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Adjusting to cultural differences

CommunicationI’ve written a lot about my experiences in Korea.  I continue to be inspired by the beautiful people I’ve met in the Land of the Morning Calm, particularly at my university.  There are students, faculty, and staff who have demonstrated their kindness over and over again. The students are a constant source of inspiration.

I came to Korea fully aware that would be cultural differences.  By some standards, the work environment is conservative.  I knew I’d have to adjust.  Still, there is one thing that annoys me.  Sometimes male administrators need to communicate something to me, or they need information from me.  Instead of talking to me directly, they contact my husband.  Sometimes decisions are made about me without my input.

I’m the type of person who values direct communication.  Before I married my husband, I spent many years as the head of my household and a single mom.  Professionally, I served as an administrator in a male-dominated, competitive field.  By the time I was 20, I was all too experienced in handling gender challenges and miscommunication.

Once a graduate student and a staff member decided that an announcement needed to be made to my class.  However, they didn’t talk with me first.  They showed up in my class to make  the announcement.  It was all in Korean, and I had no idea what was being said.    I learned it wasn’t. The graduate student, I would learn, had an attack of self-importance.  He gave my students the impression that he had a lot of influence over me.  The presence of the staff member gave the impression that the announcement was official business.

The next day, I spoke with both men behind closed doors.  I told them calmly, yet candidly that their actions were unacceptable.  The men apologized.  No one ever tried that stunt again.  I went back to being my sweet, adorable self.

At the end of the day, it’s all about respect.  Today I can look back and laugh about experiences like the one I just described.  It’s all in a day’s work.  😉