The difference between Japan, Korea and the United States


RECENTLY, a Korean journalist stationed in Tokyo wrote a funny article comparing Japan, South Korea and the United States. He recounted his experience in each of the three countries when he tried to change the delivery date of a TV he had purchased.

In Japan, the customer service agent was extremely nice and friendly, but politely declined his request, saying it was against the policy. In Japan, you are rude if you try to change your date when the agreed date is near.

In Korea, the customer advisor was not particularly friendly, but she still changed the delivery date for him. In fact, in Korea it is possible to change your appointment until the last moment. Koreans are quite flexible on such things. Additionally, Koreans are well known for getting things done quickly too. Indeed, everything goes so fast in Korean society that it is surely convenient to live there.

Then the reporter wrote that in the US he couldn’t even speak to the customer service representative. Presumably, when he called, the answering machine put him on hold forever. In my recent experience, I had to wait about 40 minutes before I could finally speak to a customer service rep. While it varies by company and calling times, putting a customer on hold for about half an hour seems to be common in the United States these days.

The Korean correspondent’s comparison of Japan, South Korea and the United States brought a smile to my face as it revealed the drastic differences between the three countries. Indeed, Japan is a country where people are polite and friendly, and yet they do everything “by the rules”. In addition, in Japanese society it is very frowned upon to embarrass someone or take a lot of time. You shouldn’t be annoying or annoying yourself either.

South Korea is a country where people don’t always live strictly by the rules and therefore can be flexible. Although such elasticity can sometimes cause problems, it is certainly suitable for everyday life of ordinary people. In addition, Korean society is fast. Everything is so fast, so you don’t have to wait long. Some foreigners love it so much that they decide to live in Korea much longer than they originally planned.

Compared to Korea, everything is so slow in the United States. For example, when you apply for a driver’s license or a transfer from a license from another state, it usually takes a month to receive the license by mail. In South Korea, you can get your driver’s license in 10 to 15 minutes. When you submit an article to an American journal, it takes at least a year to be published. In Korea, it only takes a few weeks.

Recently a friend of mine from America called a company to paint his house. The company told him the paint job would have to wait about a year. He also called an electrician to fix an electrical problem in his office. The electrician informed him that he must be on a waiting list that spanned about three months. While the Covid-19 pandemic and the current housing buying boom in the United States have had significant effects on supply and demand, it is still too long to wait.

In Korea, painters or electricians would come right away when you called them. As for doctors’ offices in Korea, they can be visited at any time, even without an appointment. In the United States, you may have to wait several months, unless it is an emergency.

In the 1970s, when I was living in the United States, America was a really advanced country. Everything was so admirable and commendable. At that time, America’s social system was superb, and American society was reasonable and rational. Living in the United States at the time was indeed convenient and enjoyable.

Half a century has passed. The problem is, the US system hasn’t changed much since then, while other countries have changed quickly and drastically to accommodate the hyperspeed electronic age. Over time, therefore, the once efficient and flawless American system has become relatively inefficient and slow.

Maybe the American people don’t realize it because they have lived in such an environment for a long time. Yet in the eyes of young foreigners accustomed to fast procedures and dynamic changes in their country, obviously a lot of things seem very slow in the United States.

In America, when you’re a repeat customer, not a new one, things get a lot better. For example, when my toilet started to leak a few days ago, the plumbing company initially made an appointment to install a new one two weeks later. Once notified of the emergency, however, a technician came immediately and took care of it. So it all depends.

From such comparisons we can learn a lot of intriguing things about other countries. – The Korea Herald / Asia News Network

Kim Seong-kon is Emeritus Professor of English at Seoul National University and Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College in the United States.


About Hector Hedgepeth

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