So Long, Seoul

Upon arrival, I instantly fell in love with Seoul, which made bidding the city farewell disheartening. From spending a week in this city, I quickly acclimated to Korean cultural norms and gained insight about the nature of Korean collectivism. One of the first social cues I inquired about in Seoul was the custom for the youngest person at a table to pour water for those in a group at a restaurant. This portrays the significance of respect in Korean culture, and is practiced during meals that are shared with both family and colleagues. The idea of putting others before oneself leads into the collectivism values of this society. There is not an “I” or “me” in Korea, but instead an “us” or “we” in social settings. This is reflected in many aspects of conformity, like the trend of owning a car that is a white, black, or gray color. Cars of different colors are rarely spotted in Korea, and even have a lower resale value than neutral colored cars. Also, there is a high prevalence of apartment complexes, even in suburban areas. This is because many Korean people prefer to live in connected homes versus the single family residence. These apartment complexes often have shared facilities like playgrounds for a resident’s children, creating a great sense of community. It even would not be uncommon for a wealthy Korean citizen that had the financial wellness to afford a single family home to still live in an apartment complex, seeking a sense of unity in society. Witnessing these unique aspects of the Korean culture firsthand and comparing them to the highly individualistic Western world allowed me to consider the stark differences in beliefs and upbringings I may encounter while working with international colleagues. Nonetheless, developing this global mindset has prepared me to build a better working environment as I start my career as a young professional!

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