I have always believed that culture is the expression of one’s identity. Wherever we go, or no matter where we are headed, we are identified by our accomplishments and contributions to the society that we live in. People who embark on a new life in a different location are often regarded for the rich and extraordinary culture. I, myself, witnessed this kind of lifestyle as we embarked on a different path when we moved to the United States.
I am originally from South Korea, before I moved to the United States four years ago. I was surprised to witness a culture that was far different from what I was used to in South Korea. Nineteen years of practicing the traditional Korean culture was very difficult to forget, and this came in conflict to some of the practices in the United States. Regardless of this, I was willing to learn the new culture so that I would be able to widen my perspective about things.
One of the most dominant differences was the respect for the elderly. In Korea, hierarchy was based on the age of the people. We were expected to pay respect to our elders, both in word and in deed. This practice came in contrast with how the Americans paid their respects towards their elders. In the United States, age was not that much of a factor. Americans also respected their elders, but this was different from how the Koreans handled them. Respectful language was not required among the younger generation, and there seemed to be not much hierarchy seen on their ages. I was even surprised to find out that many of the elders were placed in convalescent homes as they grew older. In our country, the children were expected to care for their parents, and even the elders.
Furthermore, the advancements in the way people dress also caught my attention. There were times wherein I was confused with how old people were while walking. These were very much evident in the first few weeks after I arrived in the United States. To satisfy my confusion, I would ask people about their age, like how we used to do in Korea. Little did I know that such actions were offensive in the United States. My queries were not just based on my satisfaction, but also to pay the necessary respect that is due my elders.
Asian culture taught me to speak less, regardless of how much ideas I had in mind. I had to wait for my elder to give permission before I can join a conversation and share my thoughts. This was considered as part of good manners in South Korea. Again, this was in contrast to the traditions in the United States. In the said country, I was regarded to be the shy and timid type, for my thoughts and emotions were only shared when asked for.
Although several differences were evident in both cultures, I still believe that Americans and Koreans are not very different with each other. Several factors have paved way for me to believe that both cultures were similar. These included the economic & cultural trade, migration, and media. I knew who the Boston Rex Sox were as a child, and I remember patronizing the said team even in my days in Korea. In addition to this, I believe that many of the young Koreans also patronize the American Culture. Living in the United States for the past four years paved way for me to open more doors to ideas, widening my knowledge and practice especially in culture.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree here in Boston, and I am also pursuing my Master’s degree in the United States. I believe that the life I have lived in this country has helped me to develop myself, and come out of the shell I used to live in. Although change has always been followed in the United States, I would still opt to stay true to my roots. Being in a foreign land would still allow me to be showcase the culture and traditions that I grew up in. I do not intend to change who I am, and how I was raised by my parents and elders.
Being in a foreign land has helped me to become more in tune with my true identity. I still practice the traditions and culture that I knew as a young child. I have been constant in attending Korean church in the United States. This is also an opportunity for me to practice our culture, and speak our national language even if we are not in Korea. I am proud to say that I am a full blooded Korean, both in word and deed.
No matter where I go and where my dreams take me, I will always be regarded as a Korean – willing to break barriers and reaching places.