Culture shock can happen in many different ways. From the way people talk, the way people look or simply the weather you experience. Can you imagine yourself in such a foreign environment where you are a serious minority? For me, culture shock being in Korea has been the lack of diversity. Canada is such a melting pot of every other nation around the world, it is a real eye opener to see such homogeneous numbers of people. Add in constantly hearing another language and seeing different characters on every sign, it could be quite overwhelming to the vast majority of people who do such things as travel/move to another country.
Things we take for granted are completely reversed here. Let’s take people and walking. In Canada, the pedestrian has the right of way no matter what the scenario. Even should a person cross against a light, it would still be tough fight for any motorist trying to escape blame for not being vigilant enough to see the person they just hit. In Korea it is just the opposite. You cross the street in front of traffic at your own peril. Drivers will honk at you for your apparent lack of judgment. In many ways they have a good point. Cars weight 1800lbs+ while you might only be less than a 1/10th of that. You wouldn’t walk out in front of a charging elephant so why would you do so in front of a vehicles that weigh upwards of 1 TON or more? Simply a different way of thinking, neither right nor wrong, just different. Although, I think that having the onus on the driver is a much more mature way of responsibility.
Food. I have slightly touched on this subject previously but some more details are necessary. It’s quite easy for anyone to walk to the local grocery stores (that are popping up like Tim Hortons in Hamilton) and pick up some bananas. You can buy them by any size of bunch. You can even break up the bunch and buy only 3 or 4 if you will. You can also just grab some of the loose ones that others have broken off. Here this is not the case. They are sold in set sizes of bunches despite the selling methods (i.e. so much per weight). Here is the bunch we bought recently:
On top of being a rather large bunch for just two people, they are also ripe. I have yet to see green/unripened bananas in any store. One can also only eat so many bananas over any given time period.
The other day we bought a blender. I wanted to make sure it was glass as I’m working my best to use less plastic and more things where the material breaks down significantly less. The local “LotteMart” (kinda like a WalMart) had a range and the one we got was discounted because it was the last one and there was no box for it. We didn’t mind getting a 40,000KRW for 28,000KRW
This blender was simple. It only had 3 buttons. I figured that it was one speed, one momentary and a stop. That is exactly what it was. More on that in a bit. The purpose for the blender was so I could resume my morning fruit smoothies that have been a great health benefit for me. The blender does an adequate job. It would be nicer to have a higher speed to finely chew up the apple skins, still nothing to give up on.
In order to function better I’ve also been thinking and searching for a method to translate Korean into English. Many would think, at first thought, that it would be easy but not so. There are all kinds of online translators but there is a severe limitation. Those online translators are excellent for translating English into 50+ other languages but no so much for the other way around. It takes a lot more work as how many of you have Korean characters on your keyboard? How would figure out to input a Korean(Hangul) character in order to get some sort of English equivalent?
So after some hard thinking I realized that Windows has the ability to switch languages fairly easily. Happens all the time in Canada with French characters seemingly popping up (notably on laptops) because some user hit a key-combination and now the / key makes an e with an accent. Ok, so adding in the Hangul keyboard is easily done thought the Languages settings on the control panel but now what? How do I know which character is which? I don’t but making a chart is easy . I opened up a spreadsheet and in one column I put all the English characters and switched languages and the second column I used the same keys but saw the corresponding Hangul character that is assigned to that key.
It is worth noting that the Hangul character assigned to any key does NOT relate to the English equivalent at all. Meaning if I press the letter “a” and then switch to the Hangul character set and press the same key I get a Korean character. This Korean character is NOT the ‘a’ in their language. It is simply the character assigned to that key. The English-speaking world maybe used to the QWERTY keyboard but not a single other language uses any/all of those characters, thus no keyboard equivalent.
Ok, so now I have my conversion chart. I can now begin my translations
The first thing I tackled was the heating control for our apartment. Although we were told which button does what, it would be infinitely more useful to know what the labels actually say. That and it’s good practice
Doing my best to match up characters, I got the labels and they matched up quite well. Although I got English words for the Korean characters, sometimes translations are not literal and more of an idea. For example, you will see ‘out’ in the picture below. I didn’t quite understand that until Bharati said it was for when you leave the place to set the temperature. Normally we just turn it on and off as the place stays warm for quite some time and we still don’t know how to play with the temperature setting.
And I think I’ve gotten the understanding how to allow the heat to self-regulate. Still, the apartment is well insulated and it will take many hours before a noticeable change in temp is felt. I have this egg-shaped clock/alarm/thermometer that works well in letting us know the ambient temperature.
I have this cell phone with a dictionary built into it. It’s useful enough to get my point across. When I first met Minhye (a friend of Bharati’s friend) she spoke some English ok enough but there was tons of concepts that didn’t translate. The little cell helped get my ideas across and it was cool to be able to ‘converse’ enough to understand each other.
I’m still looking for someone to exchange language learning with. I really want to be fluent enough to carry on a decent conversation by this time next year.
We are looking forward to a trip to Bharati’s old town when she was here last, to see the Buddhist temple out there. We donated some money last time and got our names put on small brass Buddha statues that went on a shelf. Hoping to find them again