Friday, September 23, 2011

MEd Work: Comparing Korean and Canadian Culture

I found this appendix I wrote up for one of my MEd Intercultural Communications classes I took a while back.  Let me know if you agree or disagree^^

Appendix B
Enabling Task Two: Comparing Canadian and Korean Culture


National Characteristics
-          Collectivist.
-          Searching for identity (Pratt, 2006 as cited in Moen, 2009).
-          High-context.
-          Hot-tempered.
-          Nationalistic.
-          Competitive.
-          Xenophobic.
-          Conservative.
-          Proud of their culture.
-          Extreme, clever, unique, diligent, intense, aggressive and fiery (Rhie, 2002).
-          Individualistic.
-          Have a hard time defining themselves and tend to do so negatively.  For example they will say they are not American. (Clark & Shimoni, 2000).
-          Trying to search for a new identity (Courchene, 1996).
-          Low-context.
-          Friendly.
-          Polite.
-          Multi-cultural.
-          Liberal.
Concept of
-          Circular (Dahl, n.d.).
-          Polychronic (Dahl, n.d.).
-          The perfect world was in the past and can be found by going back to that time (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Futures of people are non-linear (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Do not have control over events that will happen (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Linear (Dahl, n.d.).
-          Monochronic (Dahl, n.d.).
-          The perfect world can be found in the future via linear progress (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Futures of people move in one direction (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          In control of events that will happen (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Honor the space between objects (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          For example when looking at a picture, they will look at how everything is related. 
-          When they take a photo, they will include more than just a picture of themselves, they will also show what is happening around them (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Do not consider space between objects (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          For example when looking at a picture, they will look at the main object and not consider anything else within the picture.
-          When they take a photo, the image of themselves or object is very large and anything around them is not considered necessary to include in the photo (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Learn things better when there is structure (Boulter, 2004).
-          High-context culture so communication is indirect and ambiguous (Merkin, 2009).
-          Deductive (Dahl, n.d.).
-          See the world as complicated (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Abstract thinking.
-          Aristotelian understanding of logic (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Logical, alphabetical, inductive.
-          Low-context culture so communicate clearly and directly (Merkin, 2009).
-          See the world in simple, explicit way (Nesbitt, 2003).
-          Religion: Christian 26.3%, Buddhist 23.2%, none 49.3% (CIA-The World Fact Book, Korea, South, People, para. 18).
-          Confucian
-          Harmony and egalitarianism (Merkin, 2009).
-          Saving ‘face’ is very important (Merkin, 2009).
-          Koreans far more Confucian than Chinese (Moen, 2009).
-          Success Syndrome (Imai, 2004).
-          Religion: Roman Catholic 42.6%, Protestant 23.3%, other Christian 4.4%, Muslim 1.9%, other and unspecified 11.8%, none 16% (CIA-The World Fact Book, Canada, People,  para. 18).
-          Independence and personal freedom (Boulter, 2004).
-          Rigid social ladder (Boulter,  2004).
-          Field-dependent;  interested in social interaction (Boulter, 2004).
-          Extremely conservative; can only be friends with people of the same age and same social status.
-          Field-independent; solitary and impersonable (Boulter, 2004).

