The first two times when I came to Korea, I found it really awkward (borderline rude) when a Korean person I just met for less than 5 minutes asked, "how old are you?".There were no particular subject leading up to that question when i'm not even done putting my bag away.
After a few more trips, I finally understood that hasty "how old are you?" question.
As you may or may not know, there are the formal and casual Korean speech lingo that are used conversations.
Like the Korean dramas you watch where they go, "Hey! don't you know that you are younger than me?" or "...why are you using one hand to pour the soju?!" when someone younger uses the casual speech or in action before getting an approval.
Yes, for the record I found it cute when I was stuck in my k-drama fantasy days.
I'm not trying to shine a bad light on this little thing that I have come to observed but looking from a foreigner's point of view- I do find it quite annoying at times when someone uses the age trick to gain that automatic superior treatment.
It seems as if, the higher the digits-the higher your "juniors" have to respect you.
Respect has to be earn, not counted.
There was once, when I was out for a gathering and I did not want to join in the next meetup (clearly because I didn't feel comfortable with that person) and politely decline when these words where thrown at me, "As a person older than you, you have to listen to me and come!" and it happened again, with another acquaintance blaring "you are younger than me, you have to call me Oppa".
I don't like being imposed on calling someone "Oppa" or "Onni" when I don't feel that warm and fussy connection but I must say it really comes in handy when you suddenly forget their names.^^
Now now, I am not generalizing Koreans with this topic because I have amazing friends who doesn't care about being older and have younger friends like me nor am I saying that I don't respect people by not wanting to call them "Oppa" or "Onni" or ignoring the fact that they just wanted to know how to converse with you in the level of respect in which it should be given. I do think that it would be more genuine to kick away that question and treat people with the same level of finesse, regardless.
In short, I have experienced all to well between friends how controlling this issue can be, "i'm older than you and you have to listen to me" and have observed how off-screen-real-life is to some extend.
It is really good that people are respectful here with how they carry out a conversation after knowing your age, vice versa but you can't denied the fact that there are many out there who abuses their age power to feel secure.
With this, I hope you'll never feel odd in a situation when a person that you've just met 2 seconds ago goes...
"how old are you?" mmkay?