WHY DON’T KOREANS MAKE EYE CONTACT?
Making eye contact is probably the most important interpersonal etiquette in Western culture, as it is a symbol of mutual respect and a way to build trust between each other. For that reason, deliberately looking away or avoiding eye contact is considered rude and inappropriate, and could lead the other person to thinking that you are not interested or being disingenuous.
Meanwhile in Korea, making direct eye contact can be received differently. Especially when a situation involves an older person and a younger person, the younger person tends to avoid direct eye contact as it can be interpreted as being hostile or defiant, thus lack of respect. This is especially true when an older/higher rank person (e.g., a teacher) is scolding a younger/lower rank person (e.g., a student). If you look directly in the eye while getting scolded, you can expect to hear, “How dare you look me in the eye while I’m talking to you?”- while the exact opposite is true in the West. Not surprising that it’s the most discussed topic among English teachers from the West teaching in Korea (i.e., “My students keep ignoring me when I scold them!”).
You can see these two cultures collide when drinking. Watch carefully – you will notice that people from the West try to make eye contact while clinking glasses (e.g., in Germany, breaking eye contact while raising your glass for a toast is believed to bring seven years of bad luck, and in Denmark maintaining eye contact is considered a courtesy to your host) while Korean people focus on the glass.
RELATED : Don’t use one hand when you’re drinking with an older person, and TURN your body AWAY! WHERE to look then? WHO should drink first? Can I pour my own drink? HOW to refuse a drink from an older person? Learn the Korean drinking etiquette!
WHY DOES A WILD ELDER ASK – “AIN’T YOU GOT NO PARENTS?”
“Ain’t you got no parents?” It’s a cliché expression used by angry elders when giving a lesson to an ill-mannered youngster. As with any other idiomatic expressions, don’t take it at face value – they are not interested in knowing whether you have parents or how they are doing. Rather, it’s a euphemism for “You’re one rude son-of-a…” because Koreans believe that proper character education starts at home under parents’ supervision, so being unmannerly, especially to the elders, completely defies the Korean yugyo principles valuing respect for the elders. Hence the question asks whether or not one had the opportunity to learn all that through proper upbringing.
WHY IS SMOKING IN FRONT OF AN OLDER PERSON / HIGHER RANK FROWNED UPON?
Before the late 17th century Joseon Dynasty, everyone was free to smoke without any restrictions. But as the society became more patriarchal and hierarchical, the need to discriminate the act of smoking between classes arose. The aristocrats wanted to clarify their status by using a long smoking pipe because that meant you had a servant to light it. As a result, very long smoking pipes, as long as 3 meters (10 ft), became popular. Also, they made them out of precious materials and put colorful decorations on it. But these were not enough, and it led to the imposition of strict rules and customs that defined the distinctions between classes, so they could maintain their status system and patriarchal authority. Some of them are: “You can’t smoke in front of your father or older brother, not to mention the elders.” “It’s rude to have your tobacco pipe in front of you when you meet your elders on the street, so you must immediately hide it behind your back.” “A woman shouldn’t smoke in front of a man.” “A commoner can’t smoke in front of a nobleman.” While they were not legally stipulated, they have been passed down by social conventions, and they are instilled in the minds of the Korean people.
WHY ARE FEMALE SMOKERS FROWNED UPON?
Also, female smoking, especially in public places, has a social stigma attached to it and is often frowned upon even today. Continuing from the previous story, everyone was free to smoke regardless of status and gender at the beginning, but as society became more patriarchal and hierarchical, the noble class started viewing female smoking as something vulgar, which should be reserved only for the low-class commoners. By the time this stigma nestled down, the country was going through the modernization phase which brought the collapse of the class system. Consequently, female smoking disappeared dramatically because doing so would voluntarily signify that you come from the lower class. And this old idea is why some old Korean grandpas and grandmas go off on female smokers smoking on the street, saying, “Only the low-class commoner girls smoke!”