I was fortunate enough to get to spend spring break with my OU cousin Yooseung and some other Korean exchange students in Florida. Their names are Seungwon and Yeongyeong. When I was at Kyungpook National University in Korea, I tutored Yeongyeong in English essay writing at the school’s International Writing Center. At the time, I didn’t know that she would be studying abroad at OU the next year, nor did she know I was an OU student. Imagine our shock when we saw each other in the fall at OU. I am so glad I got this chance to get closer to her as a friend, rather than as just a tutor. It’s even more amazing that we were able to spent spring break together in Florida. What a small world.
Thanks to my aunt’s incredible generosity, we were able to spend six days at her beach house in San Destin. I was very excited to get to share this experience with my friends from Korea. Especially since they are studying abroad in a landlocked state, I wanted them to experience an American beach. Rather than spending our days rushing around trying to see and do everything, we took a very leisurely approach to our time there. We spent a lot of time relaxing by the beach, by the pool, and at the house. Some days we ate fresh seafood out at a restaurant, other days we stayed at home and cooked Korean food for my aunt to try. My aunt has the sweetest dog on earth, so we also took great pleasure in giving her a lot of pets and attention. Of course, we also took plenty of pictures.
One thing I found very interesting on this trip was comparing how Americans and Koreans react when they enjoy something or are surprised by something. I feel like this difference is especially noticeable when comparing the reactions of young women from both countries. Although American girls will react positively when they hear good news, see something exciting and new, or something along similar lines, I think their responses are fairly tempered. They don’t tend to raise the volume or pitch of their voice much, or have very big reactions. At least, not in comparison to young Korean women. In contrast, whenever my friends experienced or saw something new during spring break, they tended to give a very big reaction. Their response was always quite loud and enthusiastic and included oohs and ahhs. The pitch of their voices tended to go up quite a bit. I had noticed this difference while I was in Korea, but had forgotten about it as I got used to it during the year. But after I heard these big and excited responses so often during spring break, I started thinking about it again. Perhaps this has to do with sociocultural expectations and norms. It may be a part of social etiquette in Korea to demonstrate a great deal of excitement or joy in response to good news, a new experience, etc. Of course, as with any cultural generalizations, this doesn’t apply to all Koreans. Everyone has their own personality. Yeongyeong tends to be more mild-mannered and calm than my other two friends who came to Florida, so her reactions were smaller. But in general, it seems that Korean social norms require bigger reactions to demonstrate the proper amount of satisfaction, excitement, or gratitude.
In any case, my aunt loved this kind of reaction. She said my friends were the best guests she has every had at her beach house, and she has had many a guest over. It was an honor.