A Lesson in Manners
As we’ve all encountered here in Korea, there are many cultural differences between our culture and theirs. Often times there may be things we do that are offensive without our even realizing it, which happened on a number of instances during my field trip with school. I learned of this later at night when the teacher I was rooming with sat me down and explained all my mistakes and said she’d been laughing at me all day. Nice.
Blunder #1: During our first dinner in the cafeteria, I fill up my food tray with the normal dishes – rice, soup, kimchi, etc, etc. Normally I put the rice in the bottom left circle of the tray, but this time I put it in the bottom right. No big deal right? Wrong. Apparently they ALWAYS put the rice in the bottom left and only put it in the bottom right during funeral ceremonies. Really? Whatever.
Blunder #2: The first night of the trip, after dinner, all the teachers gathered in one of the hotel rooms to have a dessert of fruit, nuts, and dried squid (yum). Everyone was there, including the VP and the rest of the male administrators. We were all sitting on the floor, most everyone dressed in pajamas, and the VP and others told me repeatedly to make myself at home and enjoy. After sitting on the floor for an hour or so, it started getting uncomfortable, which it always does. I saw another male teacher sit with his legs straight out, so I thought there would be no harm in doing the same. Right? Wrong. Apparently that is extremely offensive, and when asked why it was ok if he did it, she said he was being rude as well.
Blunder #3: Then, after sitting on the floor for an extended period of time, my bad knee started hurting, as it usually does. Since it was also blazing hot in this room, I pushed my pant leg up and proceeded to mess with the scar on my knee to ease my pain. Apparently something I thought no one would notice, especially since I had been repeatedly told to relax, was an extremely suggestive and offensive act. Fantastic.
So after feeling thoroughly embarrassed, I apologized to my co-teacher and told her to please tell the other teachers sorry if I offended anyone. To which she said, no it’s ok, I don’t think anyone noticed. Great. Then I got to thinking, you know what? Koreans could use a lesson in manners also. Here’s what I would tell Koreans if only I could:
1. Laughing at struggling foreigners is not ok. Nor is obviously talking about them to their face and pointing and laughing hysterically, and then expecting you to have a response as if you had suddenly, miraculously learned Korean overnight.
2. Cutting in line, pushing, elbowing and being otherwise completely rude and disrespectful is not ok, no matter how old you are.
3. Hocking up snot in public is not only disgusting it is also unsanitary. For a country supposedly so concerned with health they wear face masks at the slightest cold, this doesn’t seem like a hard concept. Neither does the fact that you shouldn’t have a cigarette constantly hanging out of your mouth, especially from behind your face mask.
I have a feeling this may turn into a regular post topic, so stay tuned for more.
Oh yea, and ajimas, stop staring, haven’t you ever seen a waygukin before? Thanks roketship!