Posted by : Kia Mendez 09 February 2014
I've been in Korea for 3 months now and it seems like I arrived here just yesterday. Life in Korea is fast paced and busy most of the time, you need to force yourself to slow down and look at the chaos from a distance sometimes (or at least that's how I feel).
Since I am 23 years old I started traveling and dealing with cultural shocks, so this time I haven't suffer too much of that so called "cultural shock". However, there ARE many differences and things that you need to change in order to survive in Korea -NO... I'm not talking about eating Kimchi, call older guys Oppa, watch K-dramas or listen to K-pop.
Here is my list of things that I've learned so far, that might help other westerners to appreciate and understand Koreans a lot better:
1. Learn the culture. This applies to any other country in the world you visit. Read the history, understand the past, respect their costums and courtesies. Korean culture seems to be very polite, simple things like serving water to others or giving your seat to elders/kids in the subway might get you looks of approval by the Korean community.
2. Forget all what you've learned in K-pop and K-dramas. To be honest, the Koreans I've met so far don't like K-pop nor K-dramas. Remember, all that crap is a fantasy created by the media to get money. Commercial crap! Just like the "novelas" we hate so much in Puerto Rico (yeeeaaah right). No, not all Korean guys are as sweet and caring as you see them in dramas and not all girls are so submissive and naive. So, please... before coming to Korea take all that stereotypes out of your head (if possible) and stop thinking that calling every older guy "oppa" is cute. No, sometimes it's creepy.
3. Korean language is not easy to learn, but try hard to learn it anyway. I am a master at saying "thank you" and "how much is it?", it might get me around, but it's not enough to communicate with people effectively. The reason why I think you should learn Korean is because people will respect you and you'll be able to understand when they are talking bad about you and tell them politely to fuck off (ahhhh I bet you already saw that coming, especially because it's me). DON'T LEARN THE SLANG! (that's what my Korean friends always yell at me) I don't know why, but just don't do it.
4. Make friends. The best way to get around Seoul and Korea in general is by going out and making friends. NOTE: Koreans don't usually talk to strangers, but if they are drunk enough they might be less shy and will actually approach you and make you part of their crowd. This way you can actually make friends for a lifetime. Koreans are really awesome when it comes to friendship, even at the distance they will care for you and wish you well. Don't betray Korean friendship... they will hate you forever, no turning back... SERIOUSLY!
5. Keep an open-mind and keep stereotypes/prejudice/discriminatory comments/jokes to yourself. Honestly, I don't get why people need to be so ignorant and lacking education. Every time I say that I am attracted to Korean guys I get the stinky-eye by most of my westerner friends... even worse I get all these comments and stupid jokes about Asian guys, followed by the typical comment "you are too much for an Asian guy". Well, it seems like I am too much for westerners that have left me hanging in the dark of loneliness (lol, that's just me trying to be dramatic). No... seriously... when a westerner man goes out with a Korean woman, that's OK. When a western woman goes out with a Korean man EVERYBODY gives them the weird stare, because it's unusual and not accepted in either culture.
6. Ajjumas. Learn ajjumas in Korea. It seems that there are no balanced ajjumas (elder woman). Either they are really sweet or really mean, but no middle point with ajjumas. Learn to appreciate the sweet ajjumas and learn to run away from the ajjumas that will push you around in the subway (they are really strong women, watch out...) ^^
7. Hot-headed cultures. Last but not least, know that Korean culture is very emotional (or so I've seen). Especially taxi drivers 0_o jajajaja en serio, los taxistas estan a otro nivel. Well, I am Puerto Rican and we are known for not having patience and for being hot-headed... guess what? Koreans too. So be mindful of this cultural characteristics that separate us as humans and start looking for those traits that connect us in this beautiful, chaotic and dysfuntionally awesome world (Is "dysfunctionally" a word or did I just made that up? jaja)
Remember that in American you laugh "haha", in Puerto Rican we laugh "jaja" and in Korean you laugh "ㅋㅋ"... All seems to be different but in the end we all are just enjoying the ride in our own languages. Learn the differences, be patient and embrace the new cultural differences. Korea have so much culture and so much to offer (i.e. FOOD!!!!!!) that you will be surprised of its treasures (to include my awesome Korean friends).