Of course there are very obvious differences between life in the U.S. and life in Korea. We don’t bow when we greet people, for example, and we don’t always take off our shoes before entering a home. These are the surface level differences that almost anyone could point out.
But then there are smaller differences below the surface that you just have to experience for yourself.
Today’s example comes from my trip to the local grocery store. It’s conveniently located less than 10 minutes (on foot) from my apartment. The box of cereal I bought was too big to fit in a paper grocery bag with the rest of my purchases.
The ajumma checking me out said something in Korean that I didn’t understand… then swiftly ripped the cardboard box open, pulled out the plastic bag of cereal and put it in the bag, threw away the cardboard and handed me the shopping bag.
If you did that in America, you’d probably get sued for damaging someone’s food. Here, it’s just using common sense. 눈치 (noonchi). It’s faster and doesn’t waste an extra paper bag, so why not?
These are the hidden flavors of Korean culture that you can only taste by living here. I love it.