Hello, thank you and other cultural isms

I’ve been in South Korea nearly a week. Although I’ve spent much of that time working in various media areas, I’ve seen a few things around the area to be exposed to the local culture. One thing I’m determined to do, is to make as good attempt as I can to speak some Korean. Finding it a difficult task. For starters, Korean is phonetically pretty different for me, and saying longer words doesn’t feel natural or comfortable. Nonetheless, I’ve started with “hello”, which is “Ann-young-haseyo”…..and “thank you”, as “komeh-samnida”. It has taken most of the week to commit just these to memory, and I still don’t feel comfortable in how I’m saying them. I wonder what my “accent” sounds like to them. Most everyone we have been dealing with knows enough English, but I still want to show an attempt. I have seen a good reaction when I do. Wonder how much more I can figure out in the coming weeks.

Other things we’ve noticed: they don’t separate male/female roles the same way we do. Example: a woman could be wanding me through security, or man wanding a woman. Woman cleaning the men’s bathroom–they just walk in and do their tasks without a thought to anyone using the urinals. And the men don’t care or even make a reaction. I was about to use a bathroom inside, and saw a woman cleaning it. I waited outside until noticing men going in and out anyway. No one seems to care either way.

Police cars run with their lights all the time (not siren, just lights). We wondered how you know you’re being pulled over. Also, local police do not carry firearms! Incredible, but there is very low crime in South Korea, and very little violent crimes. Strict regulation of firearms here. And to dial emergency services, it’s “119,” not 911.The top speed limit here is 50kph, 45mph.

You take your shoes off in homes and traditional restaurants. In our condo, there is a shelf by the door for your shoes. The cleaning staff always has slippers sitting right inside the door, and the bathroom. For myself, I always have worn my shoes on in my own house, so this was a harder habit to break. I did that after getting ready to leave one day. Cleaning staff comes in….both in their socks. Here I am walking all over the place in my shoes! I felt like I was being very insulting. So now…..shoes are kept off even in the apartment! Non traditional places like bars and fast food don’t have this rule.

So far, we’ve experienced a very polite and friendly vibe here. I would love to see if there are differences in this in a large city like Seoul, but my schedule probably won’t let me get there to explore.

Until my next blog entry, “annyunghikeseyo” (goodbye) 🙂

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