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Differences between Koreans and foreigners

By Choi Shi-yong

We can see numerous foreigners from English speaking countries around the country that have come to Korea to teach English. Living in a foreign country is so challenging and they may confront unexpected difficulties caused by cultural differences. However, I have met so many devoted foreigners who are willing to teach Korean students English with enthusiasm and kindness. They also hope to learn Korean culture and the Korean language, which is laudable and respectful.

As I have made a remarkable friendship with many foreigners through a variety of activities over the past three years, I noticed some differences between Koreans and foreigners that have resulted in a "culture shock."

I have attended the book club at the Gwangju International Center with Doug Stuber who was assistant professor of English language at Chonnam National University. I already knew that he was a friendly guy and that he was willing to socialize with his young students. However, I often felt weird when I heard him telling a visitor to the group his seemingly private stories especially in a first meeting.

Further, I watched so many times that foreigners at the bar were never reluctant to share their personal issues, even when they meet first. On the other hand, I need a lot of time to advance a conversation with a friend. Worse, I feel a little bit uncomfortable when a stranger whom I have never met at a social event would ask me personal information.

Foreign women have more confidence. When I tried to shake hands with women, I feel the clear distinction on this matter. For example, Western women usually shook hands with me firmly as an expression of friendship. However, Korean women might feel odd and think that I want to touch their skin and feel it. Therefore, they hold my hand passively and reluctantly. I assume that the different reaction comes from a notion about men.

Western women think that they are equal to men. On the other hand, Korean women want to be protected from men, even though women's rights have tremendously been raised.

My church friend, Rachel, who has lived in Korea for almost six years told me that Koreans don't express their thoughts clearly sometimes. Consequently, she doesn't know evidently what they want. For instance, her husband, Jonathan, asked me to go out for dinner with church members several days ago.

Although I had my own schedule that day, I had to accept his proposal because I didn't want to disappoint and hurt him. Hence, I can say that Koreans are emotional and considerate. We tend to sacrifice our time to help our friends. However, my observations tell me that westerners are individualistic. They prefer keeping their own space and never do what they don't want to do.

I vividly remember "Proof" performed by the Gwangju Performance Project players last summer. The GPP consists of foreign amateur actors. However, their talent and passion at "Proof" was more than professional. I felt that westerners express their feelings freely and positively by singing, dancing and acting.

However, Koreans feel awkward when they show their emotions in a public place. I believe that education in Korea has stressed memorization of knowledge too much. Consequently, its educational system has deprived them of creative and flexible thinking which are among the basic elements of what makes us human.

Jenny Jung, an inventive and persistent lady, organized "Language lounge in Gwangju. Koreans and foreigners gather at Joe's Sandwich between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. every Saturday for a "Language exchange" and "Promotion of friendship." She also makes "Panoramic Night", "Trivia night," and "Frugal night" after dinner for making Saturday nights fun and memorable for its members.

I want to join this group every Saturday as best as I can. The biggest advantage of "Language lounge" is broadening my friendships with international people and making contact with exotic cultures I have not experienced so far.

My exploration of Western culture goes on through this group. Later, I may write about the common traits between Koreans and westerners. Sounds interesting! Doesn't it?

The writer goes to the Language Lounge in Gwangju organized by Jenny Jung every Saturday. His email address is freddd@hanmail.net.

By Choi Shi-yong

We can see numerous foreigners from English speaking countries around the country that have come to Korea to teach English. Living in a foreign country is so challenging and they may confront unexpected difficulties caused by cultural differences. However, I have met so many devoted foreigners who are willing to teach Korean students English with enthusiasm and kindness. They also hope to learn Korean culture and the Korean language, which is laudable and respectful.

As I have made a remarkable friendship with many foreigners through a variety of activities over the past three years, I noticed some differences between Koreans and foreigners that have resulted in a "culture shock."

I have attended the book club at the Gwangju International Center with Doug Stuber who was assistant professor of English language at Chonnam National University. I already knew that he was a friendly guy and that he was willing to socialize with his young students. However, I often felt weird when I heard him telling a visitor to the group his seemingly private stories especially in a first meeting.

Further, I watched so many times that foreigners at the bar were never reluctant to share their personal issues, even when they meet first. On the other hand, I need a lot of time to advance a conversation with a friend. Worse, I feel a little bit uncomfortable when a stranger whom I have never met at a social event would ask me personal information.

Foreign women have more confidence. When I tried to shake hands with women, I feel the clear distinction on this matter. For example, Western women usually shook hands with me firmly as an expression of friendship. However, Korean women might feel odd and think that I want to touch their skin and feel it. Therefore, they hold my hand passively and reluctantly. I assume that the different reaction comes from a notion about men.

Western women think that they are equal to men. On the other hand, Korean women want to be protected from men, even though women's rights have tremendously been raised.

My church friend, Rachel, who has lived in Korea for almost six years told me that Koreans don't express their thoughts clearly sometimes. Consequently, she doesn't know evidently what they want. For instance, her husband, Jonathan, asked me to go out for dinner with church members several days ago.

Although I had my own schedule that day, I had to accept his proposal because I didn't want to disappoint and hurt him. Hence, I can say that Koreans are emotional and considerate. We tend to sacrifice our time to help our friends. However, my observations tell me that westerners are individualistic. They prefer keeping their own space and never do what they don't want to do.

I vividly remember "Proof" performed by the Gwangju Performance Project players last summer. The GPP consists of foreign amateur actors. However, their talent and passion at "Proof" was more than professional. I felt that westerners express their feelings freely and positively by singing, dancing and acting.

However, Koreans feel awkward when they show their emotions in a public place. I believe that education in Korea has stressed memorization of knowledge too much. Consequently, its educational system has deprived them of creative and flexible thinking which are among the basic elements of what makes us human.

Jenny Jung, an inventive and persistent lady, organized "Language lounge in Gwangju. Koreans and foreigners gather at Joe's Sandwich between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. every Saturday for a "Language exchange" and "Promotion of friendship." She also makes "Panoramic Night", "Trivia night," and "Frugal night" after dinner for making Saturday nights fun and memorable for its members.

I want to join this group every Saturday as best as I can. The biggest advantage of "Language lounge" is broadening my friendships with international people and making contact with exotic cultures I have not experienced so far.

My exploration of Western culture goes on through this group. Later, I may write about the common traits between Koreans and westerners. Sounds interesting! Doesn't it?

The writer goes to the Language Lounge in Gwangju organized by Jenny Jung every Saturday. His email address is freddd@hanmail.net.



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