25 Comments

Page 1 of 1
  1. Rhesus
    Rhesus July 15, 2008 at 6:56 am . Reply

    Living in a different country is hard, especially when you’re a minority there. Sharing your complaints with others creates a comforting illusion of support since, as a foreigner, the only people likely to care about you are other foreigners. The act of complaining itself has more significance than the content.

    Or not.

    Anyway, Koreans in the U.S. complain a lot, too (don’t know about Canada). I never heard “미국놈” and related expressions anywhere as much in Korea as I’ve heard them from yuhaksaeng here.

  2. lunalil
    lunalil July 15, 2008 at 12:02 pm . Reply

    Hmm.

    Maybe I should have said that I don’t hate living in Korea, and that I enjoy my life here. I try to enjoy it as much as I can. Then again, that’s my current attitude who knows what will happen in the future. :)

    I enjoyed reading your opinions. Thanks for sharing them.

  3. David
    David July 15, 2008 at 12:17 pm . Reply

    Interesting post. We, of course, have ranting expats here in Japan, too, but I find that the longer I’m here, the less I hang out with newbies (aka nama-gaijin), and the less I hang out with newbies, the less of it I hear. The foreigners I mostly hang out with now are people who’ve been here for a decade or two and have made their peace with Japan. They’ve also been around long enough that they’ve heard (or made) all the standard complaints so there’s really no reason to rehash them.

    Donald Richie characterizes this sort of gaijin complaining as gossip:

    Oh, did you hear what the Japanese did today?

    Well, if you think that’s bad, I saw the Japanese doing . . . .

    A friend of mine says the Japanese . . . .

    And on and on ad infinitum.

    You write:

    “Like any place, it has pros and cons, and frankly, I’m only still here because my fiancee is Korean, she’s ready to leave too, and the timing and our relationship is just such that it’s better we’re here for a while more. (Though it is worth noting that, the type of people we are and the kinds of careers we want to pursue, it’s probably better we leave sometime in the short-term.)”

    From what I’ve gathered, your fiance either is a doctor or is training to be one. Leaving Korea would, I think, probably entail giving up her medical career–or being entirely retrained in the country to which you move. Is this really something she’s willing to do? This is, of course, a personal question, so I will certainly understand if you choose not to answer it. I ask because I have been involved in versions of this dilemma with my Japanese wife (I’m American), and have also seen other friends struggling with similar decisions.

  4. roboseyo
    roboseyo July 15, 2008 at 1:20 pm . Reply

    Hi there. Thanks for weighing in. I like your look at it, and I agree that once you get above about the third year in Korea, the complaining usually drops off. I think I need to pick up a hobby where I can meet Koreans. . . either that, or start pumping out novels and short stories and finally send them off.

  5. julian_w
    julian_w July 15, 2008 at 2:50 pm . Reply

    Gord, gidday.

    Completely agree about the ‘interface’ thing.

    Good write up. Good to see you and all getting into this topic well and good. Good on yas!
    j.w.

  6. EFL Geek
    EFL Geek July 15, 2008 at 3:13 pm . Reply

    Wow! reading all three of these posts took endurance. Definitely worth the time though. Gord, well written, especially about the part regarding keeping busy outside of teaching and having a Korean significant other.

    In that area over the 11 years I’ve been here, I’ve gotten an M.A. learned Korean, improved my computing skills, taken hapkido, and more recently started a business.

  7. Joy
    Joy July 15, 2008 at 8:43 pm . Reply

    I am so mind boggled by the depth of these responses to Roboseyo’s blog. I think this has been a topic that is a hot one in the expat community and is now getting some critical thinking shed onto it.

    I am dating a Korean, which I met while still in AMerica. Our time together here in Seoul I feel allows me to really feel comfortable here. I ask him a few things about what is going on around me but really I am treating the life around me like it was usual.

    For example, I laugh at what looks funny and make jokes. I would do this in America.

    My bond with Korea I feel is happening at a pace I am comfortable with. :)

    Anyways I hope this discussion carries itself further.

