Cultural Comparison

United States vs. South Korea

By: Lovette Chan

- Introduction -

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Western Culture in the USA

Western culture is influenced by a variety of cultures and can be seen in western countries such as the USA, UK, and Canada. This culture generally has high living standards and has an advanced technology and individualistic society. A middle-class family in this culture might live in a two or three story house made of concrete.


5 Important Facts:


  1. People who belong to this culture like to be their own person (be independent).
  2. People in this culture tend to be more innovative and given more freedom than others.
  3. The culture is very diverse and consists of many ethnic groups.
  4. Informality is very common.
  5. Everyone is equal to each other.
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some examples of families you may see in American culture

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South Korean Culture:

South Korean culture is consistent throughout South Korea. It shares traits with other Asian cultures such as Chinese and Japanese, but still has its differences. South Koreans have high regards in family honour, status, and education. Those that live in urban areas often live in concrete high-rise buildings. Houses are low with small rooms.


5 Important Facts:


  1. Family is of utmost importance to them.
  2. Seniority rules above all.
  3. Bowing may seem odd, but it is very normal in their culture.
  4. They use a variety of honorifics.
  5. Respect is taken very seriously.

- Side by Side Comparison -

Western Culture

Components of Culture

Values
  • Freedom
  • Independence
  • Equality
  • Change
  • Honesty
  • Family
  • Education

Beliefs

  • Acceptance of LGBQ, recently same-sex marriage became legal
  • Freedom, free rights


Norms

  • Using Mr., Mrs., Miss, Sir, Ma'am to address people
  • Calling people by their first name isn't unusual if you know the person


Folkways

  • Saying 'please' and 'thank you'
  • Holding the door for others
  • Leaving tips


Mores

  • Casual attitude, includes slang
  • Less conservative


Laws

  • Legal drinking age is 21
  • Call 911 for emergencies

Personal Identity

One's personal identity is developed based on their race, culture, choices, etc. In Western culture, the ideal body is seen as tall, thin, and curvy for women and tall and well-built for men. People try to fit into these ideals in order to fit into society and whether or not they are able to leads to how they feel about themselves. If they are not able to fit into those ideals, they may think they are not good enough for society. As for the gender part, women in Western culture are seen as more caring and nurturing than the men. Therefore, Western women may feel the need to stay true to those beliefs and stay at home and take care of their children rather than work full-time in the workforce like their husbands. Furthermore, men in Western culture feel the need to be very masculine because of how men are portrayed in Western media. They would not wear skirts, or write poems because doing so makes them seem unmasculine in their culture.

Rites of Passage

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • 16th/18th/21st Birthday
  • Driver's License
  • Graduation
  • First relationship
  • First job
  • Marriage
  • Buying a house

How Gender is Perceived

  • Females seen as more softhearted, weaker, nurturing, the 'caregivers'
  • Males seen as strong, powerful, the 'breadwinners'
  • More gender equality now than before
  • More feminism, many celebrities coming out as feminists
  • Males are paid more than females

Kinship

  • Family is the predominant form of kinship
  • Parents take care of children until they are grown up and able to be independent
  • Children are not as expected to take care of their parents when they're old
  • Marriage
  • Your family lineage does not take a drastic part in how people view you

South Korean Culture

Components of Culture

Values
  • Family
  • Education
  • Respect
  • Status

Beliefs

  • Confucianism - belief that people who are older and richer than you are 'better' than you and deserve more respect
  • Age is calculated differently: babies are automatically counted as a year old and people gain a year on New Year's Day rather than their actual birthdays


Norms

  • Elders are most respected
  • Rather than Mr., Mrs., etc. use endings such as -nim, -yang, or -ssi (ex. John-ssi)
  • Asking someone's age if you do not know their job title in order to see what degree of honorifics need to be used


Folkways

  • Greet others by bowing and shaking hands
  • Person of lower status bows to person with higher status (ex. less experienced worker to more experienced coworker)
  • Remove shoes before entering a house
  • Beckon others with palm facing down rather than up
  • No tipping, it is seen as a sign of arrogance and pity
  • Won't go thanked for opening the door or if someone bumps into you


Mores

  • Everyone must respect those older than them; they go into rooms first, eat first, and more
  • Don't usually call people by their names, but by their job title
  • Being conservative


Laws

  • Legal age to drink is 20
  • Call 119 for emergencies

Personal Identity

In South Korean culture, the ideal body type is seen as very thin with small waists for women and tall, well-built, and fashionable for men. Once again, not everyone is able to fit into these ideals, making them think that they are not good enough for society and may try to change themselves unnaturally. South Korea actually has the most plastic surgeries per capita. Furthermore, students in South Korean culture are expected to meet the harsh educational standards set out for them which is why they are so focused on studying. Clothing is also based off the culture as South Korean culture is more conservative, therefore people do not usually wear revealing clothing at the fear of being looked down at.

Rites of Passage

  • Baptism
  • Child's 1st Birthday (Dol) - Child is seated in front of several objects which all have a meaning. For example, if a child picks up money, means child may become rich in the future.
  • Confirmation
  • Graduation
  • First relationship
  • First job
  • Marriage
  • Buying a house
  • Compulsory military service - Because of South Korea's continuous dispute with North Korea, able-bodied men between the ages of 18-35 must serve in the military for 21-24 months.
  1. A man is within the age range and enters the military, separated from civilization
  2. The man goes into a training period with other men under the supervision of his superiors
  3. After his service is done, he goes back to society and is seen as a 'real' man
  • Memorial Services - Rituals held on the anniversary of deaths. Food is also prepared.

How Gender is Perceived

  • Traditional structure
  • Men are seen to be more superior than women
  • Huge difference in pay between men and women, men make an average 25.9% more than women (Li, 2011)
  • Women expected to quit their job after they give birth to their first child
  • However this has recently changed, more gender equality now than before
  • Sons are preferred over daughters, but this has also decreased over time as more and more people become educated

Kinship

  • Family is the predominant form of kinship
  • Keeping the family honour and face is very important
  • Close family ties, do not agree with separation of children and family
  • Children are expected to take care of their parents when they're old
  • Marriage
  • Patrilineality - family origin traced through father's lineage
  • Much of how people view you and base their respect on is your status, family status, etc.

- Venn Diagram -

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References


A Dreaded Rite of Passage: South Korea's Mandatory Military Service. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2013/12/a-dreaded-rite-of-passage-koreas-mandatory-military-service/


Culture and etiquette | About South Korea. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/south-korea/culture-etiquette/


Do You Know the Differences Between America Culture and Korean Culture? (2012, August 31). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from https://shofarmdchs.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/difference-between-america-culture-and-korean-culture/


Ideal Body Shape in Korea. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://breadbutterchampagne.blogspot.ca/2012/01/ideal-body-shape-in-korea.html


Korean Food Culture Series - Part 8 Rites of Passage and Ceremonial Foods. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=260909


South Korea. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.everyculture.com/Ja-Ma/South-Korea.html


South Korea - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/south-korea-country-profile.html


The Value and Meaning of the Korean Family. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://asiasociety.org/value-and-meaning-korean-family?page=0,0


Zimmermann, B. (2015, January 15). American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States. Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/28945-american-culture.html