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.