Thursday, June 4, 2009

Age & Looks

Age and physical attributes are very important in the Korean culture.  They place you within the social structure, determine who your friends are, and, also, guide your hopes of upward mobility. 

Your age is important because of 2 reasons: language and money.  Hangul has three different ways to say everything: 1. to children 2. to peers 3. to elders.  So, having a friend older than you means you would constantly be speaking to an elder, in a respectful, formal tone, etc.  This makes it less enjoyable for the younger, and doesn’t allow for intimacy.  The money issue comes into play all of the time, because, the elder always has to pay for all shared meals, getting coffee, whatever.  This makes it less enjoyable for the elder.  As you can see, it is much easier to just stay friends with those your age. 

The age issue is especially strong through the school years (college included), and although it may lessen some in later years, the habit is formed.

I am asked my age all the time.  However, I am bit of an enigma, since I don’t really fit into their social system.  I have friends of various ages, which doesn’t appear to be a problem, since I am a westerner.  

Your looks are based on:

  • height (male and female)
  • slim figure (male and female)
  • overall attractiveness (male and female)
  • pleasant disposition (male and female)
  • slim face (male and female)
  • big eyes – cosmetic surgery is playing a large role in making eyes bigger (female in particular)
  • white skin (female in particular) 
  • fashion (male and female)

Your looks are obviously genetic, which would seem to give a little grace.  But I’ve found that people feel responsible for their looks.  Almost, as if, it’s their fault that they have small eyes or whatever.  The parts you can control (grooming, fashion, exercise, eating healthy) are expected to be harnessed. 

Mark reads the journals of kids at school.  They can write about whatever.  All of the time he is reading (both male and female) about which friend is taller, better looking, and which friend is a ‘better’ friend, based on looks.  Parents teach their children to associate with peers that are at least equal, but hopefully, better looking than you.   

So, there you have it.  The graph of society.  Age, which you have no control over, but controls your circle of friends.  And looks, that you work to control and then use to associate with others that will improve your social standing.

{Please note: I think America has her own way of doing the same thing, it just might look different, and it is harder for me to see because I was born into the system.}

1 comment:

  1. Whoa!! All I can say is how thankful I am that you and Mark, and ALL my younger friends, do not look through those kind of eyes at this much older, less "perfect" by the day, man. (Slim, you say?....can you trade up? "I'll give you one "not-so-slim" for one "oh-so-pleasant disposition?") I think I might come out O.K. if two of the "bad" ones equal just one "good" one. Maybe...