Friday, February 17, 2012

Say it Like it is, Korean Style

Koreans are not scared to tell you that you are ugly, fat, or that you look really sick. It's not to say that Koreans aren't nice. They are some of the kindest people I've encountered. They will usually follow up that "you look really sick" statement with a thoughtful, "Are you okay?"

Why don't they skirt around the truth? They simply don't consider it rude to tell a friend something that is true. Actually, it's expected of a good friend to tell you the truth about your physical appearance. When discussing the issue with some of my lovely Korean co-workers, one said, "I would be angry if my friends didn't tell me I was getting fat." To which another said, "That's love!" 

Their bluntness can be off putting when you're not expecting it. I laughed once because something was so straight forward and rude by American standards and it was just stated casually by one of my Korean friends. It totally caught me off guard and made me think--two things that always happen when living or traveling abroad.

Being forced to compare your culture against another is all part of the experience. Why do we do the things we do? This question is rarely addressed while living in your native country day to day but is examined practically every day while on the road. It's what makes travel so great. Travel makes you question not only all the new experiences and customs around you, but also all the "normal" things you do.  

Travel gives you a unique perspective into your own life. Is shaking hands better than bowing? Are forks better than chop sticks? Should we be more direct and less comforting towards our friends' physical appearance?

All are questions I never thought twice about before, but now that I'm living in a different culture, they come up frequently. Examining your life through the eyes of a foreigner will make you not only more open minded, but more compassionate, patient, and understanding towards everyone around you both at home and while traveling.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell any of my friends, "You're getting fat; don't eat that cookie in your hand," but at least I won't be offended if a Korean friend says it to me. Maybe I'll actually hug them because then I know we're besties.  


  1. I have Chinese friends like this too. I'm really immersed in the Chinese world with my profession, thus I had to get use to it quickly. It was so tough at first. I was constantly having my feelings hurt.

    1. Yeah, it can be hard. Especially since it's so different from what we're used to! We just have to smile and take it in stride, even if that's the last thing we want to do.

  2. This post holds many truths. My mother-in-law, for example, always asks how I'm doing. I reply with, "Good! Everthing's great." She then asks, "Then why aren't you wearing any makeup today?? Are you sick or something?" Geez, I didn't think I looked THAT bad with my natural face. Lol! She's so blunt it cracks me up.

    1. hahaha At least you know not to take it too seriously! :)