Life in the Eastern Hemisphere of Earth has been a cultural enlightening experience. For most of my life the Western Hemisphere and all it’s cultural norms have been the place of my growth. One significant cultural difference that people should be aware of when coming to Seoul, Korea is the lost of your personal space.
For most of the Western Hemisphere, more specifically the North American Continent, people have an unspoken understanding of a minimum of an arms length of space that we call our personal space. A bubble of security and safety that we all maintain and honor between individuals. We live by this rule. We live in this bubble of personal space and mutually respect the bubble religiously.
In Seoul, Korea things aren’t as spacious as the life you may be familiar with back in North America. Seoul boasts 10 million residents just within the city limits and has a metropolitan area of over 20 million people. It is listed on wikipedia as the second largest metropolitan area by population. Imagine, if you will the massive amounts of people commuting to and from work, school and other extra activities throughout the city.
In Seoul, the personal bubble space that you may be use to growing up in North America becomes about as far away as the tip of your nose. When commuting during peak hours you will find yourself being pushed, shoved and even find somebody’s head in your armpit. Please do be warned, it is not an offense targeting any particular person. It is the cultural phenomena of a city living as the second largest metropolitan area on Earth.
The next time your on the Seoul Metro and your commuting through peak hours, take a big breath and remember the humor of finding yourself living, for a moment the life of a sardine.