It’s hard to be abroad sometimes. Every country, every group of people have different concepts about what is private and what is public knowledge. It’s even harder when you are me and are very private.

In Morocco, there really wasn’t any privacy, I’m pretty sure everyone knew everything there was about me, right down to my shoe size.

In Slovakia, the school accountant didn’t have any problem with announcing a teacher’s medical test results or about their monthly salary in front of other teachers.

In Korea, my coworkers will go through papers on my desk because they look interesting.

Privacy is a difficult concept to explain to other people. For me, growing up in America, unless the owner gives you permission, you shouldn’t go through someone else’s belongings on/in their desk, in their purse/bag, etc., regardless if you can already see/hear a part of it. I try to be more relaxed about my privacy when I’m abroad but then something will happen and I’ll immediately bristle up and grab whatever it is out of the person’s hand or make a comment about how that’s private. It’s this bizarre knee-jerk response that I have about my privacy. Of course, that response hurts other people’s feelings and then I have to explain that I didn’t mean to hurt their feelings and don’t feel bad or mad at me.

It’s awkward to navigate through the different culture mores regarding privacy. In the Korean language, we have to ask people what their age is because it determines how you speak to each other. But you would never ask a westerner what their age is. Nor would you ask about what their salary is. And most definitely you would stay away from any P.A.R.S.N.I.P. topic.

One response to “Privacy

  1. privacy…yes. it is a complex thing. my coworker wanted to discuss the price we would be paid for overtime (afterschool classes)…in FRONT of all the other teachers. NO SIREE!! i had to request we speak somewhere private, and she looked at me strangely when i said that. now i am wondering if anyone is rifling through my papers on my desk?? lol. i am feeling a bit paranoid.

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