I have been back in Korea for almost a week. When I landed in Incheon Airport, I admittedly have to say that I have never felt so glad, grateful, and relieved to be back home. Now that I have settled down and had some time to reflect on my time in India and comparatively live in my motherland, I think I can give a more thoughtful and unbiased view of what I have experienced for the past few weeks.
I apologize in advance if the reader was looking for more insight or cultural experience in India, for this is going to dwell on my inner thoughts and learning (relatively void of references to India).
I often heard people say “have appreciation for cultural differences.” I, 100%, agree and that’s the attitude I have armored myself going to India (and few other countries I visited prior to India). What people may forget is “appreciation for the familiar.” After India, I have become even more keen to the details of comfort that I have been surrounded by. From a well-lit, heated public transit (or even the existence of it!) to eating without fear of any food (there’s a facebook picture of Korean and American T’13s eating street food in Seoul after I got back), there’s a plethora of luxury and safety that I had taken for granted and normal. I am enjoying and grateful for this heightened sense of observation and appreciation for my surroundings; though I know it will fade away, I hope I can retain a good dose of this perspective for as long as I can.
The second perspective I have gained is to look at the environment from an outside-in view. In India, I looked at India as a foreigner. There are some local customs that I had hard time adjusting to (i.e. little regard for personal space or staying/getting in line) and I admittedly erred on the side of “that is rude” than “wow, that is fascinating.” Coming back to Korea, I started evaluating what Koreans (and myself, including) deemed as a normal course of life; as little detail as getting jam-packed in the subway during the rush hour to yelling out for service at any waiter walking by, I asked myself “how would a group of foreigners respond to this?” I had always thought that Korea is a westernized and developed place – besides the language issue, any foreigner could live here easily. When I looked at these little details, there are issues at which a foreign would have had hard time adjusting to, just like I did in India; I was blind-sided or rather numb since I grew up in this culture and thought only natural. With that, I felt a little dose of embarrassment and guilt that crept up on me for having thought the way I had in India. It’s amazing how things can go from negative to neutral or positive or visa versa with the flick of a perspective.
Overall, I really appreciated my experiences in India. It was a learning experience as well as a bonding experience. Phil, Sewon and I still exchanged few jokes when we met yesterday; and I am sure my whole group have a lot to catch up when we head back to Hanover.
Safe travels and see you all back in Hanover.