When I first arrived in Korea, I started hearing people mention in passing the difference between their American age and their Korean age. I got the vague impression that I was older in Korean years, but exactly how much older continued to baffle me – I heard both 1 and 2 years added to my age. A few days ago a team of 3 native Koreans were finally able to straighten me out.
I was born in November of 1983. In the United States, this makes me 25 years old. In Korea, I am 27. Here’s why:
Fact 1: Here, when you are born you are already one year old. From what I was told this is their way of counting the period from conception to birth – they round up the 9 months to a full year.
Fact 2: No matter when in the year you are born, your age goes up a year on January 1 of the following year. So when I was born in late 1983, I turned two about 40 days later on January 1 of 1984. This means that in Korea, I am exactly the same age as everyone who was born in 1983, and right now that age is 27.
Confusing? It certainly was for me – the three Koreans who explained it to me were the third group of people to try, and the only ones to succeed. Now I just have to get used to the idea of being 27 two years early.