Culture Capsule 7

Why do Koreans ask people their age when they frist meet them?

It is common in Korea to ask a person how old they are or whether or not they are married the first time you meet. Non-Koreans may consider these kinds of questions too personal or impolite. However, Koreans think of these kinds of questions as the first steps in getting acquainted rather than as being "nosy."

Asking a person his or her age the first time you meet probably comes from the Korean custom of social ranking based on age. In Korea, checking a person's age helps you decide which speech level to use with that person in the future. For instance, if the other person is older than yourself, you will have to use honorific language with him or her even if you get to know that person well. Also, upon initally meeting someone, it is gradually acceptable fo ask questions such as "Are you married?", "Where do you live?" or "What school did you graduate from?" In Korea, if someone asks you such questions, it is probable that he or she is interested in you and wants to get to know you better.

* In your country, how do you begin a conversation with someone you want to get to know better?

-Write reference Korean Languge Education Center, Sogang University

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