Modesty is defined differently in every culture.

At the grocery store one day, my American friend was wearing a blouse buttoned modestly for American standards. But as she was selecting vegetables, an older Korean woman (an ‘ajumma’) reached over and mumbled something as she buttoned my friend’s blouse…just one button higher. My friend was in shock and  was at first speechless. Then we managed a few kamsamnida thank yous and slight bows.

Meanwhile, Korean girls of all ages wear shorts so short, that ‘hot pants’ is the nearest description that comes to mind. A combo that includes the tiniest shorts with a blouse buttoned up high is a common fashion here. And culturally acceptable.

And a third difference between Korea and the US is the bathhouses, or ‘saunas’ where females of all ages bathe nude together.

It reminds me that in Niger we were supposed to cover our hair, and wear skirts down to our ankles. And what freedom it was to get to Ghana where girls could wear tank tops and ride bicycles in shorts!

I can only shake my head and chuckle to see us humans taking it all so seriously, when totally different norms apply …all intending to convey the same common ideals of humanity.

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