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[Contribution] Learning to share like Koreans do

2012/04/04 | 490 views |  | Permalink | Source

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There is an old saying that I learned while studying Korean in Korea: "Even a bean can be shared". From what I've seen during my time here, this saying seems to capture the spirit of the Korean people very well. Koreans love to share everything.

I see this when I eat with my friends. One particularly memorable time, a couple of friends and I went to a pizza shop that also had a salad bar. It was my first time eating pizza in Korea, so I was quite surprised that, despite there being three of us, we all ended up eating our food from the same plate. My friends also stuck three straws in our single drink.

Because I grew up where it is customary for everybody to use their own utensils, with their own cups and plates, this experience of eating together was unusual, but also refreshing in a way. Not only pizza, but also pajeon (green onion pancake) and jjigae (stew) are eaten together from one dish or bowl. I have to admit, though, I was a little amused when I went to a cake store and saw three pieces of cake being served on one plate.

Although this practice left me feeling slightly uncomfortable and even confused at first, I soon discovered the fun of being able to share food with my friends, taking turns pointing out what tastes good and what doesn't. When meeting people for the first time, it seemed like we got closer much more quickly if we ate together. Now, because I've gotten so used to this culture, I actually prefer eating together to eating separately.

Another sight that was new to me was newlyweds driving through busy city streets in cars decorated lavishly with flowers and balloons. When I first saw a couple like this, so confident and unashamed in their happiness, I was shocked and honestly a little embarrassed. But as I continued to see people like them, my attitude gradually changed. The next time I saw a bride and groom waving excitedly at everybody around them, their faces lit up with happiness, I became aware of a growing happiness inside myself -- I found myself wanting, and getting, to share in their joy.

The same goes for difficult times. For example, in Japan, during exam season, you will find that most students study by themselves. Of course, many students in Korea also study by themselves. But there are also a great many students who study together, teaching and testing each other on what they have learned. In Korea, unlike in Japan, because libraries and study rooms are open longer, we can study with our friends until very late at night. Studying for exams by yourself is a hard and lonely task, but it's not as bad when you are with your friends. Korean students share not only their joys but also their pains and difficulties. Shouldering these together makes them much lighter and easier to bear.

It's been almost a year since I came to Korea, and I've made many valuable memories during my time here. I think it's because the people I met here reached out to me, an international student from a different country, to share with me their joys and their happiness. A recurring thought I've had these days is that if all people could only meet the kinds of people I have met in Korea and learn from them how to share, we would be able to solve a lot of the problems affecting our world today. Because property and resources both are available only in limited supply, our task must be to learn how to share.

"Shared grief is half the sorrow, but shared joy is double the happiness". I fully believe that the willingness and ability to share can change the world. Even after I go back to Japan, I want to live my life remembering the culture of sharing that I learned in Korea and sharing my happiness with my friends and family.

Hirose Chiharu
Cheongju University

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