13 Comments

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  1. g
    g April 6, 2010 at 11:17 am . Reply

    nice post. it’s good to get the attitude expressed that while it’s healthy to criticize some aspects of life in korea that make it, sometimes, hard for some people to live here, bitching isn’t healthy at all. it goes nice with you comment about how we generally aren’t aware of how many crazy people live amongst us ;)

    yet — since you stated that western women bitch about western men, korean men, and korean girls, it would just be fair to say that western men also complain about the women IN their potential dating pool — that these korean women are bitches and dishonest and what not…

    plus, male bloggers outnumber female bloggers (and expats in general, i would say), and male bloggers complain so much louder (at least it seems like that to me — point out one big/well-known female, bitchy blogger to me!).

    but, to come back to your original point. sometimes, i wonder why the hell isn’t it possible to criticize korea? anytime you say something bad somebody will jump at your throat. maybe it’s because the public sphere as been poisened by all that groundless bitching.

  2. hwarangi
    hwarangi April 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm . Reply

    “…some Western women in Korea relentlessly denigrate Western men (whom they find aren’t dating them), or Korean women (whom the Western men are dating)”

    I think this is an expat social fallacy in and of itself. Contrary to popular belief, most non-Korean women don’t sit around moaning that the Korean b—-es are stealing all our men.
    I dont think I’ve ever had a conversation like that in ten years of being here.

    On the surface of it, it may not appear that the veritable paradise of beautiful women throwing themselves at (or at least willing to talk to) ex-pat men is paralled for ex-pat women, but there are plenty of opportunities to date and meet people here.

    Also, what’s your definition of social priviledge? I’ve found that I have had many more opportunities and advantages over the years because I am not Korean. Many more than I would have had in my home country.

    Living in Korea gives me greater economic power and independence than I could have at home too, so I actually feel more free.

    I think there are advantages to being an expat woman over being an expat man sometimes too, as we are seen as non-threatening.

    That’s another expat fallacy, or a common fallacy that expats like to engage in – oversimplifying and overestimating Confucianism and using it as a cause and/or explanation for things.

    Also, when you said “아가시”, you meant the tennis player, right?

  3. William George
    William George April 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm . Reply

    I’m not saying, “If you don’t like it, leave!” This is a fallacy too

    I disagree with this view. I think “Leave” is the best advice for anyone finding themselves in a life situation they’re unhappy with. Especially one as nomadic as being an expat ESL teacher.

    I think a lot of times people stick it out when they’re unhappy in Korea is because of one of the following;

    1) They’re getting sex and/or money they’ve convinced themselves they can’t get elsewhere.

    2) Stubborn, perhaps even arrogant, desire to show they can “beat” what they don’t like about Korea and thrive there.

    3) Poor self-esteem keeping them from getting over it and leaving.

    “If you don’t like it leave” is always used as a dismissal. I think people should start using it as a form of sensible advice. Life is too short to force yourself to stay miserable.

  4. g
    g April 6, 2010 at 9:57 pm . Reply

    gord, you and the other commenters raised so many interesting points that i can’t respond to all in one comment.

    i would like you to elaborate on: “So a lot of foreign guys seem to prefer slamming ‘ajeoshis’… unsurprisingly, given the shift in powerr dynamics and the difficulties younger western and older Korean men sometimes have relating.”

    i always thought that western men mostly win when coming here, especially if they are tall, have a big nose and blond or blondish hair. (koreans don’t seem to notice when these people are actually assholes or dumb.)
    datingwise: western men who were not exposed to anything that has to do with gender, that is western guys who are somewhat traditional, mostly win when dating korean women: they get submissiveness (maybe sprinkled with some whining, but still) and lose nothing (unless they actually WANT an equal partnership). these are just my thoughts, i don’t want to be the bitter western chick. i’m not. i’m in a foreign country, i also want to date locals, even if it was just to get a closer look at the culture, and to learn the language. except it doesn’t work so well for girls: western girls, on the contrary, lose big time when they date korean men. not only do they lose independence and freedom (lots of korean guys have problems, or say they do, when their girlfriend meets another male friend), conversations where their opinion is being taken seriously, but also tenderness and softness of touch and caring about the sexuality of the women (see http://www.yhchang.com/CUNNILINGUS_IN_NORTH_KOREA.swf). it might just be my experience, but the way koreans manifest affection into touch or other physical actions does not get me at all (not sure if that extends only to men, it seems the same with mothers to their children). this is where korean girls dating western men win: they get more physical attention, get more freedom, get more talk, ….
    — again, i’m not sure if i was simply really unlucky!

