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  1. Noah Body
    Noah Body May 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm . Reply

    Hi Gord:

    Another good post. A couple of points:

    1) If Koreans (or Japanese or whoever) seem to engage in mindless small talk with foreigners, it is good to remember how much mindless small talk fills Korean and many Asian languages, especially when the participants are uncomfortable. It is one of the many points where foreigners seem to feel like they are being treated shabbily for being foreign, when in fact they are being treated shabbily because they are being treated like normal. Not a micro-aggression at all.

    2) Regarding the all-foreigners-as-American thing … It is bloody good fun hanging out in Europe with a Korean, as the very common assumption here is that all Asians are Chinese. Unsurprisingly, most Koreans I know hate being called Chinese. But as someone who was called American for years (and is not), I find it more than a little amusing.

  2. Andrew
    Andrew August 30, 2012 at 11:45 am . Reply

    After a while of living in Korea the work becomes too easy, and then you start to loose your self respect. You are then highly sensitive to micro-aggressions that wouldn’t have bothered you so much when you first arrived in the country.

      • My work isn’t too easy for me. I have a LOT of work during semesters. Last semester I taught five classes, including one content course dumped into my lap at the last minute. I barely had time to eat properly… and yet I was probably much more sensitive to constant micro-aggression all around me than I had been the semester before. But as I often say these days, I’ve stayed in Korea too long.
      • I still think that there are different sorts of people, and that those who get wrapped up in the idea of understanding the culture and so on end up being the ones most sensitive to this stuff; the people who don’t much care, tend to laugh it off or otherwise not feel bothered by it all. I’m less sold on the idea of HSPs, and more sold on the idea that it’s the liberal-arts, cultural-studies people who tend to get driven mad by the need to understand what, most likely, is explicable not necessarily as cultural difference as much as apparent stupidity. (Which is more widespread in all human cultures than the smart minority likes to admit, of course, but that stupidity is probably just more apparent when one is adrift in a different culture, struggling to understand unfamiliar stupidities.)
  • GJ
    GJ December 13, 2012 at 11:44 am . Reply

    Assuming that those with an objection to microagressions are “highly sensitive” is a bit unfair – in many cases there really is something to lose other than just having your feelings Hurt. When the salaryman in the bar asks you when you’re going home to the country of your birth, that doesn’t do anything but annoy. However when it’s asked in a job interview or among colleagues and peers (and the person asking is in a position of power) the damage is real.

    I have been living and working in Japan for over a decade and I have watched myself grow progressively more agitated over the years, as I’ve pinpointed why these microagressions (which I like to call the “prejudice of low expectations”) bother me so much:

    My achievements, credentials, and respectability in my field are growing and expanding, all as a result of paving my own way, reinventing myself, and innovating – while many (not all) native Japanese with limited skills sign on with the first company that will hire them and simply follow the rules and ride that escalator up through the ranks and then decide they’re going to place me within a tiny category that their egos can be comfortable with – and I’m supposed to just let it go? No thanks. Being quiet and not making an issue of things has never, ever resulted in an improvement in the quality of life for anyone. There’s usually no malicious intent behind the condescending questions that locals ask the expats, but you might say that the phenomenon en masse is itself malicious. and although white middle class North Americans /Brits/Aussies/NZers might be getting the mildest form of this prejudice, many of them (us) are in a better position to enact change in this area because we are the expats that the locals would really listen to. Let’s face it, when an American (for example) complains about prejudice in the local language, it’ll be taken more seriously than if any angry Chinese or Filipino person does so. So make some noise, folks. Who knows – if you can change the mind of a local Korean or Japanese on this point, maybe whatever over prejudices he/she harbors against other groups who have it much worse will be reconsidered as well.

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