Sleep, work and people Seoul Korea - (Page 24)

Many Koreans seem to have a great ability to be active and awake in the mornings, something that always surprised us sleepy Western teachers so early in the morning. By the time I got to work at 7am in the morning, some students had already been jogging, to a gym or for a swim. There are some Westerners who I know who also Palace in Seoul South Koreaget up very early, but only a few. One of these is my father-in-law Antonio, In Italy. He always wakes up at 5am every day, regardless of what day it is. He used to telephone us very early in the mornings sometimes for a chat – but after we failed to answer the phone a few times, he has started calling later in the day. In England or America, people very rarely study at 7am in the morning. People in America and England would only consider studying at an institute in the evening or on weekends, with these countries both often offering a variety of night courses: Courses at 7am are rare. In many things, Koreans are forward thinkers, so maybe the Korean style of utilising every hour of the day and studying at this early hour may eventually catch on in other countries.

There was a saying I heard a few times in Korea about sleep. The expression said ‘Sleep four hours get good grades, sleep five get bad grades’. This expression for me, perfectly highlights the experience I had teaching in Seoul, with students often coming into the classroom very tired and telling me of the fact that they were only sleeping four or five hours a night, in some cases. There is no doubt that Koreans often study and work very hard. In England, the expression ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ explains the idea that a combination of work and of play will make a child well balanced and happy.

The whole idea about how much work we should do and how much we should sleep is interesting. Margaret Thatcher, the ‘Iron Lady’ who used to be the Prime Minister in the U.K., is famous for only ever needing 5 hours of sleep a day. Christine Gorman in Time Magazine, (Europe, 20th Dec. 2004. Subject ‘Why We Sleep’), reports that researchers take a practical approach and say that the quality of sleep if more important than the quantity. Dr. Pierre-Hervé Luppi at the University of Lyons in France is quoted as saying that ‘if you feel sleepy the following day, if you have episodes of sleepiness or a feeling of major fatigue throughout the day, it means we are not sleeping enough.’

There is a saying in English that ‘The truth lies somewhere in between’. This means that for any disagreement, the answer is usually somewhere in the middle somewhere. If two friends are arguing for example, then usually they will both be partly right and both be partly wrong. With sleep I guess the ‘truth lies somewhere in between’ in that maybe some foreigners sleep too much and Koreans generally do not sleep enough.

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