How old are you?
I’m ….. wait. What? As I remember, it is not polite to ask somebody’s age!
Well, not in Korea!!
There is a whole other story in Korea!
Typically, people ask each other’s age out of curiosity, however, in Korea, it is way more important than just satisfying your curiosity, and it is (believe me) necessary to know people’s age!
So actually, age is not just a number in Korea and has a much more profound meaning in the Korean culture and language!
So let’s see why?
In Korea, People use different language to different ages, but, it is not,just the language, but also the social interaction influenced by it!
For example, younger people expected to use the formal form of the language while speaking to an older person, but older people can use more comfortable language.
As an example of social obligations, younger people supposed to pour drinks while older people presumed to pay for the meal!
The way you refer to other people is also based on their age; for somebody a year older than you, they might be your 누나 (noona) , 언니 (eonni) or 오빠(Oppa) and 형 (Hyung), if they are younger than you, they will be your 동생 (dongsaeng).
So, for interacting with others and speaking to them, you need to know how old are they! (make sense, right?)
Meanwhile, being the same age as somebody makes everybody happy because you don’t have
to worry about the language or social obligations that come from being a different age from each other.
So, now you might understand the guy who got excited after hearing you are the same age as him !!
To be more precise, the word “friend”(Korean: 친구) can use when somebody is the same age as you!!
You cannot be “Friend” to a person who is older or younger than you!!
I mean “friend “has a whole different meaning in Korea, than other countries, so you should be mindful of using it! 🙂
So as a result, people need to know each other’s age for using different languages and gestures!!
Now you might realize why everybody is obsessed with your age in Korea!!
AND AFTER ALL, AGE IS NOT JUST A NUMBER!! 🙂
What do YOU think about this culture?