Hello! 안녕하세요 – Annyeonghaseyo
Finally, I have arrived at Gwangju, South Korea. I have been very excited about learning Korean lifestyle and culture. Luckily, I have a wonderful team, especially enthusiastic Korean buddies, who are willing to help me explore the local areas and create many interesting memories together. I feel very happy because even though we are from different places such as Korea, USA, Greek, Poland, Malaysia, and Canada, we have been closed since the first day.
On the first day of the program, I have been told that every daily interaction is the best way for a foreigner to learn about the lifestyle and the culture of a country. Therefore, I have been trying to learn Korean culture by communicating and interacting with local people every day.
One of the most impressive experiences that I had during the first week in Gwangju is the differences in the cultures of the U.S., Korea, and Vietnam. As a person who was born in Vietnam and has been living in the U.S., I am very interested in discovering cultural differences. There are three aspects I have explored, that I think are the most significant, which are giving and receiving items with two hands, respecting others’ personal space, and the importance of formal language in every conversation.
The first thing I realized since the orientation day is that Korean always use both hands when giving or receiving items from others, especially from older people. This is a very important gesture in Korean culture, which shows respect to another person. For instance, when I came to the convenient store to buy the food, I always gave the money to the cashier by both hand and slightly bowed down to show my respect. I think this is a very beautiful gesture because it shows the appreciation and politeness towards each other in every interaction.
With Vietnamese people, we are also taught that we should use both hands when giving or receiving items from older people. However, Korean culture values this gesture more than Vietnamese culture does. Completely different from Asian culture, this is not a familiar gesture to American. So, I believe this is very significant for us to know about this when interacting with Koreans, either in business or normal life.
Another cultural aspect that I learned is that Koreans have a very strict principle for personal space. Korean people respect others’ personal space. For example, if they are not family or close friends, they do not hug each other when they meet. One of my Korean buddies explained that it would be disrespectful if you hug other people in public.
Since Vietnamese and American people are very comfortable with hugging when meeting friends, I felt it is very interesting and important to know about this. With this experience, I can avoid undesirable misunderstanding in the future if I have opportunities to work with Korean people.
Lastly, I have learned about the importance of formal language in the conversation. Korean always include the word “yo” and “da” at the end of the sentence, which makes it more formal. For example, Korean will say “gomo woyo” for “thank you” in a formal way, and with their close friend, they can say “gomo” instead.
Different from Vietnamese and American culture, Korean people have to use the “formal word” for every sentence, unless they are told that they can talk informally. This experience clearly showed me the high standard of politeness in the conversation of Korean.
After one week in Korea, I realize that Korean culture is very different from Vietnamese culture, even though we are both Asian countries. On the other hand, compared to American, Korean culture is stricter and more formal. These cultural experiences in Korea have helped me be more aware of the differences in every interaction and conversation.
Also, they help me to be more professional and adaptable when working with Korean, specifically, and other severe cultures in general. I still have three more weeks in Korea, and I will try my best to earn more helpful and interesting knowledge, not only from Koreans but also from my friends from all over the world.
I hope that I will have more valuable experience with my Korean buddies and my friends from different places. I will update other wonderful stories in the future to help everyone understand more about the life of a Vietnamese-American student in South Korea.
Thank you! 감사합니다 – Kamsahamnida