Word: NunchiThe Korean approach to reading a room.

Word: NunchiThe Korean approach to reading a room.

Issue 25

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Arts & Culture

Language: Korean. Pronunciation: “Nun-she.” Etymology: Translates literally from Korean to English as “eye-measure.”

Meaning: Nunchi is the ability to subtly but incisively gauge the mood of the people around you. The concept is a central part of Korean culture—having it, or not having it, determines how graciously one moves through life. Someone who has nunchi is a nunchi ppareuda—they can intuitively sense the right or wrong thing to do or say in any given social situation. A nunchi eopta is just the opposite—they don’t have any nunchi, or really much idea about anything.

One of the social functions of nunchi is to preserve harmony in group settings. Those who employ it are indirect and discreet in order to keep the peace. For example, in an office environment, a colle...

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