Relationships between Korean students and American teachers

Here’s a Korean’s view on the cultural differences between dealing with teachers in Korea and in America.

One aspect of American culture I really cannot adapt to is the way students behave to their teachers. English has no honorifics so there is no way of speaking with respect to older people. I cannot call a teach ‘you’ or use their first name. In high school we say “teacher” and in university we say “professor.”

In addition, US students say hi to their professors by waving. In Korea we bow. In class, Americans interrupt the lecture with questions. In Korea we have to wait for the professor to pause. It seems that in Korea we really have to be much more careful to be polite to our professors.

I’ve noticed a difference in the concept of right and fairness as well. One of my friends goes to university in the US, and he told me a shocking story. He became really close friends with one of his professors. They went out for lunch, played tennis together, and the professor even invited him to his house. When the semester was over, he got a B. He thought he would get an A easily since they were friends but the professor just gave my friend the grade he earned. In Korea people expect preferential treatment when they know each other but in the US I guess opportunities and results apply to everyone the same.

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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