"Nunchi": The Art of Anticipating


The Far East is known for being extremely hospitable. But there is a concept in Korea that goes beyond hospitality. It's called nunchi.

Nunchi is anticipating not only someone's needs, such as expecting you to be thirsty when you come in from a long trip, or having the sugar within arm's reach when you need it for your tea.

It is about anticipating someone's mood. Being aware of others' presence. Knowing what to say in certain situations -- and what not to say. Yes, anyone who practices hospitality with nunchi will be a cut above the rest; but there is a lesson here for all of us.

It has to do with emotional intelligence. It means not being so self-absorbed that you are not aware of what is going on around you. It means respecting others' space and watching out for their well being. This is so important in Korean that there are a number of words and expressions that have nunchi as part of them. If someone is completely clueless, they are called nunchi eopta -- without nunchi.

Wy wife, who teaches world geography, makes a point to introduce her students to the concept of nunchi. It has become a part of their collective vocabulary. And as one of the students put it, "It's not nunchi if you have to be asked."

How can you learn to practice the art of nunchi?