Thursday, June 20, 2013

Body Language

Host mother, who is always willing to let me know when I do something wrong, politely informed me this morning why placing one's elbows on the table are a cultural faux-pas in Korea. It's not like this comes as a surprise to me: the same etiquette is supposed to be observed in the U.S. I will freely admit, however, that I don't concern myself with that particular mealtime convention. It was never stressed in my own family, and I don't find it rude in the least -- it's more comfortable, even.

Yet I had been operating under the assumption that elbows should remain off the table when eating with my homestay until I noticed my host father's arms propped up in just that fashion a few times. Does that make it okay? Well, not exactly. As it turns out, host mother explained, eating with one's elbows on the table -- especially when at a restaurant -- signals to the cook that you're less than satisfied with the quality of the food. It's a bit of body language as clear as grimacing when you take a bite.

(It may also indicate that you are very tired, which, as of late, I indeed have been. I blame the doubling of my workload at school due to end-of-semester speaking tests.)

Obviously, I didn't mean to convey that particular sentiment. In fact, this morning's chicken porridge was delicious. But I have to be more careful. Learning body language the hard way is never fun, but it's still useful. As much as I despise being corrected for something I did not know was wrong, this is all part of my cultural education. Besides, I'm only going to stay with my host family for about three more weeks before summer vacation and moving out. Here's to making the most of it while I still can!

P.S. Here's a cute and informative video from Seoulistic on some differences between American and Korean gestures. I ought to turn this into a lesson for my students next semester.

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