Kids in Korea

I’ve had some questions on how the kids have adapted to life in Korea, so here are some observations and stories. No photos, though, not because I don’t have them, but because I don’t want to post them publicly on the Internet. You never know what’s going to happen 5 or 10 years from now to all the stuff you’ve posted. (Yes, that includes this blog as well, but I’ve tried to take care not to post anything that would later be embarrassing. :-))

So, how have the kids adapted? Pretty well, I’d say. Of course in terms of language they have already learned Korean at home in Finland (and the older one had been in Korean kindergarten for a few weeks a couple of years ago), so no real problems there. Both speak it fluently (for their age) and you can’t really tell them apart from native Korean kids here (or Finnish kids in Finland for that matter). We had been a bit worried about the Little Guy since back in Finland his Korean was a bit limited, but as soon as we arrived here, he started talking more and using words we didn’t know he knew.

Another funny aspect is the Older One’s intonation. See, in Finnish, the stress is always on the first syllable of the word. In Korean, there’s no similar clear stress, but you are more likely to emphasize the end of the word. The Better Half says that back in Finland, our Daughter would speak Korean with a Finnish accent, i.e., stressing the beginning, but after a while of being here, she lost it and spoke like a Korean. Interestingly, she then started to speak Finnish with a Korean intonation, i.e., emphasizing the end of the words. This sounded quite funny, but again after a while it went away and now she speaks both languages fully naturally.

The Daughter has been in the SNU kindergarten since September and she seems to like it; at least she doesn’t complain about having to go there. Sometimes she mentions the differences between Finnish and Korean kindergartens, but I’ve been unsuccessful in actually extracting pedagogical differences. For her, differences are for example that in Finland, food was brought into their room and there was a separate nap room; here in Korea, they go eat in cafeteria and take a nap in their normal room. I guess for a 5 year old who’s been used to one way, this is a meaningful difference. 🙂

The good news is that neither has been complaining about wanting to go back to Finland. I guess they are still young enough that the only thing that matters is that mommy and daddy are with them. All in all, seems like they are enjoying it here. I’m quite curious to see how they will react to life in California. (Yes, everything is going well on that side and we’re moving end of February; I’ll write more about that later.)

I’ve noticed an interesting difference in terms of how people in general react to children. It seems to me that when you read Finnish travel brochures about different destinations, many of them mention that people in country X are really friendly towards children. The same is also true here in Korea and I’m starting to get the feeling that you could substitute any non-North European country for X in the previous saying. (I’m tempted to say any non-Finland country, but I think that would be unfair, since I don’t remember Sweden being much different from Finland.) What I mean by this are small things, like restaurants giving some small toys, getting cute pens from a bank (admittedly the branch was closing in a week), people in subway interacting with the kids, people on street commenting on how cute they are, etc. (Well, they are cute, what can I say? :-))

These kinds of things rarely happen in Finland and when they do, the other party is typically an immigrant from a “non-North European” country. Are we child-unfriendly in Finland? Certainly there are many child-friendly services, including free public transportation in Helsinki, but a small child wandering around in a restaurant and looking and waving at people is going to get more reactions here in Korea than in Finland. Obviously individuals react differently, but I have a feeling that the cultures also play a part. Which of the two is better? I leave answering that question as an exercise for the reader.

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