As you can expect, there are many differences between Korean and Western culture. It is apparent pretty much as soon as you begin your journey on learning about the country. While there are indeed many similarities, the differences tend to stick out more.
One of the biggest differences between the two cultures is in fact…what your age is. Many people don’t know this, but In Korea, you are actually older than you are here! This is because they calculate age differently than us. Here, when we are born, we are considered….well….zero. You are one hour old, one day old, one month old, etc. Then, we count ourselves as one year older 365 days later (like an anniversary of your birth).
However, in Korea, you are considered age 1 as soon as you are born. Then, instead of turning a year older on your birthday, everyone is considered a year older on January 1st. (Don’t worry, Korean people still celebrate birthdays. It’s just that it is simply a party rather than you being considered older than before.) This means that – theoretically – if a baby in Korea is born on December 28, then come January 1st, they are considered two years old, even though they have only been alive for a few days. Because of this, it is more common to hear Korean people ask “What year were you born?” rather than “How old are you?” in order to avoid this confusion.
So, surprise! Turns out you are a different age in Korea. To find your Korean age, you just take the age you will be at the end of this year, and then add one. For example, I am 22 years old, but my birthday is in July (so it hasn’t happened yet). Therefore, since I will be 23 by the end of this year, I add 1, and voila! I am 24 in Korean age (talk about a time difference)!
To us, it may seem a bit confusing and misleading, but that is just the way it has always been there. I’m sure that we have traditions that they would consider strange, too! Age is actually a huge cultural factor in Korea, and how old you are essentially affects everything you say. I will explain this in another post, though!
Thank you for reading!