Korean Culture

Since I have been in Korea, my days have been filled mainly with getting adapted to the culture, besides doing some things with SYME. I have been amazed at how much of the Korean culture reminds me of Brazil, yet still has its unique features. Here are some of the things that I have learned:

Koreans don’t eat, they slurp

Actually, meal time is generally an interesting endeavor. I think my most interesting adventures so far have definitely taken place at meal time. To begin, Koreans absolutely love seafood, seaweed, and anything that resembles sushi, which I do not enjoy at all. They also love noodles, and while I can eat most things one way or another with chopsticks, I have yet to figure out how to do ramen noodles with them. To top it all off, Koreans (guys and girls alike), have a habit of slurping their food to show that it is delicious. I like to say that I have not tried the slurping yet because I am still figuring out the chopsticks. Hopefully that will last a month =)

“Boolgogi” with two teachers and a missionary

Everything is ours, not mine

This is the reason that I have to keep food stashed in my own bedroom. If I leave it out in the kitchen, the Koreans have complete freedom to take it, and it does not cross their mind twice. I was also told that if I left my toiletry bag, with all my shampoo, soap, face wash, etc. in the bathroom, they would use it. I decided to leave it in the bathroom anyways, so I wouldn’t have to haul that stuff back and forth almost every day, only to find that some girl had stuffed a bunch of her clothes into it one morning. So much for being practical…..

My bedroom
The kitchen in my apartment

There is no such thing as traffic rules

This is one thing that definitely would apply to Brazil. People here don’t seem to have stop signs, or any particular side of the road to drive one, and they park everywhere, even where there is no parking space. Most of the streets near SYME are lined with cars parked throughout the day, and the system here works in such a way that cars will have phone numbers in the window to be called whenever a locked car needs to get out.  In other words, people are used to being locked in by other cars, but it is no problem at all. They just call the number and wait five minutes.

SYME road

Age is a big deal

In Korean culture, age is a big deal because it determines how people talk and act towards each other. Older people must always be respected, so the language young people use changes depending on who they talk to. Because a lot of such cultural guidelines depend on the age, it is very normal for strangers to ask for each other’s age. Once this is determined, they are free to refer to each other as a friend, elder, or respected person.

Korean house with a blue roof
Taking a walk near the air base (can you see the Korean and American flags together?)

Leaving shoes off at the door is expected

Korean streets are very dirty and full of trash, so it is appropriate for people to leave their shoes off at the entrance before entering a house or apartment. I do not know whether it is common in many stores, but while I was at the downtown market the other day, one place required that people take their shoes off, which seemed kind of strange to me. Interestingly enough, people also leave slippers at their back door for when they need to go to the back porch or back yard.

The marketplace

Needless to say, my time here in Korea has already been an adventure discovering new things, and this week I cannot wait to discover the joy of Christ in the students.  Our classes will begin tomorrow morning, and the preparations have gone really well as far as classes go. Today, I had the privilege of meeting most students as they came into the dorms, and doing some final things that could only be done today, like preparing for a skit and decorating the auditorium for our theme. As the students came in, several of them took the time to help me, and their simple willingness to serve and hang out with me was so encouraging.

Here are some ways that you can keep praying:

  • Pray that God would give calm to me and the other teachers as we prepare for our first classes. At this point, I am not feeling too overwhelmed or nervous, but I know that another teacher, Esther, has felt a little bit uneasy about starting, because she has never taught in this setting before.
  • Pray that there would be continual unity; not that any people are at odds, but that since the students, teachers, and leaders are such close-knit community, the worst thing that could happen would be for something to come between us as we work closely together. God has brought an amazing spirit, and we pray that it may grow, and not be frustrated.
  • Pray for the growth of students and teachers alike. The whole program of SYME would be nothing if it weren’t for this last point. We want to say by the end of the June term that our hearts are closer to God than they were in May, so pray that we would be challenged to take steps of faith, to maintain accountability, and to truly seek Him for who He is.

NOTE: This post was written for yesterday, but it was not uploaded until today. Another post will soon come to update you on the SYME classes that started.

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