The Day-Numbers Game

It’s funny how some people find more to complain about with regard to Koreans behaviour around foreigners, and other people find more to complain about with regards to foreigners in general.

I was on the phone tonight with an old friend of mine who has just moved to Korea, and he said that after a few weekends in foreigner bars, in different cities no less, he found that it was all the same people. Literally, he said, Same people, different face, but the same damn people just the same. How true, in my experience, which is why it seems to me most people who adjust well here have some other connection with the place than just bars and foreigner-social life, whether it be a hobby, Korean friends to balance out their reception of the country, love relationship with a Korean, or whatever.

While this was fresh in my mind, I saw a post at Ruminations in Korea (via Simon World) which contained a little jab at foreign life which, while it’s true, could have it’s own counterpart. I’m going to answer the questions Jeff posted, plus a few of my own. But I want to make it clear this isn’t an attack on Jeff; it’s just an adjustment to what I perceive are the painfully stereotypical things a foreigner living in Korea hears on a daily basis.

Number of times heard “You speak Korean well”: 11

Number of times heard “You speak Korean well” after only hearing me say “annyeong haseyo”: 6

Number of times heard “You sound just like a Korean”: 0 (I guess I’m just not that good yet… tho I am told I’m better than Daniel Dae Kim of “Lost”.)

Number of times asked “Can you eat Kimchi?”: 3 (I think I’m lucky, I rarely hear this, but maybe that’s because I frequent the same places a lot and they know how I like my food… authentic.)

Number of times asked “But isn’t it Kimchi too spicy?”: 3

Number of times was told directly or overheard someone say i am fat: 5

Number of times total strangers asked how much money I make: 0 (The only people who ever ask me this are taxi drivers, and I tell them I am not on the same scale as a Korean tenured prof, and that in my culture we don’t ask such questions.)

Number of times someone giggled and/or laughed when I spoke Korean : 12, which kind of bugs me but ah well.

Number of times someone stared into my shopping basket: 0 Nobody ever does this to me! Why is that? Do I live in such a big city? (Jeonju, 650,000 or so people, I think.)

Number of times someone yelled “Oh Yeah!” near me for no reason: 0 but I have noticed people suddenly talking about whether or not they can speak English when I am around, as well as which method is best for English study.

Number of times I’ve heard people say “The Koreans” as if they are a monolithic army of programmed robots: 15–because I don’t hang out with foreigners much…

Number of times I’ve heard a foreigner complain because someone can’t speak English: 7. I’m not even going to comment on that stupidity.

Number of times a foreigner tells me my Korean is really good: 5

Number of times a foreigner whose Korean is good tells me that my Korean is good: 0 (At least someone is objective about it.)

Number of times a foreigner complains about Korean food which I find wonderful: 8

Number of times some lame-assed fratboy from Canada makes some comment about some Korean girl’s backside: 13

Number of times a foreign woman complains about Korean men all being sexist pigs, on the benefit of experience of one date with one Korean man: 4

Number of times I am asked to loan some money to a foreigner who already drank all of his: 1 (which is more than enough.)

Okay, I’ll admit it, I made up all the numbers. But, seriously: this is the behaviour I’ve seen among expats. It should give us all pause.

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