Culture / South Korea

Age is just a number

Matt's birthday was last week. We met some other teachers in the area, and they got him a cake and a Pororo hat!  Pororo is a Korean cartoon character.

Matt’s birthday was last week. We met some other teachers in the area, and they got him a cake and a Pororo hat! Pororo is a Korean cartoon character.

The day I flew to Korea, I aged two years. I don’t mean I felt like I got two years older because of the stress or because I got more mature. Koreans calculate age differently than Americans and — I think — from the rest of the world.

In Korea, when a baby is born, it is 1 year old. Then on New Year’s Day, every person in Korea turns one year older. So, that baby born on Dec. 30 would be 1. Two days later, on Jan. 1, he would be 2. In the U.S. we’d still be counting that baby’s birthday in days, and then in months until he was 2.

Koreans do still celebrate birthdays however.
The other interesting cultural difference between America and Korea is that everyone here asks your age. It is actually considered a normal or polite question. In the Korean language, there are different levels of formality. So people are often sizing you up to find out how to speak to you. Age is one question that will help determine what level of formality to use as elders are revered here.

So, tomorrow I turn 32 in my way of thinking. But since I’ve been telling people I am 33 since I got here, tomorrow I will feel young again.

It is not impolite to ask people their age in Korea. But I did have one student ask how much I weighed. ... I'm pretty sure that is still rude anywhere in the world.

It is not impolite to ask people their age in Korea. But I did have one student ask how much I weighed. … I’m pretty sure that is still rude anywhere in the world.

Our new friends on Matt's birthday last week.

Our new friends on Matt’s birthday last week.

 

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7 thoughts on “Age is just a number

  1. You are a very entertaining writer! I’m learning from your postings and I’m not even one of your students! Thank you!

  2. That is relly neat how all of this works. I forgot to wish you a Happy Birthday, so Happy Birthday. Hope to talk to you soon. How old are you 32 or 33 in Korean? Love You & Matt Dad

    Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2013 13:13:18 +0000 To: mirianij@hotmail.com

    • I am 33 in Korea. I was 33 as soon as I got here, even though I was really 31 in the U.S. Now I am 32 in the U.S. and still 33 in Korea.

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