    outside dating, in terms of society, i have no real experiences, for i would have to go out and work. my experiences of being in a korean setting are constricted to university (where i am a regular student in a korean-speaking program), and there i do notice that some old professors don’t have as much respect for women as they do for men, or that women are almost conducting research on another level, with a different sincerity (at least until they finish ph.d. course work — when they become 아줌마 (age wise only, they don’t marry most of the time)… but i’m apart from all this because i’m a foreigner, and i also set myself apart deliberately. i look at myself as a researcher/scholar that has an opinion that matters, and so for i cannot report any unfair treatment where i felt it was because i was a woman. okay, the one western man seemed to have received a bigger welcome when he started — but how can you really tell if that was true?!

    well, all in all women, in my view, definetely lose out more when they move from europe/north-america to korea. that’s why i’m leaving! why should i choose a country that is more behind than others in terms of equality between the sexes? unless my dream is to become as housewife and mother, i don’t.
    __
    when i blog, i am deliberately trying to interpret things i see in korea in a positive way. the negative view comes to my mind too easily, because the negative view is everywhere, it surrounds you and becomes part of yourself. i make an effort, at least i think i do, to understand why things in korea are a certain way. so, if some blogs do this to a degree that seem over the top, it’s certainly due to all this negative stuff out there.

    sometimes i think, though, that understanding (“korea has transformed itself too fast… people didn’t have time to adjust, for this short time, what has been achieved is amazing”) isn’t patronizing or belitteling korea as a country. it’s treating korea like it was an immature child and not an adult. i don’t know if that’s right, either.

    some people tell me i complain too much. i do it only to people who i think know korea well enough. i guess i hope that they show me the positive view? but sometimes, i just feel right about the stuff that annoys me (university, for example), and i don’t understand why i have to see everything positively. but maybe it’s just some korean-american who feels hurt that i say something negative about “his” country. ko/ams are a different kind of people, too. usually these people that i complain to defend korea. also, when someone complains about korea to me, or is mostly negative, i also defend korea! even though i might actually agree on some points.

    why is it so difficult to have a normal relationship with this country? i always thought it’s just me and my being difficult, opinionated, and so on…

    ok, i hope what i said was half-decent….

  5. I'm no Picasso
    I'm no Picasso April 7, 2010 at 6:52 am . Reply

    Don’t have time to read through all of this just at the moment, but safe to say I’ll be returning to it later. That having been said, I did want to make sure to post the accompanying link to the one of mine you’ve posted above, for the sake of balance:

    http://imnopicasso.blogspot.com/2010/03/korean-dating-culture-where-is-love.html

  6. I'm no Picasso
    I'm no Picasso April 7, 2010 at 8:59 am . Reply

    Alright, I’m back to comment further (yeehaw?).

    Expat Social Fallacies, Part 3: Expat men who engage in propogation of (at this point) mythical second-hand notions of female expat experiences, and the unhappy women who support them in this?

    I think so.

    I particularly resent being quoted in this context, given that it seems almost, *almost* as though the other half was intentionally left out, in order not to contradict the narrative you’ve established here already.

    I don’t find what you’ve said here nearly as offensive as the miles and miles of threads, blog entries and personal encounters I’ve had/seen/found elsewhere, and I think, in general, you’ve made a great point here. However. I feel like you’ve left a huge chunk out, as a few of the women above have pointed out.

    It seems to me that Western men, some intentionally and some almost subconsciously, are pretty good at overlooking the Western women (who exist in numbers that are literally multiplying by the day) who are happily engaged in relationships or dating experiences with Korean men. In my experience (and I haven’t had to look very far to have it), these far, far, far outnumber the ones who are miserable with their dating situation here in the ROK. Actually only one of which in my entire year of half I can recall, in fact. Amazing how different people’s experiences can vary, depending on what they’re on the lookout for, or what they are, themselves, the target of.

    I also find it interesting that mention the overwhelming experience I’ve had as being a Western woman who is literally viewed as raining on the parade nearly every time I show up with a Western male or Korean female friend somewhere, where there are other Western men, just for being there, female and American, is completely absent in this post. Or how much “privilege” Western women have snatched out from under then in the ROK by Western men, who mill around in literal troops at times, blabbing on and on about the fat unfashionable opinionated feminist bitch nightmares they’re trying to leave behind. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed that. We’ve ALL noticed that. Or how about the reaction I get from the other male expats when I walk into the local with a young Korean man, where everyone feels free to openly comment about how they’re not fussed, and that’s fine if that’s “my thing”, but in their opinion, and they’re just saying, but he seems a bit gay don’t you think? I mean we’re not judging or anything — obviously your taste is just a bit *different*, but good for you for adjusting. Passive aggressive passive aggressive passive aggressive.

    I’d like to re-emphasize that I don’t find this post or the points made within to be particularly offensive, especially compared to all what else is out there. In general, I think you’ve done a nice job of showing a relatively balanced perspective. Which is why I feel inclined to address this little bit of wobbliness I see, whereas if I thought you were one of these other raving lunatics, I’d just click the X and get the hell out before I even finished reading.