View of
-          Highly valued.
-          Teacher-centered.
-          Focused on memorization and examination (Boulter, 2004).
-          Teacher is ‘God’ (Imai, n.d.).
-          Children expected to obey at school (Imai, n.d.).
-          Extrinsic motivation (Boulter,  2004).
-          Focus on additive and fine-tuning (Pratt, 1991).
-          Intrinsic motivation (Boulter, 2004).
-          Learner-centered (Boulter, 2004).
-          Teacher is a facilitator (Pratt, 1991).
-          Children may question their teachers.
-          Challenge old ideas and create new ones (Pratt, 1991).
-          Filial Piety (Pratt, 1991).
-          High value on family (Boulter, 2004).
-          Patriarchal Authority (Imai, n.d.).
-          Extended/large families.
-          Men in Korea come first (Imai, n.d.).
-          The individual is not important, rather part of continuing family line (Pratt, 1991).
-          Children are raised to conform, be obedient and be reliable.  Individuality is not emphasised. (Pratt, 1991).
-          Individual should succeed by him/herself, family is not that intimate. (Pratt, 1991).
-          Can choose to have a relationship with family or not, it is voluntary. (Pratt, 1991).
-          Children are raised to be self-reliant, independent and should figure out who they are (Pratt, 1991).
-          Need for self-worth (Pratt, 1991).
Non-verbal Communication
-          Avoid eye contact.
-          Bow rather than shake hands.
-          Same sex walk hand-in-hand as a sign of friendship.
-          Very concerned about their physical appearance
-          Not touch oriented (Imai, n.d.).
-          Do not display affection or emotion in public (Merkin, 2009).
-          The number 4 is bad luck.
-          White means death.
-          Periods of silence are acceptable (Imai, n.d.).
-          Women cover their mouths when laughing.
-          Blowing your nose loudly is rude.
-          Most gestures are used to show respect.
-          Make eye contact.
-          Shake hands or give a slight nod.
-          Friendship is not shown by holding hands.
-          Not very concerned about their physical appearance.
-          Touch avoidant (Merkin, 2009).
-          Display affection and emotion in public.
-          The number 13 is bad luck.
-          White means pureness.
-          Silence is uncomfortable.
-          Eating noisily is rude.
Additional Comparisons
-          Korean language has 7 different speech levels used for different social situations which reinforce the Confucian hierarchy implicit in Korean culture (Moen, 2009).
-          In Korean, it is impossible to express another person’s emotions (ibid.).
-          Asian languages are more focused on verbs.  For instance, to offer someone water, they say, “Drink?” This is because relationships are more important than objects. (Nisbett, 2003).
-          English and French are not hierarchy-based.
-          English and French are object and category oriented.  Nouns are more important than verbs.  For instance, to offer someone water, they say, “More water?” (Nisbett, 2003).

Boulter, C. (2004). From Confucius to Opedius: Considerations for culturally inclusive ELT online development. ELT and E-Learning in an Electronic Age: Issues and Alternatives Conference Proceeding (pp. 65-83).  Taipei: Tamkang University.
CIA – The World Factbook. (2010). Canada: People: Religion. Retrieved from
CIA – The World Factbook. (2010). Korea, South: People: Religion. Retrieved from
Clark, D., & Shimoni, R. (2000). Antibias education and a Canadian national identity: Is there a connection? The Canadian Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education 8(2), 55-55.
Courchene, R. (1996). Teaching Canadian Culture: Teacher Preparation. TESL Canada Journal 13(2), 1-16.
Dahl, S. (n.d.). Communications and culture transformation: Cultural diversity, globalization and cultural convergence. Retrieved from
Edge, J. (1996). Cross-cultural paradoxes in a profession of values.  TESOL Quarterly 30(1), 9-31.
Imai, G. (n.d.). Gestures: Body language and nonverbal communication.  Retrieved from
McLoughlin, C. (1999). Culturally responsive technology use: Developing an on-line community of learners.  British Journal of Educational Technology 30(3), 231-243.
Merkin, S. (2009). Cross-cultural communication patterns – Korean and American communications. Journal of International Communications 20, 5-5.
Moen, D. (2009). Korean hybridity: The language classroom as cultural hybrid. Journal of International Communication 20, 6-6.
Nesbitt, R. (2003). The geography of thought: How Asians and Westerners think differently … and why. New York, NY: Free Press.
Pratt, D. (1991). Conceptions of self within China and the United States: Contrasting foundations for adult education.  International Journal of Intercultural Relations 15(3), 285-310.
Rhie, W. (2002). Korea unmasked: In search of the country, the society and the people. South Korea: Gimm-Young International.


  1. This is very interesting. I'll have to re-read this in the morning when my brain is working better.

  2. I know you got these from articles and cited them, but I can never understand why non-Korean people would say that "In Korean, it is impossible to express another person’s emotions" because in Korean, there are more ways to express your emotions than you can in English. Since the author is also Japanese there could be some biases...(most of the times articles that are made for Koreans are from those who aren't fluent in Korean).

  3. Hi, I will check out the article again and see what it says exactly - I can't remember my point because I wrote this a few years back.

  4. Hi Unknown, I checked the article which you can find here:

    This is what the author said and I condensed it: "Kim (1978) notes that, in Korean, it is not grammatically correct to use a word relating to emotion in the second or third person while speaking in the present tense; one is only permitted to use the first person. The very idea of attributing emotions to another person is totally unwarranted. One can not say, "He is unhappy;" however, one can say, "That man looks happy" (p. 259). Of course the difference being that the second is an indefinite opinion; the certainty of another persons emotions is not expressed" (para 14).

    Do you agree with that?

    You did mention that the author is not Korean, that is true and I do agree with you that there needs to be more papers and articles written by Koreans about Koreans.

    Thanks for reading.