I remember reading once that it is far more important and useful for EFL (yes I mean EFL in the traditional sense) students to be able to explain and talk about their own culture in L2 than to be experts in the culture of the target language. This makes a lot of sense to me and is something that I try to keep in mind. While obviously knowledge of the “target culture” can be helpful and at times needed I think that the aspect of students talking about their own culture is often neglected. With that in mind, I am always on the lookout for interesting texts related to Korea and Korean culture. When I discovered the tips below (here is the original source) I knew I needed to use them in class someday.
I find it interesting to note that the list is not always in what I would call standard English. I also think it is interesting to consider the impact that this list might have on the intended audience which is presumably foreign teachers coming to Korea. I am also interested in the the image of Korea that the author seems to want to portray. I’d be curious to see your thoughts and reactions in the comments.
See below for how I used/might use the material in class.
Korean Culture Tips
From: Center for Global Education, Gyeonggido
1) Most of Korean foods are very spicy.
2) People are usually kind, but sometimes not to African Americans and South-east Asians.
3) Speak slowly and clearly to people you meet because most Koreans, especially elders, cannot speak English well.
4) You may be disgusted by some food such as dog meat or dog soup if you keep a dog as a pet but they do not eat every kind of dog.
5) Age is an important factor in Korea, so that you may be asked of your age because Koreans respect elders.
6) Take your shoes off when you enter usual Korean house.
7) Asking about age and marriage are not seriously personal questions.
8) Koreans sometimes share food in the same bowl or plate.
9) Individualism is not preferable. Community spirit comes first.
10) Schedules and plans are often subject to change.
11) You may be insisted to drink alcohol beyond your capacity.
12) Korean men like going to a public bath (spa/sauna) together for friendship.
13) You may be bothered by children and youngsters who want to speak to foreigners, now and then with bad words which are not intended badly.
14) Koreans are against America politically, not socially.
15) High school students are focused on reading and listening because of the Korean SAT.
16) Some schools have very strict discipline, where students are given corporal punishment.
17) There are often traffic jams on the roads during rush hours.
18) You can’t find easily where you want to go unless you remember landmarks because maps are drawn out in terms of landmarks not address-based.
19) You can take a walk at night more safely than western countries because guns are not allowed to possess according to law.
20) Blowing nose is not polite while eating.
21) You’d better not start eating before the eldest does on the dining table.
22) Girls and ladies walk sometimes hand in hand or arm in arm. But they are not lesbians. It means kind of affection.
23) American brands will be much more expensive than in the US.
24) You don’t have to give tips except expensive hotels.
25) Taxes are already included. Pay the price on the price tag.
26) You can ask for more side dishes anytime because they are free.
27) Small store owners are sometimes reluctant to refund or exchange items you buy.
28) You have to recycle according to instructions (esp, food waste) So you have to buy designated plastic bags at a grocery store near your house.
29) Korean English can be heard frequently such as a meeting as blind date.
30) Some Koreans are less punctual than Americans but they are more tolerant than westerners.
31) When you drink alcohol with seniors or elder persons, you’d better turn your head around.
32) There are rarely polite ‘excuse me’s when people bump into you on the street.
33) Koreans sometimes say yes, when they are confused in speaking English.
Using the material:
There are certainly many ways that the material could be used. Today, after asking students to share some of their own tips for non-Koreans in Korea I asked students to look through numbers 1-11 with a partner and ask each other “Is this true?” and “Is this useful?” Next week I think I will give 12-21 to one group and then 22-33 to another group with the same questions. This would be followed by the additional task of sharing the tips they have just discussed with a new partner. I am also interested in hearing students’ experiences with similar things either in or out of Korea. I think the final stage will be creating/compiling their own list of tips.
How might you exploit this material in class?