10 Comments

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  1. roboseyo
    roboseyo April 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm . Reply

    Fascinating series so far; I’m waiting for the last one before I link/comment on it.

    Did you ever read this post? The blogger frames the gaijin smash as “playing the foreigner card” and even makes an RP card for it.

    http://blogs.koreanclass101.com/blog/2009/12/01/the-foreigner-card-pros-and-cons-of-using-it-in-korea/

  2. Sean
    Sean April 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm . Reply

    Gotta love Gaijin Smash – guilty as charged on occaision.

  3. Chris in South Korea
    Chris in South Korea April 9, 2010 at 2:35 am . Reply

    Thought the last comment posted – guess it didn’t… Yeah, I’m guilty as charged as well – but there is a bit of a social dilemma here. At what point does the demand to accommodate someone else mean more to us than doing what’s best for us?

    The acid test seems to be thus: Does playing the foreigner card needed for a genuine benefit, to avoid a loss or problem, or just to f*** with a local? Not giving up my subway seat to an belligerent ajosshi when other seats are close by? Fine, or reasonable. Not moving over one empty seat to allow a couple to sit together? Probably unreasonable, unless scooting over that one seat puts me next to the aforementioned belligerent ajosshi.

  4. Paul / samedi
    Paul / samedi April 9, 2010 at 3:29 am . Reply

    I think “RP card” might be shorthand for “role-playing card” but could always be mistaken on that.

    This whole series is great and I weighed commenting on the earlier posts before realizing that a lot of my response would be “Yes, I understand where you’re coming from and agree with your observations”. Not sure how helpful that would be, though.

    One issue that I’ve found grating when interacting with other English teachers here (it has yet to crop up in discussions with expats who don’t teach) is the belief that some aspect of Korean culture is ‘broken’ or ‘wrong’. Given that a culture if fluid and evolves to fit the needs of its constituent members, that – to me – suggests that one should look ‘beneath the surface’ to find the reasons behind unfamiliar or seemingly nonsensical behavior. However, coming from a different background with a different response to a similar situation (as is likely the case with expat English teachers) seems to create a situation where it’s easier for some to employ the Gaijan Smash!

    As you pointed out, the reaction does have a lot to do with ESF#3. Does an expat reject the generally accepted way of acting because it’s too different (or ‘dumb’) compared to ‘Western’ responses or because it’s too different (or ‘inauthentic’) compared to ‘traditional’ local responses? Hmm.. I suppose this comment is just a long-winded way of agreeing with your point?

  5. Steve Noyes
    Steve Noyes April 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm . Reply

    Hi Gord,

    Very entertaining diagnosis of the obnoxiousness that being an expat tends to bring out. I have a novel coming out dedicated in part to similar themes; mostly a lack of empathy towards and fear of engulfment by Chinese culture, manifested in a difficult relationship.

    Gaijin smash! Or lao wai smash: one of the things I noted is the fallacy that book learning is sufficient to understand “the Chinese”; that those twenty or so non-fiction books, mostly written by foreigners, will give you all you need to know and require no adjustment. Follow this simple rule and you will stereotype every Chinese you meet into an identikit victim of the cultural revolution. Handy, because you don’t have to think about why your Chinese colleague/acquaintance/girlfriend has different feelings and thoughts than you. Handy, because when confronted by an inconvenient rule or expectation (for instance, that plagiarism is de rigeur and tolerated in Chinese universities so long as tuition fees are paid), you can dismiss all your colleague’s behaviour as robotic and stupid, without considering the social context your friend is operating in, and must operate in, to support her family, or whatever. It’s the Chinese (spectacularly corrupt) way, one hears too often, without considering the skills that many Chinese use to intelligently negotiate their system.

    There are many other illustrations. I’ve observed Westerners becoming indignant and incredulous when a Chinese doens’t know somehting about N American culture, overlooking that they know next to nothing about Chinese culture and history; if they do know something, it’s invariably out of date, because they don’t know what’s going on around them–they haven’t the language skills. Such people seem offended that people are different than them, although they publicly rail on and on about “individuality” and “freedom” , assuming that these things mean nothing to Chinese, and how important it is to be…well, like us.

    I have been guilty of many of these errors, and it took me a while to correct my own behaviours. It takes great patience to allow the time and superficial contacts and exchanges to build yp so you actually get to know someone well enough to understand who they are. Along the way, you are encouraged, because you can speak Chinese at an intermediate level, to pronounce on “the Chinese mind” by other expatriates. This I finally decided to refuse, saying “There is no such thing. Find out for yourself.” If only I had been wiser, sooner.

    Great posts. Good luck with your writing!

    Best,

    Steve

  6. William George
    William George April 10, 2010 at 8:14 pm . Reply

    1- I occasionally hear expats in Japan issue complaints along the lines of “I have to do four classes today! Can you believe it?” Which of course makes me think “You pussies wouldn’t last a week in Korea”

    2-

    I won’t be a hypocrite and pretend I don’t sometimes enjoy not being beholden to Korea’s sometimes stifling social expectations.

    This is the kaiser roll on the shit sandwich that is Confucianism. Any “Giajin Smash” that’s applied to it is applied rightly and justly, in my opinion.

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