Something I've noticed... the culture here in PG county/suburban DC, that I was pretty "in touch" with three years ago, is now something almost completely foreign to me. Part of it is getting older, but part of it is missing all those subtle cultural shifts that happen imperceptibly and rapidly without anyone who is a participant noticing. Three years ago, almost no one but political bloggers referred to the Supreme Court as SCOTUS. I still can't pick Katy Perry (yes, I had to look up how to spell her name) or Justin Bieber out of a lineup of similarly prepified tweens (frankly, who the heck cares?). And now my students say things like "Mrs. S, you be getting me all guh," and I feel like I did when I was first learning about Korea and didn't know what "service" was (Good lord, I miss "service-uh").
It's got me thinking about cultural observations as an outsider in Korea and reflecting on how much I did or didn't understand. Like if I hadn't grown up in the DC area, I might think some of these things were unique to this area, when really, they're new to the culture, not just regional. Many things about Korean youth culture changed so rapidly that my students taught me things about Korean culture that older people, or even the venerable Korean of Ask a Korean wouldn't know.
How does culture change? How permanent are the changes (or are they short term trends, like the Macarena)? When we're living in it, we can't really know. It's only over time that the depth of the change is revealed.
I think some things are easier to see from the outside (like the consequences of American consumerism) and others impossible to fully grasp except from within (like age-based hierarchy in Korean society, which I understand academically and linguistically but just don't get at all). Living in a foreign land and marrying a non-American has made me a bit of an outsider of the culture once again. And the first thing I've been truly excited about since coming back is trying to make sense of it all. I've got my puzzle back.