Monday, December 14, 2009

Saying hello.

Okay okay, everyone knows it by now. I'm about as country as they come. I open doors for women, I tip my hat to old people, and I say "howdy" to everyone I meet. Laugh it up and move on, city boy.

Where I come from, saying "hello" to everyone is considered normal, if not polite. If I'm in line at the grocery store and I see my friend and his family, it's normal for him to say hello to me and then perhaps introduce my relationship to his family. "Hey Matthew. Good to see you. Dad, you remember Matthew? We went to junior high together. Don't you remember? He was the one who cried in his remember taking him back home during that sleepover in sixth grade? The one who was apologizing the whole way home?" Yeah. You know, totally normal stuff.

But why do we do greet each other so frequently? Granted it's not everyone. It's not happening in every city in the country but the act of introducing oneself when approached by a friend who is in the company of other friends is very common. I'm not sure even if we think about it. It just happens. I walk up, I say what's up to my buddy and he tells me who his friends are. We shake hands or just say "what's up" and we're done.

But really? Why do we do that? As Americans, why do we say hello to people that we don't know? We're probably not going to see them again. Even the checkout counter people at Target ask us how we're doing today. Like, why? Would it matter if I'm having a horrible day? Isn't my "bad day" money just as welcome? What if we just stopped saying "hello" to random people? Imagine the marketing fallout...
Hello Kitty Leave me alone Korea
If we were to follow this "not saying hello" thing, we'd be right at home in Korea. It's not that people don't say 안녕하세요 to each other but the context is a bit different. One doesn't have to say hello to random people if the situation merits no conversation. If you sit down in a restaurant, you don't have to say hello to the server. Quit being such a noob and just order. Doing otherwise at every single establishment would get tiring after a while, wouldn't it? So try a little something different. When in Rome...
Korean Hello 안녕하세요 KC101
As we have looked at before, being introduced to another person in Korea can be a big deal. Introductions to a new person opens up a new web of social networking and it potentially requires more attention and work on your end. Another person, another responsibility. Sounds like a bit much just for running into someone at the store, doesn't it? Therefore, stay out of it. Allow me to demonstrate.

Scenario: "A" knows "B" and sees "B" at the store with "C" whom "A" does not recognize. "A" says hello and "B" breaks away from the conversation with "C" to talk to "A" briefly. "C" stands there like an idiot. "B" doesn't introduce "C" to "A" and eventually says goodbye to "A" and goes back to the conversation with "C". "C" cries himself to sleep.
KC101 blog introductions
Obviously "C" is a overly sensitive foreigner who needs to grow a pair but you get the idea. But, even some foreigners are getting used to this lack of casual introductions, much to other foreigners' dismay, of course.

Again, I present the side that most foreigners are not acutely aware that they even naturally want to be introduced or self-introduce whenever possible. I will simply say that some foreigners are more pre-disposed to do this but certainly not foreigners are happy balls of social friendliness dying to talk to any and all people he/she meets at the supermarket. To make such a blanket statement does not apply.

In conclusion, it's not that Korean people are more rude than other group of people (although some still question this) it's just that Korean cultural expectations are different. That's all. I personally believe that Koreans can be among the most generous and friendly people on the planet......that is, second only to Texans, of course.

So, I ask this. Do you find Korean people more willing to say hello in the country versus the city? Do you see no real difference between saying "hello" and saying "안녕하세요"? Have you experienced the whole "not-being-introduced" thing, too?