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Korean Culture: Have you heard the phrases our country and our house?

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In Korea, You have  probably noticed that Korean always use the term우리 (our) such as 우리 나라 (our country), 우리 회사 (our company), 우리 집 (our house), 우리 남평 (lit, our husband), 우리 엄마 (our mother) etc. Even though it is same as English word – our but it has many more meaning in Korean. It is not because everyone has multiple personality disorder or that there is joint ownership of everything!

Have you heard the phrases our country and our house?

우리 집? Our House?

The use of 우리 emphasizes community over individuality. In daily life, Koreans prefer to do even trivial things together, rather than do things alone. Koreans dislike having even a light meal or coffee alone. Koreans feel safer an happier when together, and feel that activities done together strengthen relationships. This is the reason you will rarely find someone eating or drinking alone in a restaurant in Korea.

Despite how much Koreans like to use our, in term can’t be used all the time. When it’s necessary to show possession of something by an individual, the possessive my is used. To say our bag or our cellular phone, for instance, would be very odd. But when expressing possession, Koreans will often say our in order to stress their affiliations, rather than saying my, which expresses individuality. Terms such as 우리 나라 and 우리 회사 consciously or unconsiously reinforce a sense of unity.

It may feel strange at first to use the collective our, but like spicy Kimchi, repeated use can acclimate your tongue for it.

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