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May 11

Let’s Get Packing!

It is great to have you here.  I look forward to helping you pack your cultural suitcase.  Below is a summary of why I believe I can offer some assistance.

After teaching for many years, having lived abroad for seven years, and being married to a fine Korean gentleman for well over a decade, I am completely convinced that what I learned long ago in my TESOL classes is true — language and culture are inseparable.   In other words, you can’t learn a language without learning the culture, and you probably know already how tough it is to not have the language, even if the new culture isn’t very different from your own.

Another issue is that neither culture nor language is easy to grasp when they are new to you.  Culture shock is certain to hit at your emotional door sometime along the way in your journey to becoming more comfortable here.  But, we’ll talk more about that later.

Cultural Glimpses is intended to offer you some glimpses, or small insights, about American and/or Western culture.  This will not be exhaustive in any way, but it is intended to help you think and process your experience of learning English and its culture more effectively.

I want to start with a basic: Individualism.  Americans and most Westerners have this long-standing idea of the importance of the individual over the group.  Many of you may come from cultures that are more like Collectivism — in other words, the group is more important than the individual.

So, what does Individualism mean in everyday life here in the United States?  Many things!  For starters, when one turns 18, or at the latest 21 years of age, you are considered an adult.  Most parents expect their children to “leave the nest” and “forge ahead” to get started on her/his career or complete his/her education.  Certainly many parents continue to assist their grown children until they graduate from college, but others do not or cannot.

The expectation is that the young adult is now responsible for his/her choices in life now.  If the young person takes that responsibility on and relieves the parents of their financial burden, we strongly approve of that in American culture.  We believe this is showing that the young person is ready to embark on his/her journey to reach toward the American Dream.  That dream, of course, may also be quite individualized.

There is much more to discuss, but we’ll stop here for now.  Ask your yourself and those around you how they see Individualism. You’re likely to get some varied individualistic answers!  In future posts, we will look at other facets of culture.



  1. Ben Kim

    It is very inspiring. Make me think a lot of internationals whom I am currently teaching at UCF, and at the same time bring me my old memory back in Sydney, Australia. Thanks MUCH.

  2. B Kim

    It is so true Karen. Although, many internationals tend not to do likewise due to their limited linguistic and cultural abilities. I wished that I had you as my cultural advisor when I was in Australia. But, I now am so glad that you are here today with me as my beloved wife and sharing this insightful professional knowledge with many out there. May your site prosper and bless you and many others!!

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