Saturday, January 31, 2009

Korean Proverbs

I've had a wonderful, relaxing week off, running around Seoul, looking at Palaces in the bitter bitter cold, warming up with a Korean dessert filled with warm gooey cinnamon, staying in a hotel with the girls just for the hell of it, going to the Korean sauna (bath house), and in general having a grand old time. I will share more with you about this week of craziness a little later, but now for a Korean cultural lesson: Korean Proverbs (taken from Lonely Planet)

Traditional sayings provide an uncensored insight into a nation's psyche.

  • Koreans' strong belief in the importance of education is reflected in this proverb: "Teaching your child one book is better than leaving him a fortune" (That was illustrated to me in my Korean consulate interview, when my interviewer asked numerous times if I was appreciative of my parents for paying for my college. You also see how important education is with just the amount of time children spend in school, often times not finishing till 10 o'clock at night)
  • The hope of all Koreans of humble origins is to improve their lifestyle and be "a dragon that rises from a ditch."
  • The blunt, peasant humour of the Korean character is expressed by this poor man's lament: "I have nothing but my testicles"
  • Koreans distrust lawyers and governments and prefer to settle disputes in their own way: "The law is far but the fist is near." (In Korea you hardly ever see a cop car, and it is common for drivers and taxi drivers to run stale red lights if they don't see any other cars. This has happened in our taxi's numerous times. I assume this is because either they don't have strict punishments or there is just no one there to catch them)
  • An unblemished character is a Korean's most treasured possession. To avoid any suspicion of being a thief. "Do not tie your shoelaces in a melon patch or touch your hat under a pear tree." (Korea is actually one of the safest countries in the world. After traveling in so many countries such as Italy where thievery is expected and valuables should be guarded with the utmost care, it is strange to let go of that fear that someone is always looking to steal from an unknowing tourist. Forgotten valuables are often returned to their owners and the crime rate is extremely low)
  • Koreans have often needed guts and determination to overcome defeats and disasters: "After the house is burnt, pick up the nails." (Which they have done time and time again. After the Korean war, they used the left over metal to make chopsticks, which is why many places in Korea have metal chopsticks which is even harder to use than regular wooden ones making me look even more like an idiot)


Veggie Mom said...

I love the basic optimism in the face of crisis that's capture in your last one. Who else would think to pick up the nails in the face of such a disaster?

LadyFi said...

Love these proverbs! Thanks for sharing.