A few days ago I was talking to my friend how I’m frustrated by not being able to amuse people in my native language. I’ve been more frequently questioning myself if I’m a boring person or if I don’t enjoy talking within a certain cultural code, i.e., Korean. Sometimes more than often I find myself struggling in talking to people not to mention finding them uninteresting. I don’t dislike the culture that I was brought in, in fact, I don’t have any preference in any type of culture that bounds one’s personality into social consistency.
It became clear while I was talking to my friend that it is the experience that mirrors my behaviour when using certain language, or the culture blended in the language for that matter. Experience depending on the choice of language can differ significantly in my case. It conceives different social norms as well as varying range of acceptable boundaries. I find myself when I speak Korean, not quite assertive and listening and interjecting rather than leading the conversation. In contrast, I am more sarcastic, tell jokes often, and ask more questions about the person when I speak in English.
Even though I’m not perfectly bilingual as I began using English in my adulthood and my English is not even close to “complete”, I feel oddly more comfortable expressing myself in English. I can only assume that’s probably because my current life revolves around what I have acquired in my adulthood, basically when I got conscious about the world, and English has always been there, in both academic and social occasions. Starting to use English, I believe it broadened my range of perspective over the world as well as chances of meeting more people as I open the door to diversity. More and more habits were piled up on each experience and it formed patterns and a distinction in my language and my attitude as time goes by. So I got curious. I looked up about multiple personality depending on languages and I found an article about bicultural bilinguals. So I began to think if I’m bicultured. If so, don’t I have to feel less awkward when I’m speaking to most Koreans? I still haven’t figured out on this issue.
However, luckily or not, I know that I feel far more comfortable with talking to people from other countries and that it’s because of the expectation on standards. I am annoyed, frankly afraid, when I detect some sort of expectations that people have of me when it comes to cultural standards. Roughly 8.5 out of 10 times when I have relatively long conversations with Koreans, I hear, “wow, you’re different!” People say “different” when their expectations on me didn’t meet their unacknowledged standards. But, people who didn’t grow up in the same culture do not understand what’s melted in it, hence do not have those kinds of expectation on me, foreigner. Therefore, I get to be judged as an individual not as Korean! That sure makes the start of conversation much easier and I can discover interest in people before I get bored of their surface. I believe this is to some extent related to multiple personality, but not to biculturalism.
What’s certain about language is that it comes with a package not alone. Experiences always differ depending on the language you use. And that makes up a whole lot of different personality.
What does it mean to be kind to someone? I remember having learned to be kind but I don’t remember being taught what kindness is. Instead, my elementary school teacher told me to hold hand of someone who’s handicapped. She never told me why it’s a good thing or how it helps him feel better. 20 years later, I learned that kindness isn’t about holding hands and that it only discouraged me from showing the act of kindness.
It’s surprising to know that my expectation controls what I see and hear. When I expected to know no one in my town, I saw no one around me.