What is Your Korean Age?

Jan 8, 2011 by    Posted under: Travel

On the first day of class, one of the questions I asked the students during their placement interview was “How old are you?”. They all responded by asking me “My Korean age or Western age?”.

Koreans have their own age system which works like this: On the day you are born, you are one year old. Your time in the womb is counted as the first year of life (they round the 9 months up). Then, on the first New Year’s day after you are born, you add another year.

This means two things: One is that everyone celebrates a birthday on New Year’s day. The second is that your Korean age will be one to two years older than your Western, or actual age.

So, if you were born on December 1st, on your first New Year’s day you would be 2 years old in Korean age and 1 month old in Western age. Even though Koreans go by their Korean ages, the drinking age and legal driving age in Korea go by their actual age.

I really like that the Koreans include the time in the womb as part of their age. It feels very respectful of life in all its stages. However, as I am getting older, I am in no hurry to add anymore years on to my age. It feels like I am getting older faster every year as it is

The Korean age system reminds me of some advice my Grandmother once gave me. She said, “Basha, always tell people you are older than you really are and that way people will always tell you you look good for your age.” Hmmm, I may start going by Korean age after all!

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