Eastern and Western culture
All human life aspects are covered in culture. It encompasses human behavior patterns that are passed from one generation to another and learnt. Human experiences and activities on a day-to day basis are seen as a representation of a given culture. Language is indicated as one of the most important aspects of culture due to its usefulness in maintenance and establishment of social interactions among people. This is confirmed by the popular metaphor that “language is a mirror of society and culture”. Different societies are often characterized by differences in culture and language. The purpose of this paper is to contrast and compare a cross cultural perspective of the English and Korean cultures (Son 2).
Korean versus English Culture
Cross-cultural cultures reveal there is much difference between the “Western” and “Eastern” cultures. The English culture is defined as Western while the Korean is Eastern. Generally, Korean society exhibits collectivist tendencies. They orient their goals towards the community as a group rather than at personal levels. They attribute their disappointment and success to forces that are external; hence, beyond their own control. Primarily, they are motivated by a need to live in harmony with the family and the community. From economic view point, they value group profits exposed to individual profit. They have a mentality of ‘we’ and it is believed this is influenced by the communist and socialist history of the East. On the other hand, the English culture is characterized by individualism and it is attributed to economic system of capitalism which characterizes the West (HWA 182).
There is a similarity that exists in the manner the Koreans and English use language. Koreans respond to positive questions in the same manner as the English. For instance, when one asks, “were you present?” This question is positive and the response from a Korean will be, “No, I was not present”. The difference however is noted when you ask that same question in a form that is negative. The question becomes, “were you not present?” The response then would be “yes I was not present”. The use of yes and no for the English refers to statement itself while for the Korean, attention is given to what is being communicated (Hwa 183).
Whenever Koreans describe an occurrence by use of language, their preoccupation is on what that occurrence is about. This is in sharp contrast with the English who describe changes in occurrence. In the Korean language, descriptions do not arise in terms of effects and cause. Their form of communication is characterized by statement that are indirect which do not elicit any form of confrontation. For instance, a Korean would say, “some money was lost” instead of saying “I lost some money”. This is in contrast with English language which lays emphasis on casualty and includes subjects in its sentences (Hwa 183).
Reportedly, Koreans object to propositions through use of incomplete speeches. They never dissent to opinions strongly. They deem it rude to object to what they do not like. They prefer leaving a discussion incomplete rather than hurting someone’s feelings. They are viewed as courteous and polite. Their vocabulary as well has words variations that are ideal when addressing audiences such as old men and peers. Arguments are often avoided at all costs since they are seen as means of causing disharmony in society (Sujeong 1).
According to studies, the Korean language has some loanwords. These are words that are derived from other languages. Evidence indicates that close to 90% of loanwords in Korean vocabulary are English. Some of these examples are “allibai” for alibi, “k”allori” for calorie, “s”yoping” for shopping etc (Son 7).
The Korean culture is also characterized by high distance power index. This is a representation of the amount of authority an individual in upper social class has over another of the lower social class. It is viewed as extremely rude whenever an employee points out a mistake made by their employer. In English culture, this is low and people from varying social classes interact freely (Bong-soo).
In Korean culture, the observation has been made that it is not usual for an individual to be friends with another who is not their age mate. For instance, a young man cannot befriend an old man. In most western ad English cultures, no restrictions exist on the choice of friends across varying age groups. What is more, Koreans are more helpful if they are your acquaintances. However, if you are a complete stranger, they ignore you (Bong-soo).
Saying the work “ok” repeatedly in England in the course of a conversation is looked upon as rude. In Korea however, it means you have clearly understood what the speaker is saying. Age and status in Korea are given priority than position. In the workplace for instance, where there is a younger manager and older employee, the age factor is one that comes into play in all the interactions more prominently than managerial position (Bong-soo).
There is much difference between the western and eastern culture. Appreciation and understanding of these differences is crucial given the world has become a “global village”. This will ensure there is meaningful cross cultural interaction between people.
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Bong-soo, Jung.”Understanding cultural difference at workplace.” 23 Mar 2012. Korea Times. Web. 9 December. 2013. <http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2012/03/160_107527.html>
Hwa, Kim Kyung. “Perspective in language and culture: A comparison between English and Korean.” International Proceedings of Economics and Developmen Research (2012): 183-186.
Son, Ho-min. “Korean Language in Culture and Society.” Honolulu, Hawaii: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2006. Web.
Sujeong. “An insight into Korean culture through the Korean language.”30 Sep 2009. Lexiophile. Web. 9 December. 2013. <http://www.lexiophiles.com/english/an-insight-into-korean-culture-through-the-korean-language>