  7. g
    g April 7, 2010 at 6:14 pm . Reply

    i think what is great to see in hwarangji’s and my different experiences is that there is no expat “community”. i am not teaching, i am not a native speaker of english either so the money i could make while teaching – a prerequisitve to feel “more free” – is significantly smaller. basically, i could probably never make as much money here as native speakers of english could relatively effortless. i’m not implying anything about hwarangji’s situation. i just never had a professional life in my home country to compare, i’m still a student wandering the planet.

    that said, i also have completely different experiences with the expat “community”, for my friends are mostly european and mostly do something else than teaching.

    i know not all men experience the same thing in korea, i’m not seeing them as a monolithic, homogeneous group (especially not in the historical perspective–i’m talking about today and here) –that’s why i mentioned the tall, blond, big-nosed. i usually my friends and i, we realize that there’s some positive racism going on, but since we’re the ones benefiting, there are hardly any second-thoughts about it. people from europe and north-america are conditioned about race it differently so the reactions are different. but i think people generally happily accept racial advantages, even with a bad consciousness. (also, when we talk about expat men and expat women, or when YOU talk about it, don’t you homogenize both groups for argument’s reason? why is it just me homogenizing the group of men? i am totally aware that my rather short, not so handsome male friend from germany has a totally different korea experience than the tall, blond haired, big-nosed american friend.)

    @ i’m no picasso: i will go and read your entry. it is kind of weird to see all this commentary of the male expats about the female expats, you’re right. in the bloggosphere, females in korea have a very small voice… which brings me back to my original point that their bitching is not so loud as the male’s bitching. that there are more couples between them and k boys might indeed be due to the rising numbers of female westerners in korea in general… i’m not saying it’s impossible to be happy as a w girl with a k guy, but it’s no proof to use people in your environment to show that you’re right! it’s just coincidence. plus, i think stating that “they are happy” doesn’t convince me at all…

    also, let me just point out that you’re reproducing exactly what you say you despise of so much. you complain about western guys bitching about western girls, but then all you do is bitch about western guys?! clearly, this blog post is miles off from bitching, and the fact that you chose to “honor” it with your comment is pretty pathetic.

    i have one more thing to say. everything i say about dating in korea is based on my experience that has exclusively taken place in the korean language. i have almost never had a, what you north-american guys call a date and spoke english or another language. that totally changes the power relations. (i am not sure at all if korean courtship functions on a dating base… so if you go on “dates” in the american sense, that already means that the guy is coming your way).

  8. I'm no Picasso
    I'm no Picasso April 7, 2010 at 9:53 pm . Reply

    To G: I wasn’t honoring anything at all. I was simply trying to give credit where credit is due, by pointing out that I’m not one of those people who ambles around the internet looking for something to contradict. If I thought this post was just completely off the mark and ridiculous, I wouldn’t bother engaging with it, because there’s way, way too much of that going on already. What I saw was an honest and insightful, well thought out and well intentioned post that had a bit of a hole, from my perspective, due to the writer’s perspective.

    Which brings me to my next which is that I can only comment from my own experience, the same as he can. We’re obviously both going to be coming at things from a different place, and to have a different lexicon of knowledge and understanding. I wasn’t trying to say that he should know everything, but pointing out where I thought his experience was lacking. What I did ungraciously fail to note was that I also gained a lot from his perspective, which I didn’t contradict.

    My experience of the foreigner community has been bizarrely divided. I have foreign female friends who only hang out with other foreign females, and foreign male friends who only hang out with other foreign males. So I sort of bounce back and forth, being the only foreign female who mixes in with the males I know out here. Which means I’ve got one group of Western girls who mostly date Korean men and, interestingly enough, other Western women and/or Korean women, and one group of foreign male friends who only date Korean women. Which means I have never seen Western women interacting with Western men who are dating Korean women. Other than myself, and I don’t have a problem or issue in the world with it. In fact, since I speak more Korean than almost all of the foreign men I know, and Korean women generally feel more comfortable being approached by another woman, I’ve become something of an infamously effective wingman. It was interesting for me to hear what gordsellar had to say about the other side of this interaction, which I haven’t had the chance to observe.

    As for gordsellar, I’ve read and digested everything that you’ve written above, but it’s been so well stated that I don’t really feel that I should (or honestly could) add anything. You seem basically on target, in my opinion, all around and it’s obvious you’ve put a lot of thought into all of this. I apologize if something about my earlier post came across as too… well, too anything really. I tend to speak a bit too directly at times, where tone and facial expressions would help me come across a lot more clearly.

    As one last clarfication, I’d just like to say that I do not, by any means, place all Western men into the category that I addressed. I have far too many male Western friends for that. They are a minority (thank God) albeit a ridiculously loud one.

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