Lectures to help expats better understand Korea

By Kim Rahn

Have you ever been annoyed by a pointy elbow in your side or a blatant shove without even a glance let alone a bowing Korean head in apology somewhere in a crowded shopping center or on the subway? Curious about why parking lot attendants guide you while waving their hands like they are singing along to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?”

A series of lectures to help expats understand Korean culture and customs in daily life has been organized by Seoul City. Six lectures to enlighten weary foreigners on the ins and outs of Koreans and their mannerisms will take place at Haechi Hall at the Seoul Center for Culture and Tourism in Myeongdong. The first is scheduled for Thursday.

Titled “Culture Views 2011: The WHYs and HOWs of Korean Ways,” the lectures will explain what is really being implied in the words and behavior of Koreans that many, even long-term resident foreigners don’t easily understand. They will also touch on how they can react to those customs.

In the first lecture to be held between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., the lecturer, Isabelle Min, head of the Third Culture Institute and an instructor at Sungkyunkwan University, will talk about shopping facilities unique to Seoul and explain Koreans’ shopping culture.

“For example, some expats say before they came here, they heard Korea is a courteous country, but they face many Koreans who bump against them in crowded shopping centers and do not apologize. Foreigners become annoyed, thinking Koreans are not polite toward them because they are foreigners,” Lee Su-na, head of the center, said.

Many foreigners may also be curious about why parking lot attendants wave their hands when guiding drivers to empty spots and why department store employees bow deeply and collectively when they open in the morning, Lee said.

“Such behavior is a very minor aspect of daily life in a foreign country but added up can lead to misunderstandings and make expats feel uncomfortable. The lecture aims to resolve any issues by explaining Confucian origins, rapid economic growth and racial homogeneousness apparent in Korean behavior,” she said.

After the lecture, participants can share their experiences and meet new people, Lee added.

Another five lectures will be given under the themes of dining, family and home, transportation, at work, and socializing and networking. The free lectures are in English. For more information call 02-3789-7961.

via: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/05/113_87585.html 

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