Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm getting all "guh"

I miss having free time.  Teaching high school English in the U.S. is a very, very demanding job.

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.


  1. confused? behind the times? murmuring "damn kids" under your breath?

    it's called getting old.

    revel in it.


    - sleepy

  2. Yeah I wanna know...what does "guh" mean??

  3. Neither Katy Perry nor Justin Beiber are tweens. The former is an adult and the latter a teen.

    That is all.

  4. jane, That's the point! Haha. My students defined it as something akin to "blown." As in, "The teacher gave me my test back, and I got a D, so I was guh." (Except less formal sounding).

    Amanda, I may have been thrown by the level of maturity displayed in their artistic choices, fashion sense, and twitter following.

  5. what the hell is "blown"? like blown away? wow, it really is becoming like new speak! old me and my far too long, drawn out phrases.

  6. ... yea, who is Katy Perry? I've at least heard of Justin Beiber.... thanks to NPR broadcasts I listen to by podcast in Korea... Katy Perry... doesn't even sound vaguely familiar.



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