Tonight I put together a presentation I will deliver on Friday to about 60 new American English teachers who just arrived in Korea.  The presentation title is "Adjusting to Life in Korea."  I have to give a 30-45 talk on Korean culture and offer suggestions on how to assimilate into Korean culture.  Here is a summary of what I plan to discuss on Friday.  I’ll mention this site to them too, so they can visit World Adventurers to review what I discussed.  Most have never been to Korea, and many have never visited or lived in Asia.  If you have any suggestions for improving this presentation, please post a comment. 
My presentation includes many generalizations about both American and Korean culture, and it assumes that American culture is largely influenced by Western philosophy, particularly liberalism and rationalism, and that Korean culture is influenced by Eastern philosophy, especially Confucianism, neo-Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism.  Christianity is a common thread between Korean and American culture; however, the two cultures are relatively dissimilar.  These dissimilarities are largely driven by dominant Eastern and Western philosophies prevalent in Korea and the U.S., respectively.
Here is a summary of the presentation:
  • American Values
    • Individualism
    • Freedom of choice
    • Equal opportunity
    • Diversity
    • Free-thinking
    • Flexibility
  • Korean Values
    • Social conformity
    • Consensus
    • Heirarchy
    • Homogeneity
    • Duty to family and faith
    • Determinism
  • Helpful Suggestions
    • Learn the Korean language
    • Make some good Korean friends
    • Learn to eat spicy, "exotic" food
    • Get off the beaten path (go where the foreigners ain’t)
    • Buy or rent a cell phone
    • Shop at local markets (to find less expensive items)
    • Pay when you invite others
    • No need to tip unless the service is extraordinary
  • Cultural Do’s
    • Be a cultural ambassador
    • Be open, friendly, and patient
    • Watch Korean movies and TV programs
    • Learn to sing Korean songs
    • Speak as much Korean as often as you can
    • Be aware of family issues when dating Koreans
    • Encourage inter-cultural group activities
  • Cultural Don’ts
    • Don’t bring up controversial topics (e.g. Japanese colonialism, Dokdo Islands)
    • Don’t be offended by personal questions
    • Don’t be overly critical of Korean culture
    • Don’t be afraid to tell Koreans your limitations (e.g. vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker)
    • Don’t expect to "go native" (you will never truly be Korean, no matter how hard you try)
    • Don’t expect to make good, close friendships quickly
    • Don’t be upset when you’re stereotyped (e.g. military, English teacher)
 Again, your comments are welcome.  This is only a draft and subject to change.

Books by MG EdwardsMG Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures and children’s books. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before leaving the Foreign Service to write full time.

Edwards is author of six books. His memoir, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, was finalist for the Book of the Year Award and the Global eBook Award. He has published four children’s picture books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series: Alexander the Salamander; Ellie the Elephant; Zoe the Zebra; and a collection featuring all three stories. His book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories is an anthology of 15 short stories.

Edwards lives in Taipei, Taiwan with his family. He has also lived in Austria, Singapore and Thailand. For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at or contact him by e-mail at or on Twitter @m_g_edwards.

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1 Comment

  1. Angeline's Gravatar Angeline
    August 18, 2005    

    Your postings are very educational. I enjoy visiting your space. I learned a lot about Koreans and their cultures through your writings. Keep it up! By the way, I am also a fan of Korean dramas. I hope to visit Seoul one day.

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