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Life in South Korea vs. Life in the US

Ode to South Korea with Inwoong Hwang

Since English has become a global language, it is really important to learn and know the language today in my home country of South Korea. Many Koreans go abroad to study English; I, one of them. As an international student at Salisbury University in Maryland, I am majoring in international business, which allows me to learn about other countries’ respective cultures. I’ve come to know a lot of cultural differences between South Korea and the US, and they have changed how I live.

One aspect that is different is how I dress. Lookism is widespread in South Korea. Google’s dictionary defines lookism as, “construction of a standard for beauty and attractiveness, and judgments made about people on the basis of how well or poorly they meet the standard.” In South Korea, people really care about how they appear and look to others. Growing up in that culture, it was what I had become accustomed to. I always dressed up whenever and wherever I was going out. When I first arrived in America, this is what I did every single day. One of my American friends said to me once, “You wear different clothes every day!” However, as more time passed, this custom and habit of mine faded. I realized that no one really cared what kind of clothes I wore, and everyone else was dressed very casually. I find myself preferring casual clothes most of the time now.

A second culture shock is that I don’t need to carry an umbrella around with me. In South Korea, most people bring their umbrellas even for gentle, light rain. I did as well when I was living in Korea. When the forecast was rain, I always prepared my umbrella to protect my clothes and hair. When I first came to America, I was quite shocked that most students didn’t use umbrellas. Only a few students, including myself, carried one. While living in America, I gradually changed this habit. Having a car has definitely helped in this respect.

The last major difference is the food. Every culture has different cuisines, but living in America is not only about eating new types of food but also changing the lifestyle I was used to. Living alone means cooking and eating alone. Back home in South Korea, I would sometimes go grocery shopping with my mom. In the US, if you’re not in the major cities, the ingredients to cook Korean dishes aren’t available so I can’t buy those groceries. Additionally, one of the many things South Korea is known for is food delivery. They deliver anytime, anywhere; it could be a park at midnight and they are still able to get it to you. It is very different in the US with the delivery fees and the restrictions on minimum purchase as well as locations they can deliver to. This was something I had to get used to, living in a different country.

Living in the US has given me a different outlook in life. It is similar to how many college students want to study abroad for a semester or two; they want to see what's out there and learn something they wouldn't be able to at home. However, it is slightly distinct for me as it's been longer than one or two semesters. Three years have passed since I came to America for higher education. I've learned so much about the culture, and many parts of my lifestyle have changed because of this experience. Being able to speak from an international student's perspective has given me a unique advantage in how I approach work and life. I'm sure there are more lasting changes to come.

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