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Cultural Differences Between Korea and Canada – Parting Words from Younghun, our Korean Intern

Posted by QEQ Intern | 05.06.15


Younghun's Farewell Lunch with QEQ's Tina Sun and Vanessa Vachet

Younghun’s Farewell Lunch with QEQ’s Tina Sun and Vanessa Vachet

Younghun is our Korean Intern.

Here’s his take on the cultural differences he’s observed during his time at QEQ


When I came to Vancouver for the first time, it was actually kind of a challenge. There are some very noticeable differences between Korea and Canada and I had to adapt to living here.  First of all, I was not used to the traffic systems in Canada.  For example, in Korea, when I use a pedestrian crossing, I have to watch for traffic on the right-hand side, because cars come from that direction. Whereas, in Canada, I have to watch the left side in order to avoid an accident.  Since I was used to the Korean way, I often found myself in some dangerous situations and cars from the left side would often honk at me. At least until I got used to the flow of Canadian traffic.


I also noticed a slight difference between Canadians and Koreans when it comes to personality and personal tendencies. It varies from person to person, but, generally, Canadians are more individual in their preferences and have an ‘individual’ mindset, unlike Koreans.


Back in Korea, I was also used to sharing meals with my co-workers and friends. I made a point of going out with them whenever possible, either to lunch or dinner. In Canada, It doesn’t seem to be a big deal. From what I noticed, people here often prefer to eat alone because it’s more convenient.


Working in Canada…


When I started work at QEQ I was surprised at the work environment.  In Canada, things are quite flexible compared to Korea. For example, in Korea, lunchtime is mainly fixed from 12 to 1pm, whereas in Canada, even if the lunch time is fixed, workers can generally eat whenever they want. I’m not trying to say that the Canadian way isn’t professional. Canadians just know and respect the fact that people can work at different times. They can still keep up with their tasks, even if their schedules aren’t always adhered to. In fact, it makes them even more productive.


While working here, I also witnessed the unique relationship between supervisor and co-worker. In Canada, it seems natural for co-workers to share their ideas directly with their supervisors. In Korea, that’s not always the case. But, people are getting used to the idea and are starting to change. However, Koreans tend to be indirect when they share their ideas, unlike Canadians. In Korea, if someone proposes a great idea directly to their supervisor, even if it’s a good move for the company, it might not be accepted because of the casual way in which it was shared.


In Korea, we also have different ways of getting to know our colleagues. At least once a month, there is a kind of company dinner, which mostly has a positive effect on the employee-employer relationship. The company dinner is kind of strict. It’s almost compulsory. Basically, you’re expected to participate. Therefore, sometimes, it can be stressful for someone who might not be good at socialising. On the bright side, these dinners often strengthen work relationships, especially if you like your co-workers and the company. It’s nice to know that co-workers can be more than that. They can also be friends. Whereas, in Canada, even if there is a company dinner, it’s not mandatory to attend. You can skip it if you have other plans.


Younghun’s Parting Words…


Our cultural differences sometimes left me confused, however, I am now getting used to the way things are done in Canada. I also have an interest in learning more about Canadian culture. And though there will always be certain differences between our two countries, all we need to keep in mind is our common sense. As long as you don’t break the rules of common sense, it can be quite easy to learn, to adapt, and to appreciate, our cultural differences.