3.15.2011

Cultural differences

Obviously I live in Korea--a land I have never lived in before. So naturally there are cultural differences that I am seeing/experiencing. Here are just a few that I have run into so far... Im sure there are many many more...

1. This culture is a man's world. It is considered very poor taste for a woman to be seen smoking or drinking in public. I think it is gradually changing as more Western culture arrives but it is still traditionally how they live. Women are to be seen and not heard and are expected to do absolutely everything for the man. On the flip side, women are beginning to revolt and its becoming the opposite-- the women are becoming very feministic in a culture that never was before. 

2. We, as the "western teachers" are expected to maintain a high level of sophistication (as it should be). The Korean teachers wear jeans, tennis shoes, sweats, whatever suits their fancy; while we remain in dress clothes at all times during school hours. We are not allowed to hit the students (not like I ever want to!) while the Koreans can. Its just the way it is and its fine that way. 

3. This is a country of service! They will do anything for you and happily. Everyone in the stores is dressed nicely and bows at you as you walk by. You can start to get a big head if you're not careful (until you remember that they do it to everyone). 

4. I have noticed about 3 different responses from people on the street here:
     - Starring... You don't get this often but it still happens some. I think part of it is just trying to figure out in their heads what is different about us-- Come on, I have Norwegian blood... I think I look a tad different here :) 
     - The occasional attempt at English.. This only happens if they are extremely brave! You will hear a "hello, how are you?" "where are you from?" followed by bouts of giggles. :) Its cute that they try. 
     - The "downward glance". This is actually the most common and while you think this may be rude, it really isn't. They don't even look at each other that often. Think about it. I live in a city of several million people. If I smiled and waved at EVERY single person I saw on the street, I would be exhausted. So, its much easier to just go on your own way and don't worry about those around you. So, many people just glance down rather than catching your eye. 

5. The food.... has surprisingly been extremely good. Now, there have been a few things that I just can't really stomach but for the most part I have been very satisfied with the food and I can't really complain. 

6. Pregnant... no that is not an announcement. I just thought I'd get a laugh out of that one. No but seriously. The culture surrounding pregnancy is different here. As soon as you get married, you are expected to get pregnant ASAP and if you do not, they will start asking. Well, a very nice man that I met at church on Sunday was talking to me on the way to church (we were all just getting to know each other) and he asked me about my baby. I told him I don't have a baby. He looked a bit confused and said that he thought he heard Robert and I were married (we are the only married couple in our small group). I said we were. silence. "but then why no baby?" silence. how do you answer that to a grown man? I don't know. I just said we weren't ready. I thought about saying "well, its like this..." but I didn't. :) 

7. Age is everything!!! I am not one of those people that think I am years ahead of myself. I know I am only 23 and that is extremely young. I always get annoyed at people that remind me of my youth. I know I am young! Im not trying to say anything different! Well, here in Korea, no on even dreams of getting married until around 30 because once you get married, your career is done, so they wait. That has been a huge shock to many people here that we are married. While they value marriage here, they are unfortunately becoming very westernzied in the fact that there is an increasing number of couples living together now than ever before. So, they just assume we are not married and then are shocked when we tell them we are and our ages. 

8. After age is experience. Now, to me the word "experience" means you have done something in that particular field. If the time is unspecified and you have done it, then you have experience. The other day a young lady asked us if we had experience teaching and we both said we had. Then she asked us our age.... when we told her, she very bluntly told us that there was no way we had any experience because we were too young. Well, for one, if you have stood in front of a class and taught something than you have some level of experience, right? that's what I thought. She just wasn't specific enough. Oh well. she was a bit intrusive in her questions anyway (she even wanted to know our salaries!! odd.) 

Well, as I said, there are many more but I have to get off to class. Im just on a quick break. Its off to teach Yellow class Phonics for me! :) 

2 comments:

S. Lashley said...

Very interesting!

Willie'sGurl said...

Wow... lol those are quite the differences. lol I had to laugh at the pregnant one. That would be an interesting way to make an announcment :D The other ones are pretty interesting too. Hope you don't have too much trouble Adjusting. :)