Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sanai aksu

I was at a friend's house when their father came home unexpectedly. We've met very briefly before in passing and said hello but this time there was more of a chance to meet properly - except for the fact that due to my limited Korean skills there really wasn't much chance of us conversing. Still, we exchanged hellos and shook hands. On the way out we said goodbye and with one foot already in my shoe another handshake was apparently necessary. It was all nice and social but I couldn't help noticing that he didn't shake my wife's hand on either occasion.

It transpires that in these kinds of social settings men readily shake hands with one-another, but not with women. So it's taken me all this time to realise there's a big male handshaking culture. I also was reminded, because I'd forgotten, that unlike in the West when shaking the hand of a senior you're suppose to place your opposite arm respectfully underneath the shaking arm, in a similar method to the one used when handing over money (although with this the other arm tends to be closer to the wrist). Another slight faux pas then.

There was something else too. It seems that while my wife was talked to in the way a senior talks to someone of their children's age, I was talked to in the more respectful form of an equal. In truth I'm not sure quite how to take this. On the one hand, I don't particularly care for the notion of being talked down to in some way, but on the other hand, if I'm not then I'm potentially in the realm of the ajeoshi, and I'm sure I don't care for that.

Korean keywords: 아저씨, 악수하다

1 comment:

Ewha said...

The "handshake phenomenon" is alive and well here with Koreans living in the US. Our head TaeKwonDo master (my boss) greets every parent who enters the school enthusiastically, but only the men warrant handshakes. He will also interrupt himself to personally address any men who walk through the door. Women have to wait until it is convenient...

Post a Comment