Korean Differences

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I’ve been in Korea for over 5 months now and everyday I learn something new and realize how different Korean can be from the US. Some differences are silly like there being literally 5 coffee shops on 1 block, yet not a single one of them will open before 10am.  Can you imagine what would happen if people couldn’t stop at Starbucks on their way to work in the morning?  Would anything productive get done in the mornings?  Don’t get me wrong, Koreans love their coffee, but they are completely content with using instant coffee-yuck I know.

The Korean culture is very similar to other Asian cultures, where it is considered rude and disrespectful to challenge authority.  Because of this, Koreans will blindly follow and believe anything that is told to them by their elders or anyone in a position of authority.  When I hear the word “challenge,” I picture someone telling their boss that the idea is wrong or volunteer a better option, but in Korea even asking for clarification is considered challenging authority.  This mindset is boggling to me because this is a country that bounced back from being destroyed in the 1950s and now they are one of the leaders in technology.  How did they get to this point and advance in technology without challenging ideas?  I do agree that people need to be respectful to their elders and authority figures, but you need to have different ideas in order to improve right?

Apparently South Korea told Google that they can not have access to their maps, yet I still use Google Maps to get around South Korea, so not sure how that works.  When discussing this with my co-teachers, I was told that Google having access to South Korea’s map was a safety concern.  Not quite understanding the problem, I asked further questions like …”how is this a safety concern?”  I should mention that anytime I ask some sort of question like this, I get the exact same response of “(shoulder shrug) I don’t know. They (the government) said it is.”  No one in this country even thinks to ask about this, as long as someone in authority said it, it must be true.  I try to imagine that happening in the US, and just can’t picture people believing something only because the government said so.  A friend told me that the reason South Korea is worried, is that if Google has access to the maps, then North Korea will have access to them and that could cause problems.  I’m pretty sure if North Korea wanted to bomb or shoot a missile, they don’t need to use Google Maps to know where Seoul is.  That’s not what’s preventing North Korea from attacking the South, maybe that’s just a western opinion though who knows.  In a way, it’s impressive that people will blindly follow authority but it’s also slightly terrifying that they are unable to think for themselves.

One of my favorite stories that Koreans blindly believe, and I kid you not this is a real thing, is…FAN DEATH.  In case you didn’t know and have been testing your luck, if you sleep with the fan on, you WILL DIE.  There is really  no way to explain this ridiculous theory, but it is believed that while sleeping, the fan will kill you via asphyxiation or hypothermia.  Seriously, do yourself a favor and Google this, because it’s too funny not to.  I’m not sure why the fan is safe during the day, but becomes deadly at night, but that’s the belief.  So please for the love of God, turn your fans off at night, stop living so dangerously!!

fan death 2 fan death

Korea is known for their many “bangs,” which means they have rooms for many different things.  For example. there are noraebangs, DVD bangs, and PC bangs.  The noraebangs are karaoke rooms, where your group has their own room with couches and a karaoke machine.  In the US, you have to go to a bar and basically get drunk in order to have the confidence to sing in front of complete strangers.  With noraebangs, you’re just with your group of friends and you pay by the hour.  It’s a fun environment where everyone is singing along, and of course there is still alcohol if you need liquid courage.  In Korea, you can’t really invite people over for a movie night, because we all live in shoeboxes.  Literally, my apartment in total is about 6 walking lunges long-kinda impossible to have people over.  So you gotta find the next best thing…DVD bangs.  You and your friends walk in and pick a movie to watch and you have your own personal mini theater.  I’m sure these are very popular with the younger crowd that want to spend “alone time” with their boyfriends/girlfriend, but we are old so we watch movies.  Since you basically rent the room for 2 hours, it’s cheaper than going to a movie theater and allows you to have movie night with friends.

I really like how Korea has these options for different types of socializing and we make sure to take advantage of these different opportunities.  They place a very high importance on relationships and offer many different ways to spend time with friends.

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