During our studies in the past two semesters, we’ve researched and read so much literature on the Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Still, coming to a new country/continent you may find yourself taken aback by the differences between your culture and the new culture. While in Korea, I found that one of the most prevalent dimensions that I experienced was the power distance index. Power distance is defined as the space in relationships between people. Not only is there a power distance between natives on different professional or age levels, but most definitely between natives and foreigners.
As I got to my new office for the summer, I noticed an interesting set up within the cubicle layout. The supervisor or “chief” of each team sits facing their team of “public servants” and there Is a director on each floor, with one Mayor and vice mayor in the building. Much like in America, there is a chain of command that is expected to be followed. Employees report to their team chief, chiefs report to the department director and those directors report to the mayor. Any other order of reporting is unacceptable.
Outside of the office, I noticed the power distance between the natives and foreigners. When using pubic transportation in Korea, you will find that there are designated/reserved seats for the elderly, disabled, injured or pregnant individuals. On my first subway I didn’t notice the reserved seats and readily prepared to sit down in what I thought was just an empty seat. I was quickly stopped however, by my co-worker and told that that seat was reserved for the above mentioned groups and were “certainly not for foreigners”. Talk about a culture shock! Being told a seat was reserved was one thing, being called a foreigner for the first time was another thing entirely. It was then that I truly realized I wasn’t in America anymore!
— Until next time,