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Vann Hassell

C&T 491
Dr. Gonzalez-Bueno
Cross-cultural Awareness
1) When the same behavior has a different meaning:
One of the things that fits this kind of cultural difference in Korea is beckoning. In
America, we us a full hand, palm-up, with a waving motion to beckon someone over.
Here in Korea, this kind of wave is typically used for animals and when you use it with a
person, it implies that they are underneath you. To beckon a person, you use a full hand
with the palm down and the same waving motion. This is much more polite and friendly
in Korea. It took me a while to transition to using this kind of beckon because it feels
very unfamiliar to me. But after six weeks here in Korea, it has become much more
2) When different behaviors have the same meaning:
One of the biggest differences here in Korea is how you acknowledge one
another. In America, we would typically wave or, if it is someone we are meeting for the
first time, we shake hands. While some Koreans do shake hands, the primary way
Koreans acknowledge each other is by bowing. Whether it is passing each other in the
hall or on the street, Koreans always give a slight bow to acknowledge one another. What
is interesting about this to me is that there are different kinds of bows and different
situations for bowing. When I pass a peer, I give a slight nod, but if I were to pass the
principal of the school, I would be expected to stop and give a full, ninety-degree bow.
Additionally, if a student bows to me, I am not expected to reciprocate because we are of
differing social statuses. The bowing in Korean culture is a different behavior that has the
same meaning as waving and handshakes in American culture.
3) When behaviors have the same meaning, but occur in different realms or situations:
In both Korea and America, table manners are very important. What is so
interesting is that each culture has a different set of accepted norms. One example is
slurping. In Korea, slurping a soup dish is completely acceptable, but in America this is
not acceptable at all. Also, the utensils used in each culture are quite different. America
has forks, knives, and spoons and Korea has chopsticks and spoons. From my personal
experience, this results in some slightly different accepted norms. In America, it is typical
for people to set down their utensils in between bites and it is seen as a bit rude to prepare
you next bite and hold it in your utensils while you finish another bite. In Korea, due to
the technical nature of the chopsticks, it is much more common for people to hold on to
their utensils and even point and gesture with them. While this is quite generalized and
does not hold for every case, it is something that I noticed. Finally, one thing that
Americans do that Koreans see as rude is picking up food with your fingers. When given
a plate of fried chicken, chicken wings, or ribs, Americans will typically begin eating
with their hands. Koreans, however, will still use their chopsticks and spoon to pull the
meat off the bone and eat with their chopsticks. This has been difficult for me, but it has
been a fun challenge.

Vann Hassell
C&T 491
Dr. Gonzalez-Bueno
4) When your way is assumed to be best (ethnocentrism):
Before I talk about this section, I feel that I must mention that I have a strong bias
towards this topic. What I have seen in Korea and the views that I have been forced to
accept, especially here at the school, would be called by some ethnocentric and they
would be right. My bias is that I agree with many of the traditional views held by
Koreans and so when I talk about Korean ethnocentrism (that your cultures approach to
something is the best approach) I will often refer to it in a very positive light. I realize
that this may not be a very popular opinion, but it is the one I hold. One final note: while
I do agree with many of the traditional Korean values that I have learned about here in
Korea, I do not believe in forcing other people to conform to your own beliefs and so any
time that I say I agree with a set of values, I may disagree with Koreas treatment and
processing of their ideals.
Here at the school and even with in the city of Gwangju, I have felt that Korea
holds to very traditional values. As a Christian, I am actually in support of many of these
values. While I understand that many of the values held perpetuate a cycle of oppression,
especially for women, that I do not agree with, I do believe that the principles of these
values are well founded. I love the respect Koreans show for their elders and that
marriage is still viewed in the traditional sense here. At Kyunghwa, while I do think the
dress code is a bit strict for the teachers, I appreciate their desire to maintain a respectable
and well-disciplined environment for the students. I do not see this as limiting but as
providing a safe space within which the students can explore and come to an
understanding that having limits and rules is not necessarily a bad thing. Again, I want to
state that while I agree with many of the principles of Korean values, I do not necessarily
agree with all of the ways these views are lived out.
5) When a culture is assumed to be homogenous (stereotyping):
For this section, I feel as though this was something I did more than I
experienced. Although most of our time was spent at the school, when we were out in
Seoul or Sokcho, I never felt as though I was under any stereotypes that placed me in a
position that I could not escape from. This may be the result of having had such a short
time outside of the school, but I personally have not felt stereotyped.
I am ashamed to admit that I had a lot more stereotypes before coming to Korea
than I realized. Some of these came from my own assumptions, others from teachers
making comments about Korean culture, but I have found that all the generalizations I
made about people were wrong. Yes, there were a few individuals who fit specific ideas I
had about Koreans, especially in the older population, but not as many as I had expected.
What I really learned on this trip is that people are people wherever you go. Yes, you can
make generalizations based on recurring experiences, but to project those onto another
individual is dangerous and often inaccurate. Each person we have met here in Korea has
been different and to limit anyone of them to a stereotype of the culture would have been
a mistake. No one person can be simplified to a bunch of assumptions. This has been a
valuable lesson for me to learn.