  8. Mark
    Mark July 15, 2008 at 9:50 pm . Reply

    Ugh. The first economic collapse was bad enough, I wouldn’t wish it on South Korea a second time. Although if your contract is almost up, and you think things might go to hell, see if you can get paid in dollars or euros.

    Where do you plan on moving too in the US?

  9. Sonagi
    Sonagi July 16, 2008 at 1:52 pm . Reply

    I think you make a great point about expats needing a hobby or interest. Some friends and I made the same observation while I was living there. We, too, noticed that foreigners who endeavored to learn a skill, developed a hobby, or joined an organization were happier with their lives.

  10. roboseyo
    roboseyo July 16, 2008 at 5:32 pm . Reply

    on the other hand, I think you find the same thing in N.America — people who don’t interact with others, who don’t find a vibrant community, don’t handle it so well in their home-culture, either. churchgoers, club members, hobbyists interface more back in Canada, too, that helps them to keep their heads out of their asses back home as well. It DOES take more initiative to get out and meet people here, but the fact remains, getting out of the house does a soul good.

    I should start a westerners’ makkoli-free mountain hiking/book/language exchange club. That’d be an interesting niche that’s so far unreached, so far as I know.

  11. Sonagi
    Sonagi July 16, 2008 at 9:52 pm . Reply

    “For many foreigners here — male and female, though the latter is rarer — a Korean mate is the reality check on the overblown distortion that a foreigner often seems to acquire by reading sites like Dave’s ESL, Marmot’s Hole and Occidentalism, or listening to his or her students a little too trustingly.”

    I wonder how true that is. At TMH, some commenters who rarely have anything nice to say about Korea and Koreans are married to or dating Korean women, a fact they cite as evidence they can’t be racist against Koreans. As you noted, it isn’t hard for men to find a Korean mate, and it seems that most of the whinging is done by men.

  12. Sonagi
    Sonagi July 17, 2008 at 4:23 am . Reply

    “But just as it would be unfair to judge all Koreans by the drunk ajeoshi who tried to start a fight with me in front of E-Mart, it’s probably unfair to judge all expats in Korea (or even a majority of them) by The Marmot’s Fleas. “

    True. In real life, most of my expat friends weren’t whingers, but our social circle is a select group, too. Regarding some whinging expats dating/married to Korean women, I cannot understand why those women would choose partners who have such strong negative feelings about the culture and the society that produced those women and their families and friends. I am critical of my own country, but I would not feel comfortable about someone of any nationality who was mostly critical or complained all the time about Americans and our culture. I wonder if those women also feel alienated from Korean culture and society. I have a good friend who is part of a mixed American-Canadian family. She is the only one who has maintained US citizenship, yet she is the most vocal in her dislike of American politics, values, and way of life.

    A curious and possibly related observation is the young Chinese hold strongly negative views about Korea, out of proportion to Goguryeo and other real and imagined disputes. In China, both Han and Joseonjok Chinese had mixed opinions of Koreans based on personal and professional interactions. Although historical anti-Japanese sentiment is strong among Chinese, Japanese residents of China don’t seem to leave as strong an impression as Koreans do among Chinese and fellow foreigners alike.

  13. EFL Geek
    EFL Geek July 17, 2008 at 3:23 pm . Reply

    It may also be that, for the sake of their relationships, these expat spouses limit their bitching to conversation with other expats, or online ranting — which could help explain why it’s so fervent there, as it’s so pent-up.

    This is exactly my situation. There are a few topics I bitch about with the wife, the rest I complain with my expat friends over coffee. I don’t complain often, but sometimes you do need to vent.

  14. roboseyo
    roboseyo July 20, 2008 at 7:46 pm . Reply

    btw. . . blogging Colombus’ voyage? Your digressions are the most entertaining/random ones I know.

  15. William George
    William George September 15, 2008 at 4:03 pm . Reply

    The Marmot’s Fleas

    Since the name of the site is “The Marmot’s Hole” wouldn’t they be better named “The Marmot’s Skid Marks”?

Post Comment