Thursday, February 19, 2009

The interesting culture that is Korea

I am going to start a little series of posts about Korea, it's history and culture. Some of it I may be able to explain, some of it may be just as much a mystery to me as it will be to you. When living in different society, it is important to understand it's heritage to understand their way of life. There is much history in Korea as it is thousands of years old.

Korean age vs. Western age:
When a Korean individual whether it be child or adult tells you his or her age, there is almost a solid guarantee that the age they give will be one to two years different than what we would say their age to be. We had a student in eighth grade, when asked his age said that he was 16 years old. An eighth grader in western or International age would typically be 13 to 14 years of age and he probably was 14 in Western age. So what is the difference and how is it calculated you might be asking? The first time this birthday system was explained to me, I just didn't get it. Granted a Korean lady whose English was not the greatest was doing the explaining, but after examining it closer, I think I have a better understanding.

The Korean aging system differs from the Western aging system in two ways. Firstly when a Korean baby is born, they are considered to have already lived for one year. In Western society we begin the counting at the day of birth at zero while Koreans start at one. Secondly, everyone ages as a society one year at the Lunar New Year (The Chinese New Year) which we celebrated several weeks ago. In Korean homes, the New Year is celebrated with eating a rice cake soup. Once the soup is eaten, you have aged one year. So that means if a new born baby was born in December 2008, by February 2009 the baby is considered two years old in Korean age while in Western society the baby would only be considered 2 months old.

The first birthday is a very important event in Korea. The mortality rate for babies as recently as fifty years ago was very high so for a child to live to it's first birthday was a large milestone. The baby is dressed in a traditional Korean costume amidst cake, fruits and other goodies. A platter of object is placed in front of the child and depending on which object the child chooses will fortell his future. Examples of objects:
pen: will be a writer
microphone: a singer
string: for long life
money: will be wealthy
etc.

Black and White car mystery
One morning I woke up as usual, got ready for work, and as I was going down the stairs I noticed that the parking lot was full of cars. The interesting thing however was there was not one car that was a color besides white, silver or black. No one has been able to give me a definite answer for why this is, however a couple of people told me their guesses. One person suggested they thought it was because Korean society likes uniformity. One person suggested that it was because black, white and silver cars are less expensive. I do not know the answer. If someone out there does have the answer I would be glad to hear it. Regardless, I find it funny and strange to say the least.

4 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Those really are interesting! I didn't know that about their aging. I read somewhere recently that the most common colors of cars here are those three as well, but they are expecting shades of blue and green to rise up faster to mimic the green movement.

Karen said...

That's fascinating, Vanessa! Thanks for educating us!

Tiffiney said...

That is wild on the ages..never heard of that before. Thanks for sharing...

as for the color of the cars...at a loss...if you find out..share... :)

patrickl said...

This is such a great article.
Lunar Age Calculator