September 27, 2011

How to Make the Most of Your Life in Korea. . . or Anywhere

If life in Korea is so bad, it must be Korea's fault. That is far too often the attitude taken by many expats. And to that I say, please. . . Too many of these Korea haters do not take advantage of the resources that are available to them to make such a statement. Too many of them do not make a good faith effort at learning the language, which would greatly alleviate their frustrations about going about their daily lives in Korea. This would also help clear up any misunderstandings due to culture/language. They would be able to access a greater variety of media outside of English translations of Korean papers that would help them learn and understand more about Korean society.

When I see some bloggers regurgitate what they have read in the blogosphere or English translations of Korean articles, I just shake my head because I see how clueless they are about what is actually going on. They hear lots of stories from other expats and think that it is representative of what is actually presented in the Korean media. English translations of Korean articles do not fully cover what is reported in the Korean papers. In addition to reading the Korean news, learning Korean would enable such expats to engage more fully with Korean people, asking them for advice and opinions about what is going on. To think that one could fully grasp the nuances and intricacies of a culture that one has not fully studied or grown up in is ludicrous. Culture is not something you can figure out like math. There is no universal conception of culture. If you want to understand a culture, you need to understand how it sees itself and then, you will understand why it does/values things in a certain fashion.

Another thing that expats can do to acculturate to Korea is to view it with an open mind and a sense of good will. Give Koreans the benefit of the doubt when you do not fully understand something. Don't just assume that they are backwards/illogical because they do things in a way that YOU do not understand. If you approach things with a sense of good will, you are more likely to receive it back. If you want understanding, give understanding. Remember, you are in a foreign country and the onus is on you to understand the culture.

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