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The Gachon Herald
While living in Korea
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Updated : 2012.02.03  16:45:21
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  Hello. I am Minami Ebisawa and I am from Tokyo, Japan to study in Korea for a dual degree program. I have been taking the Korean language and literature course. Eight months have already passed since I came to Gachon University. I got interested in Korean when I was a high school student and often came to South Korea on a trip before coming here for the dual degree program. However, after living here in Korea for 8 months, I was able to know new aspects of South Korea which I was not able to know by traveling. I would like to write about what I have felt by living in Korea and the cultural differences between Korea & Japan.
  First, I noticed that Korean people are polite to superiors. When drinking alcohol in front of one's superiors, Korean people turn their faces toward the people younger than them. I got used to this culture now but felt strange at first as there is no such culture in Japan. I think that Japanese students should also follow this, since I think Japanese students lack manners, especially to professors. And by looking at the students who take the same subject as me (OR who belong to the same department) at this University, I learned courtesy is important not only toward professors or older people with a huge age difference but also toward seniors who are close to my age. I found that even a one-year difference is significant in Korea.
  Secondly, the Korean drinking culture is different from that of Japan. Although I heard that Korean people consume a lot alcohol when I was in Japan, I found out it was not really how it sounded. When I attended a drinking party for the first time after coming to Korea, I was truly surprised by the atmosphere, it was filled with vigor. Not only the atmosphere but also the way of drinking is different from that of Japan. When I went out for a drink with my friends and I was drinking slowly by myself after giving a toast with others, one of my friends said to me "Why are you drinking alone?" and she drank with me. People often drink alcohol alone in Japan, and I was able to find the difference between Japan and Korea. In Korea, it seems that the idea of “drinking together with other people” is stronger than in Japan.
  Thirdly, the distance between people is very close in Korea. Since people are very close to their friends of the opposite sex, I couldn’t tell who were couples and who were just friends at first. It may explain how I came to realize and feel the deep and strong relationships among people in Korea. In Japan, it is common to eat alone and since there are many people keeping a certain distance even with a very close friend, the close relationships between Korean people was eye opening to me as a Japanese person.
  Lastly, Korean people ask for help to strangers around them when they have something they don’t know. Korean people sometimes ask directions or how to buy a subway ticket even to me, who am a foreigner. At first I thought "Why do they ask directions even to a foreigner?" However, I recently felt happy when I could help those strangers and also felt that I have gradually understood the culture of South Korea. If there is something I don’t know and ask Korean people, they would tell me kindly. It seems that this culture comes from the Korean way of thinking that people have to live by helping each other since Korean people are kind-hearted.
  Thus, there have been lots of interesting & shocking events for me since I have lived in Japan for 20 years. Who knows, I may experience more shocking cultural differences in the future. However, I would like to enjoy those differences during the rest of my overseas study in Korea.

-Minami Ebisawa

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