Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's so quiet here -- is Korea really that much louder than Canada?

I keep commenting about how it seems so much quieter in London, Ontario, Canada than in some of the same sized cities I've been in in Korea . . .

I know one reason might be due to space and population density but I think there's more to it than that.

In the grocery store I made a comment to my dad about how quiet it was in the meat section. I explained that in Korea you'd have sales people calling and yelling and chanting their sales pitches.

On the street in downtown London I thought about how Koreans have to follow such strict codes of behavior in school and at work that when they're out on the street with friends it's time to let off steam, have fun, and generally just do and say what they want to (to a degree), how then want to, when they want to because once they return to school and/or work they have to conform to the social rules of the particular space they're in. I'm not saying that we don't do this in Canada too, just that the articulation of the social reality is different.

Lastly, in Korean culture, in my own opinion, things are generally one way or the other, black or white, yes or no, LOUD or quiet . . . and I think that's another reason . . .

When you're with your group of friends and relaxing and having fun in Korea if a friend says something funny howling, screaming, cackling, and yelling about it with everyone in the group is fine because WITHIN that group everyone approves of each other's behavior . . . and there's a kind of insular buffer zone that excludes other people in the area because they are not a part of the particular group therefore in some ways they don't exist . . . I've seen this on trains, buses, on the street, and many other places in Korea. I am NOT saying ALL Koreans do this, but I do think that it's enough of a general cultural behavior pattern that it's safe to say that it's a common cultural trait.

I'm sure there are more reasons that I'm not thinking of, and that some of my reasons could probably use more reflection but for right now these are my thoughts on the issue.

I guess the conclusion I'm coming to here is that the Korean group social space determines far more than the actual social space and what takes place within it. Group social spaces are mobile as they move about with the producers of that space (the people in the group and their collective beliefs about speech and action rules) whereas a specific location of space (like a grocery store) has to be embedded with ideas and values and rules for speech and behavior that may or may not interact with the group moving through it--often, in my particular experience, it seems like the group's dynamic supersedes the space's dynamic. Simply put, whatever the group thinks is acceptable rules the group's behavior whereas in Canada I think there's a little more power given to the space and how it shapes a group's behavior (though this is not always true, I think some generalization is possible) . . .

What do you think?

It's just really really quiet here in Canada--and I'm loving it!!!


1 comment:

Brian said...

Interesting how Korea and Japan deal differently with the space problem. While Japanese avoid disturbing others in such close quarters, Koreans seem to tolerate or ignore these disturbances.

I find Korea pretty loud, and when I'm having an especially bad day it seems like they do everything as noisily as possible. The "I make noise therefore I exist" philosophy of life. But, while I hate loud noises, I can appreciate Koreans' tolerance for them. I don't like how back home people will get aggressive if their personal space feels invaded.