Korean culture is very different compared to Finnish culture. Here age is important, and you are expected to respect older people because the hierarchy between generations is important. Koreans even talk about older people more politely and in the Korean language they even have this unpolite and polite ways to say words. Usually you use the unpolite Korean just with your friends and polite version to strangers, teacher and older people because that is a more respectable way to communicate. In Korea there are also many unwritten rules for behaviour, for example if someone gives you something you reach out with two hands.
I have previously already talked about the study culture in Korea, but I didn’t talk about exam weeks. During the exam weeks we don’t have a curfew because many students study during the night. It is quite common that if you go to coffee shop at 3 am there are some Korean students that are still studying for their exams. Also, many students study for the whole day, so you don’t see them when you go out for dinner. For many Korean students the grades are everything and you can see that because when my midterm week was over, and we got out scores usually Korean students get higher points than exchange students.
In Korea some people are very curious about foreigners. People can out of nowhere ask questions such as where you are from or just say hi to you. I have experienced this in Korea quite a lot and usually kids are more curious than adults or kids just are braver to ask questions. So, if you travel to Korea at least learn your country’s name in Korean because that is most common question. Although people will often understand even if you answer to them in English.
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By far the biggest culture shock for me was the steep language barrier because people don’t generally speak English well here, though many of the locals understand it quite well. Of course, some people can speak English fluently, but most either don’t or refuse to. For instance, in my “hometown” Daegu tax drivers seldomly speak English at all.
Even though people usually don’t speak English they still try their best to communicate with you. I now have many Korean friends and even though finding a common language is sometimes a problem, we still have fun together. The best part of having local friends is probably that you can see much deeper into the Korean culture. For instance, visiting some restaurants requires you to quite fluently speak Korean. I recommended that if you travel to Korea (or anywhere else) just keep your mind open and your heart big, that way your experience in Korea is going to be memorable.
Kind regards, Elina <3