A funny memory hit me today, in the light of the comments to my post yesterday. I mentioned how there are rude people everywhere, but I feel I must give fair coverage to some Canadians I’ve known who were living as expats in Korea.
It’s a memory from my first year in Korea. Now, that first year, I experienced a lot of strange, bizarre crap. Not all of it was from Koreans; in fact, most of the weirdness was from expats teaching in Iksan.
One of the more interesting was seeing how young men who left Canada for Korea suddenly, within the space of about four to six months, ended up becoming raging assholes.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve met British, Australian, and American assholes here. (I can’t recall any Kiwi assholes, but I’m sure there have been a few.)
But it was the Canadian guys who tended to become full-on frat boys in short order. I remember, for example, a few young men complaining of the one decent coffee shop in town being run by “racists” who had kicked them “for no reason.” That “no reason” was that they’d come in with bottles of liquor and a deck of cards, and started gambling right in plain view of everyone.
Never mind that gambling over cards is technically illegal in Korea — or so we all understood it then, and these guys actually gambled with real (ie. sizeable amounts of) money to boot; never mind that the coffee shop was not licensed; never mind that they had ordered no coffee (ie. were not customers); never mind that they were politely asked to stop doing what they were doing.1
Never mind all that, and ask yourself: how would it sound if a group of young men walked into an unlicensed coffee shop in Toronto with liquor, cards, and sat down without ordering to a game of high-stakes fratboy poker? The fact is, they would never dare do such a thing. They know better.
But as an expat, living abroad… hell, anything’s okay! Fratboys live forever!
So, trust me, there are plenty of Westerners here whom I consider pigs, and whom I will probably end up telling off as I follow my rule of calling people on bullshit behaviour. That’s not to say I think this happens in a vacuum: the same general timidity of nice folks here (Korean and foreign alike) to tell people to stop behaving like shitheads that enables assholes of the Korean persuasion to act as they do, also facilitates the asshole behaviour among non-Koreans here.
I do get it, I do.
1. Or, at least, that’s what I was told. I wasn’t there, though another expat I knew told me the story since he had been there. (And he frankly told one of them to shape up and stop making a bad name for us foreigners; “Don’t ruin the one coffee shop we have,” I think he said.)