Not a day has gone by where I have not experienced some new and unique characteristic of Korean culture. Today I had the honor of attending the retirement party of a teacher at my school. Little did I know what an honor it was for me to attend this extravagant event. We went to a buffet restaurant at the Gimpo Airport, which happens to be a five star and extremely classy restaurant. Everyone made a speech and gave gifts to the retiree, and even though it was all in Korean, I could see and feel the emotions from everyone surrounding me. It was such a grand event that everyone takes an equal part in preparing, presenting, and cleaning up after.
The meal itself was incredible. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet so you can imagine the food that was at hand. Koreans look tiny but I have never seen a culture of people eat more than they do. I think I ate more than I ever have in my life and I still could not keep up with the 100 lb. girl sitting next to me. There were loads of sushi, vegetables, noodles, rice, pizza, mexican, all types of fish, steaks, mashed potatoes, soups, and desserts of course. The Koreans were sure to get a taste of everything and managed to clear their plates as well. It’s amazing to see how much they appreciate the food in front of them and they waste absolutely nothing.
I have noticed that Koreans spend time on what is truly important in life. Life is so valuable to them. They are hard-working and are not wasteful in any aspect of their lives. Although at times it seems as if they are operating very last minute and do not plan ahead, I have found that they spend their time on the more important aspects of life and they do not worry about the little things. They have faith that everything will work out in the end. I am starting to understand why they are such a successful nation. It all comes down to their values and sense of collectivism. They do not value money or individualism, but rather they do their best not to waste and they work together to become successful. I think about what would happen if America could begin to adopt some of their customs, but unfortunately it is very difficult to see happening. For example, here, a Korean would never dream of putting on the air conditioner if only one or two people occupy a room. They immediately think of society in general, and if an action is at all wasteful then they will automatically decide against it. The portions are much smaller and there is a lot less packaging of materials. The garbage and recycling rules are extremely strict. You will barely ever find toilet paper in a stall (bring your own) and they barely give out bags at supermarkets unless you have more than you can carry. All of these little things that Koreans do differently that may seem weird to us, are really reflections of their collectivist attitudes. Everyday I am truly amazed at how they are always watching out for the well-being of one another rather than for themselves. What a concept!