Lunch with a Canadian friend from a Korean perspective

Consider this story from one of my students:

When I met my Canadian friend, I suggested we get lunch together. When she showed up for the lunch date, my Canadian fried had brought her friend along – a total stranger to me.

In Korea, this kind of arrangement is between the inviter and the invitee. However, in Canada it’s relatively easier to get along with strangers and make new friends so they easily bring their friends with them.

When I asked the rest of the class, about 50% said it would bother them if a friend brought a stranger along to this kind of lunch that was supposed to be between two friends. More Korean women than men said they would find it uncomfortable or offensive.

In America and Canada, I think fewer people would find the situation awkward, especially since this was a casual, friendly meeting as opposed to a business lunch. When we get together to chit chat or hang out, we often feel ‘the more the merrier’.

The contrast is that, in Korea, being placed in a situation where you have to socialize with strangers is fairly awkward. For an example of what I mean, one thing that surprised me about Korea is that on the first day of class, students would be quiet – as if they were taking the final exam. They didn’t want to introduce themselves to the strangers sitting around them.

Filed Under: Cultural bumps & perceptions

About the Author

James Trotta began teaching public speaking in 2002 and interview skills in 2008. Somewhere in between he began teaching intercultural communication, public speaking, and resume / cover letter writing.

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