Object lesson in cultural differences : on the subway today, I attempted to give up my seat to a woman who appeared to be more or less in my age bracket, plus perhaps five or ten years. She gave me an incredibly sour look of annoyance, and waved me back down, while casting quick glances left and right to check whether anyone had noticed our little interaction. I was confused, a bit, as I frequently am, and wrote it off to some kind of weird manifestation of xenophobia, which I usually do.
Turns out that I had offended her. It seems that in this strictly Confucian society, one gets up to offer one’s seat to the elderly. Only. In other places I’ve lived, I have pretty much always had a habit of mock-chivalrously doing the same for women, of whatever age, as that’s the way I was brought up. That’s not the way it works if you’re brought up in Korea, though, and by offering this woman who may have been 40 to 45 years old, I had implied that she was, or at least that she looked, an old biddy.
Ooops. Another success for international relations, courtesy of the wonderchicken.
Get outta my seat…