July 18, 2010

How do you feel when someone bows to you?

I was walking to my workplace, on a hot Sunday morning, when I was approached by this young man on the street. He asked me if I knew where the Veterinary school of NC State was located. I had a rough idea where it was but was not able to locate it on the map he had. He said he had arrived from South Korea the previous day and was keen on finding out where the Vet school was. He apparently had already visited a part of the campus looking for it but couldn't locate it. Impressed with his determination, I wanted to help him and so asked him to accompany me to my workplace, so that I could look it up on the internet for him. I was able to locate it on the Wolfline map (NC State's bus service) and pointed it out to him. I gave my map to him and told him to wait until the next day and take a bus to the place since it was pretty far to walk. He was extremely grateful and he thanked by shaking hands with me. He did something after that which I didn't see coming. He bowed to me, in the typical genuine East Asian style and said 'Thank you' again. I felt so weird being bowed to that by the time I could respond he was gone. Even though he was the one bowing, I felt so small in front of him, I don't know why. Its probably because, that was the first time someone bowed to me, though I have been bowing to my elders since my childhood. Another thing that impressed me was the young man's attitude of embracing a different culture but preserving his own culture even outside his homeland . That is definitely praiseworthy considering the many immigrants I see around me who have conveniently replaced their own culture and practices with those of the western world. This also reminds me of the recent uproar in the media when the US President Obama greeted the Japanese Emperor with a bow. He was most probably trying to imitate a Japanese way of greeting, and I see nothing wrong in it whatsoever. Anyway, by the end of it all, I was glad I could help the Korean student.

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