Sept 18, 2006

Chinese fans of Korean soap operas were baffled to see Koreans use both spoons and chopsticks to eat, but not as surprised as when they saw women pull each other’s hair during fights and managers strike their subordinates on the back of the head. Other notable features of Korean society for the Chinese couch potatoes are the vast difference in treatment meted out to rich and poor here and the number of marriages of convenience. In all, the China Finance Information Network drew up 80 strange Korean customs as gleaned from TV dramas. Here are 12 of them:

1. When Koreans lift their glass to drink any alcoholic beverage with someone senior, they always turn to one side.

2. If a Korean’s glass is empty they pass the bottle to the person sitting with them. (In Korean culture it is frowned upon to pour yourself a glass; the proper etiquette is pouring for each other.)

3. Koreans are already putting the next bite of food in their mouths before they finished chewing the last bit.

4. Koreans use chopsticks for the side dishes but spoons for rice and soup.

5. If a Koreans suffer indigestion after meals, they treat it by pricking their fingers with needles. (This is an old folk remedy.)

6. Elderly Koreans often say, "Now that I’ve reached old age, I see every eyesore." (read: "My goodness, times have changed," "Where’s the world heading?" etc.)

7. Korean women often resort to hair-pulling when fighting.

8. When someone hits a subordinate, it is always on the head, and most often across the back of the head.

9. The wealthy have contempt for those without, and those on the lower rungs kiss the feet of their superiors. Korean society treats the wealthy and the poor completely differently.

10. If you go into a house you must take off your shoes.

11. After sleeping, the blankets and pillows go in the closet. If Koreans go into a room, they always shut the windows and doors.

12. Many marriages are arranged for expediency or convenience.