Thanks ANON! But I’m not always confident and I’m not always positive. those are things I have to work at—daily. Let’s see if I can explain this without blasting Korea to kingdom come.
When you first get here everything is new. It’s amazing and exciting because it’s different. All the new sights, flavors, places and people put you in this sensory overload type deal. I think the first year flies by at WARP SPEED. I mean before you know it you are signing your second year and just now feeling like you’ve got the hang of things.
Who has time to process negativity when everything is fun? Night clubs, parties, dates, and adventure. You don’t notice things when you don’t notice things. And besides I was tied up in a relationship for half a year—my mind was else where. LOL. But slowly the things that you haven’t been noticing starts to build up and before you know it your wiping residue from your eyes.
And even though no one has TREATED YOU badly or directed anything towards you, you have been collecting in the back of your mind (without realizing it) all of this build up for some time. For example:
Black kids with their eyes poked out in the text book. Hearing the word “ugly” in Korean every time a black person comes on the screen. The countless black face episodes that Koreans find hilarious—BUT DON’T YOU DARE DISRESPECT OR CRITICIZE ONE THING ABOUT KOREA! Don’t EVER say kimchi stinks or anything about the food. It’s like you just stabbed someone in the eye with a 10 inch knife! You need to respect Korean culture meanwhile Korea is free to make a mockery of mine???
How about when out with your Korean guy friends the waitress slams the bowls or ignores you guys. And you think oh she’s just having a bad day. But if she’s having a bad day then so is every other waitress that delivered bad service—OR IN SOME CASES NO SERVICE AT ALL. I’ve had to walk out of a place once or twice. Still trying to keep a positive attitude and not make everything about you being foreign— but even your Korean friend is pissed off because he sees it too. And you feel a bit ashamed and embarrassed because they have to go through that….BECAUSE THEY ARE WITH YOU!
How about when your dating someone and comments like, she’s pretty for a black girl, he must be tired of Korean women or something, or they are both good looking so it’s natural that they would be together, is said. And those are the not so bad comments. He didn’t tell you all of it, what they REALLY SAID!
How about when your friend can’t land a job in Korea because he isn’t the REAL BRITISH! Instead of even meeting my friend the Korean guy who was supposed to get tutored by my British friend about faced, called our mutual Korean friend and said, “I can’t learn English from him. he doesn’t even look British.”
Or the time he was sitting on the train and a mother told her son to sit down and the son said “I don’t want to sit next to the black monster.” My friend speaks Korean. he didn’t do anything. He didn’t say anything, and neither did the mother. She didn’t correct her child, and I see that in the schools as well. the teachers don’t stop the class and take a minute to teach tolerance. They ignore it or laugh it off.
Once I was in a little dokbokki shop with a friend (black guy) and the Ajhumma and Ajusshie were arguing about if we were African or not, she then stuck out her lips and said something along the lines of no Africans have big ugly lips. AS IF WE WEREN’T EVEN THERE!
What about the bus situation? I watch people who would rather stand than sit next to me. And if a seat opens up behind me they rush for it. Some people even walk by the seat, hesitate, and then decide that their bag is good enough to sit next to me.
Is there even a place for me to stop? NOPE! I CAN KEEP ON KEEPING ON How about Hagwons only wanting white people. Modeling agencies, video casting calls, and countless other events that call for a multicultural collection of people but when you get there what they meant was different types of white. You will hardly ever see yourself represented here. NOT EVEN IN HIP HOP MUSIC!!!! Like Korea wants to use black music and rip off of black entertainment but wants nothing to do with black people. MIND BOGGLING! How can you love and hate something so much at the same time? As a KMUSIC FAN THAT HURTS!They don’t want to be a part of the world (or maybe they do) but they want to take things from everyone else and pass it off as their own.
And if you talk to some Korean people you will hear them say, well Korea is changing. And it is. Today’s Korea is much different from 10 years ago when I was here. But Korea is selective in their ignorance and their racism.
Now if you’ve never once noticed the small things you wouldn’t notice the big things. The problem is once you start you can’t help but to look for others and one day you are just like, yeah I like it here….but…there is some bitter taste in my mouth. I know that in the country area where I work the South East Asians live in shipping containers and are treated badly. Worked to the bone.
It’s like how could this not to get someone after a while? You love the people and the culture and you enjoy Korea for all of the positives. AND THERE ARE MANY MANY positives, but after a while it comes to a point where it’s just…how can I love this place, really?
So yes, nothing has happened to me directly. I love my job and the students are so wonderful. My school has treated me AMAZINGLY! My Korean friends and the aunties and grandmothers and grandfathers have made me feel special. I try and focus on that. I try and block out the other things but at times it seems like it’s all I focus on.
I will more than likely stay a third year— I need the money for grad school ^__^ Besides, I got some nice warm letters from some of you here and others living in other parts of Asia. Some good tips and ways to make this work for one more year.
Living abroad is really an amazing experience. I wouldn’t take it back. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown .
PREACH. ALL OF THIS.Honestly, living in Korea as a POC, you’re bound to run into many situations like this. Just being frank. It’s like that 80/20 rule. There are some harsh realities some bloggers or YouTubers don’t want to address. Korea isn’t some non stop fun bubble, where everyone co exists and are friends. This one sided view is DANGEROUS, because it paints a false image and glamorizes things.
My experience in Korea was AMAZING, but, there were incidents like those you mentioned that definitely made me self aware about staying longer. People not sitting next to me, women giving me the evil eye when out with Korean guys, hagwon’s not hiring me, dealing with students that mocked Africa or anyone with dark skin in textbooks or lesson materials.
The list could go on, like mentioned.
And, if you mention any of these issues to people that DON’T want to hear it, they criticize you for being “culturally insensitive”. Some people are too busy riding that HALLYU WAVE, to see things from a realistic perspective.
It’s a work in progress, but I doubt things will change over night to some multicultural mosaic or post racial society.
INSERT KANYE SHRUG.