My journey to Korean Exchange Program

Date: December 7, 2010

School of Chinese Medicine, College of Chinese Medicine, Student, Han-Yin Yang
Editor, General Education Center, Chiara Benham

My journey to Korea was very interesting, not only did I observe culture differences between Taiwan and Korea but I also was introduced to the Korean ambition of promoting their goods worldwide. Life style in Korea was fast paced; they eat fast, drink fast, and walk fast.

Within Koreans diet they eat kimchi, a kind of pickled food. Kimchi is made from different kinds of vegetables, like Chinese cabbage, white radish, or even fish and squid. The flavor of kimchi is a mix of spicy, sour, and salty. In Taiwan we seldom eat this kind of dish; even similar dish will be sweeter than and not as sour as the Korean style.

Due to the facet that I am not used to Korean style food my gastric system was a little bit uncomfortable the first week. The side dishes were salty and spicy and the Korean style Chinese food was very sweet. This was very interesting to me because before I went to Korea as an exchange student, I never thought Chinese style noodles could be made in totally different ways.

The other life style difference that caught my attention was that Korean’s love to eat or drink cold things. For example, the cold noodles always have ice cubes inside of the bowl and no matter what weather is like there is always ice in the water in every Korean restaurant. In Taiwan I rarely drink cold water. I also noticed that Korean’s couldn’t stand hot weather.  I thought that the weather was just fine because Taiwan’s weather is more hot and humid; however Taiwanese seldom eat or drink cold items. Many times while I was in Korea I was reminded of the hot water and food in Taiwan. Even though the food in Korea tasted good I was still nostalgic for Taiwanese food.

When walking on the street one can see garbage scattered beside the road and gathered on the sidewalk, this image shocked me.  I imagined several pictures in my mind about Korea before I arrived. The idea that all of Korea will be like the clean and modern city of Soul was what I thought, however I think the city looked like a mix of modern and countryside. The roads were bumpy and the city was simultaneously filled with new buildings and semi-old buses.  You could see the traditional market next to the new department store. Some of these places really looked like Taiwan, for example the Nadamun looked like the old Shihlin night market and Hsimenting.

One thing that caught my attention was when I took the subway. When old men wanted to have seats but there wasn’t an empty spots available they would ask or pull the people out of the seats with ferocious faces. I thought this was rude behavior from both parties. The old man should not have acted that way and the person in the seat should have given it to him out of courtesy. This type of scene is hardly seen in Taiwan. Most of the time when people want to have someone elses seat they rarely ask directly, they just stand beside the seat and try to make people feeling guilty about not standing up. I think Taiwanese people are to gentle, shy, and embarrassed to ask for other’s seats.

When you hear that people are going to a foreign country the first thing that comes to mind is that they will have language problems. People are afraid of speaking in foreign languages and they can hardly understand what is being spoken about. In order to communicate people will try to use their body language to explain what they want or what they are looking for. Korean language is totally different from any language I have heard in Taiwan. The alphabet, word, sound, pronunciation…etc is not easy for me to learn. If I wanted to go somewhere without any Koran people with us I would be useless. When I tried to ask questions to pedestrians using English most of my responses were in Korean -- even when I would say I couldn’t understand Korean. In order to avoid this situation I brought all the guidebooks I owned with me lost or I would find someone who can speak in Korean to go with. I did this to avoid any possibility of getting hurt.

I was curious about why Koreans sometimes speak very politely and gently, but sometimes sound like they are arguing. I asked a Korean student my questions and they told me that there are different sounds of speaking depending on what kind of person you are talking to. For instance, if you talked to someone who was superior to you then you would have to use a honorific way of speaking which is more gentle and soft mannered. Different genders and ages use different grammar structures. The reason there are different structures is because Koreans take status very seriously and this helps prevent words being taken the wrong way and causing social trouble. One of the Korean students said that he felt that speaking in English was rude because he couldn’t express his word correctly. Taiwanese social relationships are not as strict as Koreans; the grammar Taiwanese use does not depend on social status. When we talked to someone superior we will be more polite and gentle.

The time I spent in Korean helped me in many ways through teaching me about oriental medicine and cultural differences. The life style, diet, city images, Korean characteristics, and landscape, etc filled my mind with new ideas. These new experiences opened my eyes to the world. Korea shows huge ambition of advancement within the world by trying to develop brands with in the market. Taiwan should learn from and imitate Korea, not only should Taiwan present itself well but it should also promote our best products to the world.

There were many difficulties when arranging the students that made me frustrated and disappointed. I was afraid when students lost contact with each other without any notice. However, we all came back from Korea healthy and safely. I’m glad that I could withstand any difficulties and that students were willing to help me when troubles arose.

I’m appreciate the secretary of the department of post baccalaureate Chinese medicine Ms.
Ke and my classmate Ms. Wu, Ms. Liu, who helped me solved lots of issue and problems. I’m so glad to have them as a support network.

(Chinese Version.)


Group photo in the classroom