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Noona Meaning In South Korean

Age is nothing more than a number, but that depends on where you’re from. Age is an extremely essential factor in Korea since it instantly tells individuals where they fall on the hierarchy of respect. You can act, speak, and listen appropriately once you are aware of your position on the totem pole.

Oppa (오빠) = Older brother (used by females)
Noona (누나) = Older sister (used by males)
Hyung (형) = Older brother (used by males)
Unnie (언니) = Older sister (used by females)

Friend = Same Age

In Korea, having the same age as someone else makes you equals and automatically qualifies you as a buddy. It makes no difference if the other person despises you or if you are a truly disagreeable person. The word “friend” ( – chingu) is really used in Korean to refer to people who are the same age. And while most Koreans will use formal honorific language to express respect to those they don’t know well, many Koreans will abandon it in favour of informal Korean once they learn you are the same age as them. And it goes beyond language. Since there are no expectations linked with being younger or older, finding out that someone is the same age instantly makes Koreans feel a little more at ease.

Advice: Younger Koreans frequently omit honorific words. However, even if you’re the same age, speaking casual Korean makes you appear less mature or professional as you get older.

Age (Oppa, Unnie, Hyung, Noona)

Being older, even by one year, automatically ensures you’ll receive what respect, as Confucianism has a significant influence on Korean society (some would argue more so than on Chinese culture). That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone who is only a few months younger than you will give you a 90-degree bow, which is the highest display of respect. However, you are in a superior position to the other individual, and because of your experience and maturity, people tend to value your views more (at least theoretically). So even if you’re 35 years old, jobless, and have spent the previous 7 years in your mother’s basement, it wouldn’t be appropriate for your cousin, the CEO of a 21-year-old digital start-up, to give you advise. She simply has no business telling you how to behave in Korea. (This is why it can be problematic when a boss is younger than the employees.)

A younger age (Dongsaeng)

However, just because you’re young doesn’t mean you have to keep quiet. The benefits of youth are numerous. Many older Koreans will typically feel the need to “take care” of you since you are younger in Korea, but this might mean a variety of different things. Even if you’re at the other end of the city, an older Korean buddy may feel the need to make the extra effort to drive you home if you’re hanging out with other Koreans. Your senior Korean coworker could want to take you to a soothing spa if you’re struggling at work. Being looked after occasionally entails being treated to a meal. In Korea, it might be very fantastic to be younger than everyone. But keep in mind that you are constantly older than other people, therefore give back.

When age is irrelevant

  • In general, these opinions are less valid the closer the age (+/- 1 to 3 years) is. You won’t become any younger, just slightly. You will therefore be close enough to be buddies (chingu).
  • Age matters less the closer the bond. A lot of the hierarchy dissolves if you’re very close friends with a younger or older Korean, and you just end up being friends.
  • Koreans may try to be sympathetic of various cultures in business dealings and may not place as much stress on age.
  • Age matters less as you become older. For an adolescent, a 1-year age gap is significant, but for a senior, it doesn’t matter much.

Have you had any personal interactions with oppa/unnie/hyung/noona? Let us know.

James Yeong
James Yeong

Once a quaint dweller of the English countryside, James is now a vibrant voice narrating his adventures in the bustling heart of South Korea. Since relocating to Seoul in 2019, James has immersed himself in the dynamic tapestry of Korean culture, from the serene temples tucked away in mountainous terrains to the neon-lit streets of modern cities.

This blog has become a haven for those seeking an outsider's yet intimate perspective on South Korea, often shedding light on hidden gems and local favourites rather than just the typical tourist hotspots. With a keen eye for detail and a writing style dripping with wit and warmth, James has managed to amass a devoted readership from all corners of the globe.

Whether you're planning a trip to the Seoul, the surrounding cities or just vicariously traveling from the comfort of your couch, Jame's tales of exploration and discovery are sure to ignite a passion for the Land of the Morning Calm.

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