There’s always someone cooler than you

Estimated reading time 16 mins.

The title may be familiar to some as the 2003 Ben Folds song it is. As a new experiment in my English conversation class this upcoming semester, I’m going to have students discuss these lyrics, while of course highlighting the lessons I take from it myself. As in many Ben Folds songs, the lyrics colorfully present a strong message, and I thought it would be a fun way to introduce a theme for discussion I think will prove relevant to them.

While comparing against others is a personal and social problem in Western countries, expressed (in one aspect) in the idiom “Keeping up with the Joneses,” Korea has its own distinct comparison culture. Korea is a hyper-modern economy that moves at warp speed. The uber-competitive education system centers all around scores and rankings based thereupon. And when they’re done with that, most feel enormous pressure at “getting a good job,” which means—if not a “doctor, lawyer, or judge”—at one of the bigger companies (e.g. Samsung, LG, Hyundai, etc.). Anyone can do the math to see that achieving this measure of “success” is not going to be a reality for almost everyone, so the stress is tremendous.

Continue reading