I walk out the door this morning, headed to work. Parked on a post next to my front door was a 2"x1.5" brownish object. I took a closer look. It was the shell of an oversized cicada, the largest of all the creepy crawly insects roaming the Korean countryside. It’s pretty creepy looking, this large insect with big eyes and black legs that look like pincers. Although the back of the shell was ruptured, indicating the cicada had already flown away, it sure looked like a real cicada to me. I posted a couple of photos of the shell stuck on the post next to our front door on this blog entry. I have yet to see a real cicada; all I have seen so far is a couple of cicada remnants hanging from trees and posts. Fortunately, these cicadas are not nearly as aggressive as the ones I experienced last year in Washington, D.C. The ones in D.C., ominously known as Brood X, seemed to be attracted to humans and went out of their way to land on people. It was quite unnerving. Korean cicadas, although much bigger and a bit more menacing in appearance than their American counterparts, are much more platonic. They hang out in the trees and buzz up a storm. Because the area surrounding my home is suburban and relatively wooded, the noise emanating from the cicada brood is very, very loud. The sound they make reminds me of the crescendo of multiple electric shavers used at once. Unlike the ones in D.C., these cicadas have taken to the trees. I have not seen a single one come down below the tree line. When I was in D.C., the cicadas were so thick at ground level that you had to watch your step or risk crushing cicadas under your feet. It was very disquieting. Korean cicadas make a lot of noise, but that’s about it. Seoul city folk don’t get to hear it as I do living in their concrete jungle. Living here and listening to the cicadas brings me closer to Korean nature, whether I like it or not. The sound lately has permeated our house, occasionally keeping me awake. Tonight the cicadas are quiet.
Today was an eventful day. The Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear program resumed today in Beijing. I wish the U.S. negotiating team success. As for me, I was busy helping someone with an emergency situation, and I dealt with a few new issues. I had a late lunch with a nice Korean colleague who assisted in resolving the emergency. During our lunch, she offered her insights into the Korean psyche. When asked why it was difficult for Americans to get to know Koreans personally, she responded that it could possibly be because Koreans respect foreigners’ privacy. I hadn’t thought of that before. I wonder to what extent it is true. I explained that Koreans don’t need to feel that way, that most Americans are easy to befriend. Americans are generally private people, more so than Asians are. It may be that because Americans are somewhat individualistic, they tend to limit how much they interact socially. Still, I think that Americans in Korea are willing to sacrifice some privacy for the opportunity to meet good Korean friends. It could also be that Koreans’ perception of Americans individualism exceeds our propensity to be individualistic. Nevertheless, there seems to be some credence to the idea that privacy and individualism may hinder foreigners’ ability to befriend Koreans.
I was surprised to read that you find Koreans hard to get to know. I’ve found exactly the opposite. Koreans are incredibly, incredibly open people. You just have to open up first. That’s a sign of honesty and sincerity, and trust. It might be harder for a US diplomat or army personal than standard expats, but in general Koreans are so eager to meet native English speakers, and exchange openness remarkably easily. Probably if it’s hard to get to know Koreans, it has more to do with the westener’s approach than with the Korean’s behavior towards westerners, at least in my experience.