How Old Am I?

Many people might be surprised to learn that the American way of computing a person’s age differs from the traditional Korean way. In Korean tradition, a person is considered to be already one year old at the time of his or her birth.
As a child growing up in two cultures, I found this contest (16)a bit confusing. When I was in the fifth grade, was I ten or eleven years old? To add to the confusion, every New Year’s Day a person (17)according to this Korean counting system, becomes a year older, regardless of his or her actual birthday. Birthdays are important throughout the world. (18)

A person who is sixteen years old on his or her birthday in March would become seventeen years old on the following New Year’s Day, even though he or she isn’t expected to turn seventeen (in “American” years) until that next birthday in March. Perhaps the celebration of New Year’s Day in Korean culture is heightened (19)because it is thought of as everyone’s birthday party. (20)Today, after many birthdays and New Year’s Days, I now find meaningful the difference I once found confusing.

Otherwise, (21)this difference points to (22)significant underlying cultural values. The practice of advancing a person’s age (23)seems to me to reflect the value a society places on life experience and longevity. Their (24)idea was demonstrated often when (25)my elderly relatives, who took pride in reminding younger folk of their “Korean age.”

With great enthusiasm, (26)they added on a year every New Year’s Day. By contrast American society has often been described as one that (27)values the vibrant energy of youth over the wisdom and experience gained with age.(28) After a certain age, many Americans I know would balk, refuse, and hesitate (29)at the idea of adding a year or two to what they regard as their actual age. Even something as visibly (30)simple or natural as computing a person’s age can prove to be not so clear-cut. Traditions like celebrating birthdays reveal how deeply we are affected by the culture we live in.


  • G. Most cultures celebrate birthdays.

  • H. Birthdays focus attention on a culture’s youth.

  • J. DELETE the underlined portion