Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Culture shock - what's rude in Korea 2

There are many delicate social norms that might be completely foreign to those come from the West. The way a simple 'hello' is exchanged is different when you do it to friends and to parents. It might be shocking to find how an 'age factor' is so predominant in Korean culture. True, I'm particularly more prone to pay extra attention to culture and language in general, because I do translation from English to Korean, or from Korean to English.

If you're talking to someone who was born even a year earlier than you were, it changes the language structure you are allowed to deliver, let alone your attitude. (This gets less strict for older generation, but it is almost an unchallenged rule to younger generation.)

Culture shock - what's rude in Korea 1

I'm native Korean and have lived in the U.S. and Canada for fourteen years. I now work as a Korean English translator.

There have been a few serious incidents where I was offended and maybe a few more where I offended others. In hindsight, I don't think most of them were intentionally meant to be offensive. We simply didn't understand well enough about each other. On the next few posts, I'd like to list a few things that can be considered rude in Korea while they are assumed harmless or even friendly in North America. Thinking a bit more about this issue than my fellow Koreans did some positive impact on me as a Korean translator.

Korea is, by North American standard, one of the most conservative countries you can find in terms of social values. She has a history of five thousand years, and along the way we learned and developed our own unique way to interact with people.