A NEW commercial on South Korean TV is encouraging folks to shake off their shyness when tourists approach them.
The ad is produced by the Visit Korea Year Campaign, which aims to boost foreign tourism in South Korea by making the country’s sights and festivals more accessible to international visitors.
The tendency for South Koreans to be shy around foreign faces is not necessarily because of a language barrier. Foreign languages such as Japanese are commonly studied in South Korea, and English is now a required course for all students, starting in elementary school. While Koreans are studying English in record numbers, they are often shy or hesitant when it comes to speaking it.
So why so timid? Well, as a teacher working in South Korea, I know that it’s a favourite topic of discussion among expats. It could be an issue of saving face, a lack of exposure to foreigners, or the fact that grammar-heavy school curriculums don’t emphasize speaking. It’s likely a combination of the three.
Still, as funny as the ad may be, any expat will tell you that it’s not too far from the truth. At my local coffeeshop, I see baristas rock-paper-scissors for who has to serve the foreigners. Maybe that could go in the next commercial?