Speaking a foreign culture

There’s more to being Korean than drinking soju and eating kimchi. There’s more to being Russian than drinking vodka and eating caviar. And there’s more to being American than drinking beer and eating burgers. Culture goes way deeper.

While living in Korea, I’ve picked up on some of the manners here.

  • Passing items with two hands to be polite
  • Bowing instead of shaking hands or waving
  • Placing the spoon next to the plate and the chopsticks on the outside

I’ve picked up on some of the style.

  • Black suits in the middle of the day
  • Short skirts, modest tops
  • High-heels everywhere, T-shirts nowhere

I’ve also picked up on some (a generalization) of the mindset.

  • Institutionalized education is everything. You need more of it, no matter how much you have.
  • Diligence is required. Twelve-hour days at work are normal.
  • Friends are the same age. Otherwise, you’re not really friends.

But all of this is only a glimpse into what it means to thoroughly speak the culture. It goes beyond what you wear or eat or say or do, or even what you think. Speaking a foreign culture means becoming a part of it, and that only results from living in it.

Interestingly enough, the same is true for a culture within a culture, like that strange group that hangs out down the street or whatever.