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The Parthenon

Column: Common Misconceptions


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There are some cultural differences between South Korea and the U.S.

Generally, in the U.S, when meeting someone formally for the first time, you shake hands or say “how do you do?” or “how are you doing?” which means “hello.” However, in South Korea we bow, which means respect for a formal meeting for the first time. This condition can include meeting people who are older than you, a business meeting or meeting your child’s teacher, for example.

And another difference is we do not hug during a first meeting, unlike in the U.S. Hugging in Korea generally happens for close friends, couples or family.

What I’ve felt in the U.S, people have a sense of closeness regardless of age, sex or job. It does not mean that people are unfriendly or cold in South Korea. I think it is just because of our culture that we respect people in different ways, such as bowing.

Secondly, we have two different ways to speak in Korean, the normal way and honorifics. For honorifics, we must use it for people who are older than us and it has quite different grammar than the normal way. But, as far as I know, there is no specific different grammar like normal grammar and an honorifics in the U.S. So, sometimes I feel a little unusual when I am talking with people who are older than me.

Those are quite different cultural things between two countries and I like to experience new cultures from many countries including the U.S and everything I have learned in here is valuable and special.

This column was submitted as an assignment for an INTO Marshall writing class.

The instructor, Saba Gebrehiwot, can be contacted at [email protected]

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