Friday, February 02, 2007

Things I Appreciate About Korean Culture, Part II

Part I is here.

Another somewhat subtle thing I appreciate about Korean culture is the speaking tones. You use different tones when you are speaking to different subsets of people. These subsets could include people like familiar friends, acquaintances, God or royalty (although the royalty part is outdated these days), older people, or unfamiliar people. In particular, I like how there is a different way to talk to older people, in most cases being people that you respect and want to show respect.

When I go over to the JunkFemale's grandmothers' houses, they are always very hospitable. Actually, I don't know if one of them is always so hospitable. I've only been there once ;) Anyways, they are some of the oldest people I've ever known, though I will admit I'm not around old people very much. When I'm there, usually what's going through my idle mind is what a wealth of life experience, and thus wisdom, that they have within their heads. Plus the fact that they are kindly old widows. This makes me want to show them respect in all ways, including respect through tone.

When you address people in English, there is not much way to address them directly except by saying "you" somewhere in the sentence. There is not a very natural way to avoid this in English, although in Korean it would be very natural and not at all strange. Now, of course, it would be quite strange to speak this way in English, and probably impolite. But it is perfectly normal in Korean. You *NEVER* address respected people as "you," unless you are making an open attempt to get assaulted. When you are talking to respected peoples in Korean and want to refer to the said person, you use their title. Yes, even if you are talking to the person. This means that when I go home and ask my mom if she made dinner yet, I say something along the lines of "Did Mom make dinner yet?" Like I said, this is perfectly normal and polite in Korean. And it might be why I find it strange to address respected people as "you" when I'm speaking English.

However, I will concede that there are a few things I can do in English to be respectful in addressing respected ones. It is usually not a polite thing to use the interjection "Hey" or stop your sentence so you can get that monster belch out. If by now you've drawn your mental picture of me as Mr. Manners, please take the eraser to that, for it's a false image. I only pretend to be Mr. Manners when the situation calls for it, and situations don't always call for it.

(BTW, I have no idea how many parts are in this Korean culture series.)

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  • CappuccinoLife

    That is very cool. I know my husband was somewhat shocked at the familiarity implied by the way we American speak. He still often beats around the bush in attempts to be polite and respectful, only it doesn't work so well on Americans. Just confuses them.

    I wish Josiah was a blogger. I only have a vague sense of Ethiopian culture, and certainly not enough to do proper compare/contrasts with American culture. I just know the two are very, very, very different!