman) that it was too cold for the baby  "Agi choo-woh" when I had Mav in my Beco and we were out walking around.  They would walk right up to me and pat the baby's back, looking worriedly at his face.  Now, yes- most of the time it was below freezing...but he was in a fleece snow suit, his head was covered, he was up against my warm body, AND the whole Beco was zipped into my North Face jacket.  The child was toasty warm.  So I would nod and say "Ne" (Yes...) or something like that and walk away.  With an air of "mind your own beeswax" but without saying it.  I'm not staying home just because you think it is too cold for me to have my baby out!

I was also told to sit down on the train by men (Ajussi) and women.  They have seats reserved for old people, pregnant women, handicapped people, and women holding babies.  As soon as an older person would see me with Mav in the baby carrier they would walk over and grab my sleeve and nudge me toward a seat.  When the seats were full, they would gesture to someone else to get up.  This is something I would be shocked to ever see happen in America!

Another cultural difference that I notice is how safe it seems to be in Korea.  I'm sure there are some shady places, just like everywhere else, but I feel very safe when we are out walking at any time of day or night.  People leave things outside their houses and apartments, and merchants leave things outside their stores, and they are not stolen.  If they ARE....suspect a foreigner.  There is a bathroom store down the street from where we live, and they leave stacks of very nice (and probably expensive) tiles right on the sidewalk.  I have never felt threatened or scared of any Koreans, and have found them to be very friendly to us, as long as we are respectful.

One negative thing I've noticed is the amount of garbage and pollution.  There is smog visible over the neighboring city of Osan sometimes, and all along the roads there is trash.  There is no specific garbage day, and it appears that every corner is a garbage pick-up area.  I think Korea would be a much more beautiful place if there were less piles of trash everywhere.  Part of the problem is probably how quickly the country has industrialized, it's hard for them to keep up with the growth.  It is also very windy near us, so the garbage is blown right out of the containers.

There you have it- just a few of the cultural differences I have noticed in the last 5 months in Korea!

1 comment:

adrienne_sakura said...

that reminds me of gilmore girls. the best friend of the main character was korean and her mom was always in her business. telling her exactly what to do and how to do it. but at least it came from a place of love and wisdom. :)