Korean age is confusing compared to Western age. When a baby is born, he or she is one. This I can understand, due to the nine months of growing and living inside the womb. But then, on January 1st, every person ages one year.
I was born December 2nd. So while I was zero in America, I was one in Korea. But then one month later, I was, by Korean standards, two years old. Therefore, most Koreans are one or two years younger than the age they say they are. So my student who is “eight” is, by western age, either seven or six.
I turned 25 in Korea, but got used to saying I was 27. When the world cup was on I learned my share of soccer facts from the many fans who surrounded me. One of these facts was that the world cup occurred every four years, and not every year as I’d assumed. I was with my friends when I learned this, and I said, “Oh my God, that means the next time the World Cup is on, I’ll be 30!” They all laughed at me. Later as I thought about it, I realized that I was in fact 25, making me 29 the next time the World Cup was on.
It’s not that I’m all that horrible at math, but rather, I’d started to think of myself as 26. I remembered to knock my real age back from the number I told Koreans, but I forgot to knock it back enough. Korea had officially confused me about my own age.
This confusion also really made aging from 25 to 26 anticlimactic, as I’d spent that year calling myself 27.
Now, due to birthdays NOT being a marker for aging one year, there is no big importance on zodiac symbols in Korea. However, there is a big significance in blood type. I guess your blood type can explain your personality.
My boss was horrified when she learned that I didn’t know what my blood type was. It would be like an American not knowing if they were a Scorpio or Gemini.
I learned that the K-pop boy band “Mblaq” has five members who all have type A blood. My students wrote essays about their favorite band, and this information was repeated by many a pre-teen fan. Common knowledge, I guess.
Tomaytoes tomahtoes, birthdays and blood.
(written in 2010)