Over the past 2 weeks in Seoul, I have come to realize the cultural differences between South Korea and the USA. Despite the huge amount of globalization influence from the USA and other parts of the world, the traditional is homogeneous with the modern world. For example, people in Seoul are well reserved, mannered, and quiet. So, it is really obvious to tell who is a foreigner and who is not. I believe before the pandemic hit, people in Seoul welcomed foreigners; however, after the pandemic, it was clear that the locals were not very welcoming of foreigners. This could be because people in South Korea dislike the anti-mask American or the virus-carrying Chinese. I have experienced plenty of backlash of stares and statements from taxi drivers stating their dislike of Chinese and Japanese people and how they can’t understand the anti-mask protest in America. While all those comments can be ignored, I had to consult with a Korean local student here to understand the discrimination against foreigners.
~Why are Korean people unwelcoming of foreigners?
It is not that Koreans dislike foreigners, but more or so dislike the change of traditional to the modern world. I started to realize a lot of Koreans who dislike foreigners are mostly elders while students are more open-minded about the presence of foreigners. My friend that I consulted told me that Koreans are very closed-minded since the society that they live inputs so much pressure on their backs and opportunities are very limited. To climb the social class in South Korea, the chances are slim.
~What are some of the major cultural shocks you have experienced coming to South Korea?
From my own experience, the cultural shock has not been as bad since I grew up with the standards of an Asain household. However, I believe it is the fast-paced cities, night-life, and drinking culture here that I was shocked by. Almost everyone in South Korea drinks often. To the point that Korea University Students have a nickname known as the drinking school. While the thought of drinking every night sounds bad, it seems like in South Korea people drink just to socialize. In a sense, the drinking culture here is much better than the partying culture in America. People in South Korea like to drink with a small group of friends since due to their busy lives, it might be the only time they get to see their friends. Student life in South Korea consists of studying, lectures, and more studying. It is no wonder why people in South Korea are so keen on drinking and nightlife. For Koreans, drinking is a way of relieving stress and socializing with their friends.
Aside from the few discriminatory encounters, my study abroad experience in South Korea has been super pleasant. I do have to say that because it is my first time living a city life, it does feel overwhelming from time to time. However, giving myself twice a week to rest has been a great way to reflect on my experience here in South Korea.