Riding the white horse: On being foreign in Southern Korea


Riding the white horse: On being foreign in Southern Korea

Kevin, my co-teacher that is korean an concept for the available course. “Let’s create a video that is motivational” he proposed. “I’ll ask, ‘Would you prefer even more?’ you’ll say, ‘Yes, please,’ and directly after we continue doing this a couple of times, you’ll material your top with balloons. Whenever you operate to clear your tray, you’ll appearance actually fat!”

“Really, Kevin? I must function as the fat foreigner?”

“It will be therefore funny,” he assured me, “and it could result in the students interested in the tutorial.”

We sighed. We ended up beingn’t too thinking about the concept of embarrassing myself right in front of all of the my pupils therefore the class evaluators by acting since the stereotypical Westerner that is fat We wasn’t in opposition to the theory either. It really ended up beingn’t politically correct, and I also would not want to create a “humorous” video clip such as this in america. But we wasn’t in the us; I happened to be in Korea, and after almost a year residing being a teaching and expat English in Seoul, I knew that the image of “fat people” made Koreans of all of the many years burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

We borrowed a button-down top from the obese after-school that is canadian, and another instructor consented to movie us at meal. Once the camera’s red light flashed, Kevin pointed up to a slab of fried pork and asked, “Would you prefer even more?” with a broad grin on their face.

“Yes, please!” I reacted excitedly. After a couple of mins, we put five or six balloons to the shirt that is over-sized had been using, adjusting it to ensure they might remain in spot.

Kevin had been laughing so very hard, we swear we saw a tear roll down their cheek.

After learning in Seoul being a change pupil in ’09, we came back to show English at a school that is public 2011. I became put at a low-income primary college positioned in northeast Seoul, where 50 % of the students’ families were getting welfare checks through the federal federal government, and I also was combined with Kevin, a 40-year-old devout Christian, hitched with two kiddies. Kevin grew up within the mountainous countryside and invested their youth learning faithfully so that you can gain acceptance at a prestigious college in Seoul. As a result of their modest history, good love of life, and many years of experience using the services of children, Kevin could effortlessly connect to our 12-year-old pupils. We’d show together through Friday for 22 hours a week, and we’d often role play monday. Within one example We asked, “what exactly are you doing?” and Kevin instantly squatted straight straight down, contorted their face, and reacted, “I’m pooping!” indulging in a vintage kind of korean slapstick humor. The males burst into fits of giggles, while all of the girls wrinkled their noses in disgust. We laughed, and thought, This guy is having more fun as compared to children.

Through the very first time in the class room, Kevin made me feel safe. We might have competitions where in actuality the pupils would compose the times for the week in English and I also will have to compose them in Korean. He will give additional focus on the low-level pupils to encourage them to take pleasure from learning English, and I also would laugh as he would enthusiastically answer things he googled the word “hot” for our lesson about temperature that I found quite normal, such as glimpsing a screen full of women in bikinis when.

Due to our natures that are extroverted Kevin and I also could actually talk easily, but as a mature man within an ageist culture, he may be quite stubborn and controlling. On Thanksgiving, we argued for quarter-hour in front side associated with the course after he thought my description of United states Thanksgiving had been wrong. Another time, in Korean, he jokingly told the class we had unsuccessful my needed drug test. “Kevin, that didn’t take place!” We retorted, “They’ll inform their moms and dads!” He had been surprised that I’d comprehended.

He had me pose next to a sign that said “Danger! High Voltage when we embarked on a staff hiking trip! Usually do not rise!” It had been all in good humor in which he was intending that is n’t offend me personally, but I felt ashamed to be utilized once the punchline of their “stupid foreigner” jokes.

1 day, I became reading the guide Honolulu, by Alan Brennert, a fictional account of a Korean picture bride’s life in Hawaii into the very early 1900s. Kevin noticed the image regarding the Korean girl on the leading address, using an off-the-shoulder top and bowing her mind in sorrow. “Why is she putting on this kind of obscene top?” he asked.

I became astonished; We thought the girl seemed both breathtaking and fashionable. “I don’t think it is obscene. A lot of ladies wear tops that way in Western nations.”

He asked me personally exactly just what the guide ended up being about, and I also explained just just how it had been centered on historic records of Korean immigrants and photo brides in Hawaii, but there was clearly additionally a love tale tied up in to the narrative. The woman that is korean at first put up by having an abusive sugarcane farmer, but sooner or later managed to get yourself a divorce proceedings and marry another Korean immigrant she had dropped deeply in love with.

“Divorce? Oh, mixxxer no,” he responded.

Kevin’s conservative views and perceptions of Westerners, specially Western females, had been on par with numerous Koreans’ who I’d encountered. The guide address situation reminded me of riding the subway last spring with two English teachers, Mary and Jess, sitting on plush blue seats on our option to a worldwide meals event in downtown Seoul. During summer temperature, Jess had been using A v-neck that is thin shirt highlighted her large breasts. She leaned up to connect her footwear, as well as for a great two moments, exposed her cleavage to a whole row of gray-haired, conservatively clad senior clients sitting throughout the aisle. Their eyes — the men’s additionally the women’s — were fixated from the sight that is“provocative them, their expressions frozen in shock.

I desired to share with Jess that putting on low-cut tops just isn’t precisely appropriate in Korea, without coming across as prude, condescending, or a” that is“know-it-all having lived in Korea much longer than her. She wants without worrying about “the male gaze,” in foreign countries, one should dress according to the country’s standards of appropriateness although I believe a woman has a right to dress any way. I feel uncomfortable obtaining attention that is negative exposing my upper body, specially after Kevin once glanced within my boobs and pointed out that ajeosshi, middle-aged guys, probably stare at them in the subway.

I sidled next to Jess and cleared my throat when we exited through the subway’s sliding doors. “Jess, I don’t understand in the event that you knew, but dozens of old individuals sitting across away from you were looking at your boobs once you bent up to connect your footwear. You may wish to hide a bit more.”

She laughed. “I’m sure. Koreans are therefore frightened of boobs.”


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