Friday, March 31, 2006

Cheonan is sweet -- Gaining respect in Korea

I'm having way too much fun meeting many extremely friendly and outgoing Korean people. Recently I received a compliment from one of my many new friends that made me feel quite glad, but also a little bit sad. My Korean friend said:

Of the approximately 200 foreigners I've met in Korea I trust you the most and I like you the best because you are respectful and you enjoy Korea for what it is. You don't bad talk Korea or Koreans. You just enjoy it, all of it, just as if you were a Korean yourself.

Naturally, I'm just paraphrasing, I'm pretty sure I was too drunk at the time to recall exaclty what she said, but this is pretty close.

By now it's pretty clear that I'm susceptible to compliments and equally clear that I love to have people talk nicely about me. I never set out to impress anybody I just do my best to do what I think is right.

For Korea this is quite simple, because I love so much about this country. There are some things I don't have a great deal of respect for, but I don't make a point of raising these things in conversation because I don't believe it is right for me to come here and tell people that they are silly or crazy or that they should change. In fact there are parts of Korean culture that I find myself rejecting a little bit but this is true of all cultures that I've encountered so far (including my own).

My secret, if you should like to duplicate my performance and receive similar compliments:

I try my best to be respectful and always to show respect to everybody, even the people and things that I at first find strange. Then if I find myself feeling disrespectful I question my perception of it, and reevaluate it until I feel that I understand it fully. If I don't feel that I have full understanding then I just respect it as well as I can until I can understand it better.

I believe that acting respectfully helps one to understand the world more fully. Korean people, in my estimation, place a very high value on respectful thought and action.

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