Saturday, 16 January 2010

Bit more about language and culture

Greeting someone in Korea one is supposed to bow gently and say:

- Annyeong - hasseyo?

We hear exactly the same in return:

- Annyeong- hasseyo?

We're not supposed to shake ones hand saying: "Hi dude". If we meet someone new, it's better to talk less and observe more. It might be challenging for an individualistic extrovert who doesn't always know when to listen.

In Korea, like in the whole East Asia, hierarchy matters a lot. So to someone older we would say:

-Annyeonghashymnika? - just in case. This way it is more formal, more polite.

Does this mean that older people are respected by default in Korea? I would not bet my dollars on that.

On the Seoul subway special seats for them are provided in the back of every coach, and noone else dares to sit there. Apart from those though, there is a brutal competition, who comes first, takes it.

Once I have witnessed such scene: Korean student was late for the morning classes, caught the hell for being late (on SNU it is not welcome). He bowed in front of the professor and very quietly and slowly reached his place in the last row. Immediately straightened and turned on his mobile tv with funny antenna.

- What are you doing, the prof kicks you out in a second! - I told him.

- No worries, he won't. He can't see that far, that's why I sit in the last row, hehe.

Ah...sounds familiar. It happens all over Poland at every university, sometimes even the teaching assistant PhD is late for morning classes after the whole night spent on FB or...elsewhere.

I am quite sure that every Western society got through this moment in between traditional obedience towards the elders along with collectivist aproach to social duties and one's own happiness and individual path in life.

Maybe Korea is going through similar transformation just now.

Time to say goodbye.

The person who leaves says in Korean:

- Annyeonghikeseyo.

Person who stays, replies:

- Annyeonghikaseyo.

There is no direct translation, it just is like that.

1 comment:

  1. AnnyeonghiKEseyo is more liken stay and be well.
    AnnyeonghiKAseyo is more like go well or the saying goes go with god.
    Subtle KE and KA is the difference between go and stay.
    Annyeong - hasseyo? is more like asking how are you?
    Annyeonghaszymnika? this isn't necessarily to address elder or more respectable person. I think it's more like mutual respect, a kid wouldn't say that to a adult or adult to a kid. But one adult to another in a formal business manor.

    The East has been assimilating West for about little more a than 100 years now and another 100 years they won't be any distinction anymore. It will be a world like the movie Blade Runner. All mixed in speaking street slangs that are not english nor korean nor jappanese but all mixed.

    Do you remember the MTV when they actually played music video. Compare that to youtube, in mere twenty years later people are imitating people in a fraction of second and in global scale.

    and we all fall in some where in between. Right?


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