June 10, 2011

Really Korea, really?

진짜, 진짜! (I am OBSESSED with that word and it is not okay anymore) A few thoughts about the culture differences here in South Korea that shock me and make me want to just scream, "Are you KIDDING me!?"

- When my students, seeing a black person in a video, scream "OBAMA" over and over. Or they just burst into laughter when Peter (the token African American in our textbook) appears. There is a thin line between culture and ignorance, and this is getting too close.       
 the infamous Peter                                         
- Internet Explorer? Seriously? Who's uses that ancient web browser anymore? Oh, the place with supposedly the "fastest" internet in the world. That doesn't add up.

-  My coteacher with the short mini skirt on, telling me my v-neck T-shirt is too revealing. (Thus leading into everything I have bought in Korea shows no cleavage whatsoever, how boring.)

-standing at the door for the subway and everybody starts to push as soon as they open, before even letting the people come off the train. Next adjumma that pushes me, warning: I am going to SHOVE back. 

- It is open window season and at first I thought the lovely couple who's love making sounds floated through my window nightly was funny and kinda sweet (they have sex every night, good for them!) We don't live in a fairytale though and it turns out I live next to a love motel and those were hookers faking orgasms for the man paying them. Romance is dead.

- I heard the sound of baby chicks out my office window the other day and have seen several people with chirping boxes, selling the cute little guys at the subway station. I had been curious why all the sudden they were popping up everywhere and what one would do with it once they grew into a not so cute chicken, so I inquired with my co-workers. They explained that around this time of year, the sick chicks are sold to children for very cheap, and they play with them until they kill them. Ya, that was my first thought too, What the fuck!? Why would you sell sick baby chickens to children, knowing full well they are going to die? Not only is it animal cruelty, but those poor children are raising a chicken, just for them to find it stiff on their pillow one morning (I am assuming this is where they sleep, if I had a baby chick, it would most definitely sleep on my pillow.) But everyone thinks this is normal and is just fine with the distribution of terminal baby animal pets. I find it disturbing and depressing.

- "{Insert any Korean food here}, good for your health!"  The food Korean's eat is in no way healthier (minus kimchi and a few exceptions of course) and I see just as many fat Koreans as I 
would see fat Americans. They just haven't had the time to be as fat as Americans are. Just wait, the dumb ones here will also make the wrong eating decisions and will catch up quickly.
Deep fried twice!

-Three teachers in my office are taking a nap RIGHT NOW.  Why don't you just sleep at home instead of over extending your self during the day by working 60 hours a week. Seems inefficient if you ask me (but no one has yet... no one ever asks the foreign teacher!)

- One of my favorite students, Vactor (he could have a blog post all to himself, he is hilarious and makes me smile in class everyday!) yelled at me in the lunch room, "Famous Ellie!" as I was surrounded by several of his girl classmates. It made me laugh and I pinched his chubby cheeks but inside I know it's no laughing matter. As a foreigner, you pretty much are like a movie star walking down the street, people stop and stare, giggle behind their hand, ask to take pictures with me, wave and say hello! It is hard to believe it is my life as I walk through the hall ways of my school and give hundreds of high-fives and hey's to my students or walk from the subway to my house and get hello'ed by several workers from the local establishments. I won't lie, I did always want to be the popular kid in school but I now have empathy for Britney and Lindsey. 

-On a serious, very unfunny side, there have been several articles recently about the teen suicide rate in Korea, with many university students during exams as well as middle and high school students ending it all before it even begins. Korea has the most suicides among the top 30 nations in the world for several reasons, most underlined with the competitiveness pushed on kids from their parents, teachers and societal pressures.  In dramatic fashions, young people and CHILDREN are finding life not worth living, even in this prosperous country where life is easy and fun. It is saddening and interesting all at the same time, something I will never understand fully about this culture. 

- One last thing that seems a bit of a mystery to me, the obsession with looking "western." Women here see pale skin and big eyes as beautiful (which is ironic since I think tan skin and oriental "exotic" features are more desirable) and will do anything to achieve this look.  South Korea is now the leader in plastic surgery in Asia, with women performing surgery on anything from their eyelids to their breasts. It is yet another cultural obsession to be the best, to be "western" , to be like everyone else. Thankfully, I see many of the younger generation branching out and being unique, and whenever I see them I want to give them a high five, but it is still a huge issue that I find superficial and unbecoming of the culture. 
This "double eyelid" is highly sought after.
Asian blepharoplasty

All this being said, I love Korea and it's people, and think the culture is vastly interesting. These are just my opinions as an outsider who will never really understand.


  1. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA about the Koreans wearing mini skirt and looking down your cleavage!!!

    One thing I realized early on when I arrived in this country is that they expose so much of their thighs but not their cleavage!!!!!!!

  2. All the fucked up things of Korea make me want to visit another far off place in the east.

    I always thought when Asians saw black people they thought of Micheal Jordan or Kobe. They probably did before Obama.

    And seriously... who the fuck does use Internet Explorer?!

  3. Hi Ellie.

    Thanks for reading my blog.

    Anyway, I also hate when the kids yell "Obama!" at anyone remotely dark. I actually had a student refer to a darker character as "Obama Boy" in her summary.

    - Jen

    PS I would like to be added to your blog list. I'll add you to mine :)

  4. Xweing: yes it is quite peculiar, I have just given up, I don't care they can go ahead and be offended by my cleavage (but really they are just jealous!)

    Joe: Yes Korea I hear is mild compared to China. Asia is an interesting place, always wanted to go to Europe first but I love it here, come visit me when I live in Thailand:)

    Jen: Your blog is great, would be honored to add you to the blog roll, will keep reading for sure! Also I borrowed one of your pictures, hope thats okay:) Obama boy, these kids come up with the craziest ideas!


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