Four Things to Do or Not Do in Korea (A RANT)
By a 3WM contributor
Foreigners in Korea act like dicks. They do. As a mildly conjoined, sharply stereotyped group, we do. Stereotypes are harmful things, but as one of my favourite bigoted defenses goes: stereotypes are there for a reason. What I am about to point out are some things that I have noticed us foreigners doing that I think seriously contribute to our most salient dickishness in this beautiful host country of ours, followed by some carelessly constructed advice on how to minimize it. After all, we are the cultural ambassadors of our home nations, and it is our privileged duty to foster positive—blah blah blah.
1) Learn Some Korean. Korean is a language that is spoken in some parts of the world; most notably (sorry Kim Jong-Il) South Korea. Between your slovenly binges into the world of Itaewon, you may or may not have noticed this, but you might in fact be currently living in South Korea. Here are some litmus-test clues to confirm these suspicions: (i) There don’t appear to be garbage cans anywhere (ii) You got off the plane, and you were instantly a millionaire with a massive penis (or alternatively, a somewhat butch female millionaire with a couple of pounds to lose). (iii) You appear to have landed some kind of job as a speech therapist for incredibly polite people. If you do come to the realization that you are in fact living and working in Korea (those pints of Cass/Hite/Max don’t pay for themselves), then you may want to pick up the language. I became an organ donor the other day*. I realized it was the right thing to do because it finally dawned on me that I could die at any second of shame and embarrassment when I overhear one of my foreign cohorts ordering bibimbap, minus the red bean sauce, green onions, and any meat…..in English. Here is a hint for those of you out there with “food preferences” (I believe these people are also known as “corpses” in third world countries), the people making and bringing food most likely have no idea what on Earth you are talking about, so in order to render their local dishes into the boiled rice and mushroom mix that meet your personal dietary “needs,” you might want to learn how to do that in their own language.
2) Be careful with those exclamations:If you encounter something that you are not used to in this country, try, try, try not to exclaim something like “that’s so wierd!” or, “that’s gross!”. For example: if you notice that tomatoes are often used in desserts, it may be prudent not to denounce this practice as being revolting to your personage. Also, some parts of animals may not be eaten in your home country, but may be eaten here (without any consequence to your health I might add). Your upbringing may have led you to conclude that all 6-plus billion people on this Earth, across all climate zones, economic environments, and cultural foundations live exactly the same lifestyle as you do. This, however; is not quite true. Take a moment to understand that…..oh fuck it, you probably wouldn’t understand anyways— Here is a quick fix-it: If you are tempted to exclaim some criticism at an audible volume regarding another culture’s commonly accepted everyday habits, just say “That’s interesting” and leave it at that. Trust me, don’t dig the hole any deeper.
3) Do not make fun of Koreans trying to speak English. I clicked on a Web site the other day that was paragraph after paragraph of “stupid things Korean girls text to foreigners.” The gist of it was “hey look at this broken English this girl sent me. What a tard!”. To a certain type of person, this point of view makes sense. If for example, you’re the type of person who would spike girls drinks at your college fraternity parties, or if you taunted the one brown kid in your school for being a terrorist, then this style of humour might be rather entertaining. Let’s take a moment to look from another point of view though: Imagine now you are the Korean girl who has to make all the effort because her barely-function English is still better than your half-arsed-6 word vocabulary in Korean. I wonder if there is a Web site with Korean girls making fun of the stupid things that foreigners say to them……
4) You are not the Princess/Prince in your workplace. Yes, they likely flew you out here. Yes, they most likely pay for for your apartment. Yes, most people in your workplace look up to you for your seemingly innate grasp of English (whoa). But let’s get one thing straight: all this doesn’t mean that you can demand anything under the sun from your director. You may be asked to work off the clock occasionally. That’s right, you may be doing “Work,” but not getting paid for it. “What treachery! How dare they?!” you may exhort. But then ask yourself this: Is this your first “real” job out of university? For a large portion of you it is, and I hate to break it to you, but every job requires you to work “off the clock” sometimes. If you are complaining about sticking around for a 30 minute meeting every once in a while, or a quarterly training seminar on a Saturday, you come off as not only a bit of a prick, but also pretty damn lazy too. Unless your employer is working you ragged without you seeing a cent, suck it up Princess, and welcome to the wonderful world of young adulthood.