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Physical contact.

Posted: May 1st, 2010 1:56 pm
by imaBALLER
Lately, I have been hanging out with more and more Korean people. It's great. One thing I have found is that all the Korean people I have met (less than 10) touch me quite often. I will give some examples;

The first time I met one of my male friends, he playfully punched me in the arm when I payed for this coffee. We had known each other about 3 mins at that stage, lol... It kind of shocked me because I don't expect contact between two people that early on. I didn't mind it, I am a pretty relaxed person, but it just surprised me a bit.

I met this Korean girl that I had previously emailed. She gave me a hug. She had never seen me before and gave me a hug straight away. Once again, I didn't mind, but was surprised.

Sitting next to a Korean girl at a restaurant, having her press her body against me when reaching for water etc... Leaving her leg resting against mine while eating etc... Once again, I had known this person for about 2 hours at this stage.

Walking down the street with a girl and having her walk so close to me that we are literally bumping into each other on every second step and I am slowly being driven off the sidewalk into the gutter.

General playful hitting and pushing by both male and female. If I am writing something in 한굴 on my palm to check spelling they will make me write on their palm, or vice versa. Patting on shoulders too...

Is this behaviour normal? Or have I stumbled across the most touchy-feely Koreans ever?

Contact with people when first meeting in Australia is generally restricted to a handshake. Occasionally, you will find someone who is very touchy, but they are considered outside of the norm. A hug with a sister/brother in law, or a kiss on the cheek is acceptable too I guess. Normally, If a girl was touching me this much I would interpret it as interest, but I don't think it is in this case... I guess I am just experiencing a butting of cultures.

I googled and I found this:

"Koreans consider it a personal violation to be touched by someone who is not a relative or close friend. Avoid touching, patting or back slapping a Korean"

In light of my experience I strongly disagree with this statement, unless I am being repeatedly violated without knowing any better haha...

It would be great if someone could offer some explanations/interpretations/examples to help me understand this a bit better.


Thanks!

Posted: May 1st, 2010 10:59 pm
by trutherous
lol -- you must be quite handsome!

Me personally -- I'm not sure about formal rules of contact.

Similar experiences:

In Korea it is quite common to be in close quarters, on a bus, on the subway, in a crowd, so Koreans do not freak out as much as westerners when personal space is violated.

When I was in Korea the first time, while riding the city bus with standing room only, I kept my hands off other people as the bus swayed to a stop and some standing near me lost balance and nearly fell. After all, in the west it's 'every man for himself.' Needless to say I got some harsh glances along the lines of 'if looks could kill.' I soon got in the habit of catching other people in such situations. Upon my return trip to the US I took a shuttle bus from LAX to the valley where I live, and as we got off the bus a 70=yr old white woman lost balance and was falling down in the isle in front of me -- I instinctively reached out and grabbed her shoulders --preventing a fall that might have broken her hips... thankful?... she screamed and turned and yelled 'Don't touch me!" --I thought 'Oh yeah, right, this is America, we don't touch each other here.'

I have never had a guy friend take me by the hand in the US... I have never had a guy friend in the US put his arm on my shoulder as we walked (except when I was like 7 years old), but I have had these experiences in Korea, and with some Koreans in the US. A gay visitor to Korea might think he had hit the jackpot until he finds out that this is just the culture and not looking for an intimate encounter.. :lol:

On my 09 visit to Korea I did notice that they seem to be more aware of personal space than in days past. Maybe it's the western influence, or just that I am older and uglier than in my youth ha! However, I still had the experience of having one fellow I had known for an hour take me by the hand and lead me around, and another fellow I was sharing a few drinks with putting his arm around me and patting my knee.

Girls -- well, before I was married it was not uncommon for them take me arm-in-arm as we walked and talked. However, open displays of affection (i.e. petting and kissing in public) is not as common as here in the US. And of course with married people it goes without saying that male-female contact other than between spouses is typically 'no touch', other than the hug at church or to have them put a couple of hands on your arm and say "부탁이에요 -네?."

Oh well... Koreans have 정 - that's what got me hooked.

Posted: May 2nd, 2010 7:57 am
by sinnae404
Interesting thread!

In Australia, my wife and I will kiss hello and goodbye to our close friends (well, except for male to male - in most cases haha), but we would never dream of this with our Korean friends. On of our Korean co-teachers was here in Australia and my Mum gave her a kiss goodbye. She looked shocked!

Our close Korean friends get a hug if we haven't seem them for a long time, and it doesn't matter if they're married or not. But I think this is because they are younger - I suspect the older Korean generation play by different rules!

But I must admit, it sounds like you get a LOT of contact - I never experienced that much in my time!!

Posted: May 2nd, 2010 2:15 pm
by imaBALLER
Haha, I am still pretty confused.

I guess the non touching is limited to business relationships... I think these people just feel comfortable with me :? I don't mind it, so whatever...

George, what does that last phrase mean? Do me a favour?

A male taking me by the hand would definitely be pushing it for me, in terms of what I am used to and comfortable with...

Posted: May 3rd, 2010 2:07 am
by trutherous
That's just the last part of whatever request. Most Korean women who have asked something of me have put their hand(s) on my forearm or hand and ended their request with that phrase I shared.

Re: Physical contact.

Posted: May 3rd, 2010 9:23 pm
by manyakumi
imaBALLER wrote:The first time I met one of my male friends, he playfully punched me in the arm when I payed for this coffee. We had known each other about 3 mins at that stage, lol... It kind of shocked me because I don't expect contact between two people that early on. I didn't mind it, I am a pretty relaxed person, but it just surprised me a bit.

It's a common situation among intimate relationship.
But as you said, 3 mins... kind of rude.. I think.
Maybe he was trying to be friendly faster.

imaBALLER wrote:I met this Korean girl that I had previously emailed. She gave me a hug. She had never seen me before and gave me a hug straight away. Once again, I didn't mind, but was surprised.

This never happens among Koreans.
It seems that she wanted to act in western style she was thinking.
Many Korean girls do this to westerners in order to be shown as a cool person.
Kinda weird thing... :roll:

imaBALLER wrote:Sitting next to a Korean girl at a restaurant, having her press her body against me when reaching for water etc... Leaving her leg resting against mine while eating etc... Once again, I had known this person for about 2 hours at this stage.

Pretty common.
Especially in a Korean style restaurant.

imaBALLER wrote:Walking down the street with a girl and having her walk so close to me that we are literally bumping into each other on every second step and I am slowly being driven off the sidewalk into the gutter.

Common.
Especially to an attractive person.
I guess you are a good looking white guy.
;)

imaBALLER wrote:General playful hitting and pushing by both male and female. If I am writing something in 한굴 on my palm to check spelling they will make me write on their palm, or vice versa. Patting on shoulders too...

Often.

All these situations you mentioned above would be happening quite often because you are a foreigner who wants to meet Korean culture.

:wink:

Posted: May 4th, 2010 3:39 am
by javiskefka
Your friends intrigue me. Perhaps you should introduce them if there's ever a chance :lol:

Posted: May 4th, 2010 6:35 am
by Happypie
soon after meeting my boyfreinds mother she would link arms with me and hold my hand, which i found a little odd at first, but my boyfreind explained that physical contact was well accepted and what freinds do in korea, including men holding hands. I doubt itd be so well recieved if you tried it on just any random korean, specially someone older.

I think your new freinds were just being super freindly and felt you were freinds already :D