5.23.2010

Smalltown and smoking.

You and Me have the same problem. I dont reside in korea neither am i Korean but i do have a problem with the term Oppa; id rather call them hyung if i am ever in a situation requiring such familiarity. That aside,is smalltown korean or american?

If you're not in Korea, and you're not Korean, I can hardly see an excuse for anyone to ever ask you to call him oppa. Unless you're speaking Korean. Even here in Korea, I don't generally use the brother/sister words, unless I'm speaking Korean. The exception is my workmates, or a few more "Korean" Koreans, who are older and with whom, for some reason, I don't feel comfortable using first names. Although, usually even then, it's 샘 (if they're a fellow teacher).

And Smalltown is neither -- he's Irish. I could hardly see us having the kind of relationship we have with him having a girlfriend, if he was Korean. Although his girlfriend is Korean, we do sort of expect her to adjust a bit to the fact that a. he's a foreigner and our relationships between the sexes work differently and b. I've been a very close friend of his for far longer than they've even known each other. I guess maybe it sounds strange, but if Smalltown were Korean, and hanging around the way he does while having a girlfriend, I would probably have a problem with that. Just one of the examples of the pretty complicated situtations you can get into over here, I guess.

Has anyone in Korea objected to you smoking, for the simple fact that you're a woman? Will/Do you care?

Yes. Many, many have. Not only friends, dates and acquaintances, but also strangers on the street. With the people that I know, I basically take a pretty hardline stance about it being something that I do, and that if they have a problem with it, especially if they themselves are a smoker (male), then maybe we just shouldn't even be friends.

Now. With the issue with smoking in public, I have actually shocked myself. I do my best, when out in public, to try to duck around a corner if possible, or not to make it too blatant that I'm smoking, especially in my neighborhood. In fact, I generally just don't smoke out in my neighborhood at all. In Seoul, I'm not that bothered.

The reason for this is that, while I don't really give a fucking toss what a stranger may make of me, it makes me uncomfortable that my students and, more importantly, my students' parents may (and probably will) see me smoking. Which has to do with being a teacher more than being a woman.

I think it's complete bullshit, obviously, that women aren't allowed to smoke and men are. But I, personally, feel a bit compelled to not come across as though I'm kind of rubbing my own cultural values in Korea's face. It would be one thing if I were Korean. But I feel like me being a foreigner complicates things a bit, and it may seem as though I'm being quite arrogant toward the social expectations here if I'm running around like a human chimney, without the slightest regard for the fact that it's considered offensive. I don't know. That's just my own feeling on the issue. And I mean feeling -- not a logical conclusion I've come to. Personally, I feel more comfortable just ducking around corner if I can. And generally, when Koreans see that you're at least standing off to the side, even if not completely out of sight, they accept that. Almost without exception, the only time I've had a stranger confront me about smoking, it's been because I've been doing it while walking down the middle of the sidewalk.

7 comments:

Laura. said...

I would find that odd. How did that go? "Excuse me, you're smoking. Stop it!"

MikejGrey said...

I'm absolutely choking for a fag right now.

I'm no Picasso said...

Laura -- No. It's more like, "HEY! NO SMOKING! NO SMOKING! SMOKING! NO!" And being chased for a while when I refuse to immediately put the cigarette out and apologize.

Mags -- Aren't we all?

The Hallyucinator said...

Liz, thanks for answering my question! I only just found out. Have you read?:

http://thegrandnarrative.com/2010/06/06/smoking-korea-women-gender

The Hallyucinator said...

Btw, sorry to read that you haven't been happy this past week.

I'm no Picasso said...

Yeah I saw TGN's post -- good stuff. And man, it's all good. Just got a bit grumbly there for a minute. It happens.

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