No matter how much of the language or customs I learn, I will still be from the West and there will still be some things that I can’t give up and don’t want to.The idea that I can be friends with people young and old is one of those ideas, I also find it difficult to call people brother and sister when they aren’t.At this point, I’d known my boyfriend and all of his friends for a good four or five years and in my native tongue, I would call them my friends.After the food was finished and the plates picked up, I thought a game would be fun. I had been gaining confidence with the language and using it whenever I could.Usually, the student will become more timid to use the language or try to use words in the future unless they’re completely sure of their meaning.I also reminded my “friends” later that I don’t attack them when they misuse a word, if it’s extremely rude, I remind myself that it’s not their first language and I try to help them understand why it could be taken the wrong way.Taking what I’d learned from class on how to call someone by name, I said, “So-yung-a, do you want to play a game? There was an audible gasp and after a few seconds of silence, So-yung said, “yes,” but two of the more aggressively conservative members of the group told me I couldn’t say “So-yung-After that I went to my room for a little cry mostly because I was just told I had no friends and also because the language they were using to express their viewpoint was very aggressive and I don’t handle aggressive situations very well.
Often it seems when I switch into Korean, listeners seem to assume I also take on a Korean mentality, though I do not. Instead of using the term friend for older or younger people, Koreans use terms like older brother (형/ 오빠) and younger brother (동생).This was a bit more difficult for me to grasp and to be honest I still haven’t.Knowing I wasn’t coming from a place of disrespect but from a place of familiarity and closeness many of them said the lower form was just fine.I am more aware of the language discrepancy now however, and when we are out with mixed company, friends and people I don’t know yet, I will usually use the polite form with my friends because I know the unfamiliars may not understand where I’m coming from and may find me disrespectful.It can also be helpful to know how other people will expect you to behave, and will behave toward you while you’re away from home.Having a basic understanding of culture and etiquette can help avoid awkward misunderstandings for you, the people you meet, and the new friends you’ll make!My husband, boyfriend at the time, and I decided to have a get together at our house and invited our close Korean friends.There were about 10 of us around the table and I was the only foreigner in the place.Foreigners splice this word into their English sentences without hesitation and use it seemingly without understanding exactly what it means.This is probably one of my least favorite words in Korean and I’ll explain why.(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking. and if there’s any left over, to a bottle of red wine to go with dinner.