I ponder what constitutes common knowledge in different countries. Similarly, general knowledge can vary by country, social status, affiliations, and other factors.
I am aware that even though I have a college degree and would be considered well read by American standards, there are many basic things about Korea that I do not know. An elementary student in Korea would have a better knowledge of Chinese characters and history than I do.
“Playful Kiss” is a favorite Korean drama of mine. In it, the female is very dumb and the male is very smart. There is a scene where the younger brother displays how stupid the girl is by asking her a simple question about Chinese. I was as clueless as her about the question.
My interest in Korea is partly based on the fact that there is so much to learn about an Asian culture on the other side of the world. Even simple topics, such as Korean money, are interesting to me. I try to share with my Korean pen pals things about my home, and in return I am thrilled to learn about their home. I am genuinely curious about things like what public transportation, parks, grocery stores, and gas stations look like in Korea.
I am often surprised by what Koreans know about America. Hollywood movies and American TV shows are seen around the world. My watching of Korean TV shows has taught me. Yet things learned from TV have to be taken with a grain of salt. The real world might be very different.
I supplement what I learn from TV with books and talking to Koreans. Each little piece adds to my understanding. Slowly, I build up some knowledge about Korea.
One thing that this experience has taught me is greater humility. I always have felt sympathetic and encouraged people learning English. Yet now that the shoe is on the other foot and I am the foreigner learning a foreign language, I have a deeper understanding of how great that task really is.