Korean life vs. American life

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Korean life vs. American life

Ana Nimo, Staff writer

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For years, Korea has taken on a lot of U.S. culture, so there are a number of similarities between the countries which have grown over time. With globalization, Korean elements of culture have also influenced the United States, albeit at a slower rate.

Yeana Park, a freshman enrolled at Cottonwood High School, explains many similarities between both countries and the differences. She said, “Most things people do here in America we share in Korea.”

By my own experience, which includes many visits to Korea because my dad is half Korean,   I see that everyone always divides by gender in Korea. Sure, there are some exceptions, but in general women congregate with women and men with men. It is optional, but most companies, schools, churches, etc, would rather start things by separating genders.  

Another issue is talking about splitting the bill after a meal. Splitting the bill means to take the total cost and split it between the two. However, Koreans (and Asians) in general will never try to split the bill. Instead, they will try to pay for the whole meal. For example, my family and I were eating out with another family. At the end of the meal, my father managed to secure paying rights and paid. However, not to be one upped, the father of the other family left money on top of our car and ran off before we could give it back. This is serious business folks.  

Yeana laughs hysterically while explaining, “When me and my friends go out for a meal it’s really peaceful from the start, but at the end we end up fighting about who is paying the meal, because the person that pays the whole bill is considered the polite one, so everyone really just wants to be the good guy, and I have friends that verify this.” 

In Korea it seems like everyone J-walks. Yeana says, it’s usually at intersections, that we don’t really need to wait for the “walk” light, since this is Korea we are talking about, but then American senior Neil (declined to give last name) who is enrolled in Cottonwood told me the same thing about the intersections here in America. He also explained that everyone thinks their country is world class. The language, the commerce, the education, the government system and politics – no one says it’s perfect, but most say their own is one of the best. Everyone “knows” they’re not a racist. Most of the time now, this doesn’t create that much of an issue, but it’s certainly easier to assume when you never interact with other races. Yeana said,  “Everyone in Korea would consider not being a racist, but I know people that aren’t really true to their words and it seems that America follows the same case as people in Korea.”

And now for the differences. Yeana said, “I have been in America for a year now, and I’ve noticed the huge differences between these two countries, and I think that it’s important to know those differences.” First, Korean people show respect for elders. Younger people bow their heads to older people in Korea. The younger people bow their heads slightly to show respect. If they’re about the same age (and they are adults), they both bow. Addressing an elder by their name is rude, so Koreans call teachers, ‘teacher.’  Yeana said, “I recognize that there’s a more comfortable and open expression with teachers and elders in America which can be confusing for people from Korea. This is because there are no words to sort people out.” The second issue is about school. In elementary and middle school, Korean students go to school at 8am and go home at 3pm. But in high school, they go to school at 6am and go home at about 6pm, because Koreans must study hard before they get into college. “Once you get into high school, that is when studying must be the biggest priority to you, because it will start to be very competitive when you need to get into college.” In Korea, students have a 10 or 20 minute break time after each 40 or 50 minute class and an hour for lunch time. The subjects studied at Korean high schools are the same as those at American high schools except for classes of Korean, Chinese characters, and Home Skills.

Students in America have shorter breaks and must get to their class within 5 minutes. Yeana said, “Subjects in America are similar to Korean subjects. But the biggest difference is that American students seem very happy because they have more opportunities to do whatever they want and they aren’t required to study as much as Koreans do. But I think that both countries have students who probably study hard and some that don’t.”

The third difference is music. Today, Korean singers are traveling through the world. In former days, they were popular in Japan, China, and the Southeast Asian countries. Last year in Taiwan, a kpop boy band called ‘Super Junior’ made an album, and that album was placed in the first rank for over 56 weeks. Also this year, Korean singers are spreading through the internet, and they had concerts in Paris, London, and New York. As for Boy band B.T.S., they really made it to the top, receiving a Grammy award at the billboards, and getting more attention and more fans. Kpop still are not very well known, and they have to work hard to be heard. For many years American singers have traveled around the world. Some of them are very popular in faraway countries. Yeana said, “The Korean school where I used to go, lots of students enjoy American songs. English exams in Korea actually use the American songs to test listening. The song, “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson is one song that is used. 

After so many years passing by, both countries have had so many differences, yet so many similarities. Yeana concluded, “I think if both countries could share together our cultures and just learn some things, then we could become closer.”

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