Formspring.... Tuesday?

Okay. My Formspring has gone mental, and if I wait until Friday to post it all, I'm afraid it will just be monstrous. It already is. But I'll just go ahead and get to what I've got now while I've got the free time. Tuesday Formspring wahey!

Hi. I asked the question about the stifling culture IN KOREA. Of course I'm not American, do I sound like an inbred red neck idiot to you? I'm Canadian, you know, that place where people have liberties and open-mindedness, not to mention being the most mu

The short answer is, yes. You do sound kind of like an inbred redneck idiot to me. There is no long answer, actually. That's about it.

How are Seoulites some of the most fashionable people in the world? They really can't compare to Tokyo, Berlin, New York or London. What an idiotic thing to say.

You think New Yorkers are more fashionable than Seoulites? That just begs the question: How much time have you spent in Tokyo, Berlin, New York and London? Because, as someone who lived in New York for nearly six years, I know for a fact you're definitely misguided about one of those. I know those are the city names that usually come printed on those tacky "international" tote bags, but that doesn't mean you should treat it like gospel.

Also, quick English lesson: "some of the most" and "the most" are not the same thing. Top five out of hundreds of thousands still qualifies as "some of the most". I mean, you didn't even read the statement wrong... you included it right there in your comment.

Yo! Did you get a Korean BF because you couldn't get a foreign dude as they're all with local tail?

Very original. This is an obvious fail. I don't believe that the men who actually still say things like this have worked out how to use a computer yet. Dadgum infernal technological devices.

Can a 나쁜놈 be cured?

Don't have a clue, to be honest. My 나쁜놈s were just straight up bastards. Which is to say, they were American. By the time I made it to Korea, at the ripe old age of 23, I was finished with any misguided notion I may have ever had to try to "cure" anything in any man. Either enjoy them for what they are, or walk away. Busan's in the process of teaching me that there is some middle ground, but I get the feeling I might be the one who's being a little bit "cured" in that situation, so I really can't help you. Good luck, though?

Have you ever had a white/western boyfriend before?

Why do you want to know?

You want something from me, you need to give me a reason to give it to you. Or just asking as a non-anon would even do.

This isn't a question... Just wanted to tell you that your description of "Holly Hobbie" had me in stitches. It still makes me giggle thinking about it. Also...I love reading your blog(s). I spend many hours putting my baby to bed and reading about your

I'm really sorry, but a lot of you guys are getting cut off. I'll repeat it again: imnopicasso@gmail.com. Anyway, thank you for the compliment. I kind of want to sneak a photo of Holly Hobbie to prove that she's real. I don't think my descriptive abilities can really do her justice. Also, she's a home ec teacher and is often wearing an apron around the office for literally no reason in between classes. A frilly one.

forget hongdae. or kangnam or all the other *hot* spots. in 2011, ITAEWON is where it's at!

I fucking hate Itaewon, to be honest. I avoid going there at all costs.

How do you deal with students who say blatantly racist things in class (ie, about a black kid in the textbook)?

I actually haven't run into this very often. At the very worst, sometimes when I use a photo of an African-American in my ppts, there will be some giggling. I mean, my boys mostly don't really understand English, which makes impromptu ethics lessons kind of difficult. So I usually just stop, tell them to be quiet, and say that that's not kind. And that in my culture, it's a little bit embarrassing, and that they are making me uncomfortable. Again, it's really only happened two or three times in my entire time teaching here. I have no idea what they might be saying in Korean, but they don't have the vocabulary to say anything too offensive in English.

I'm Korean-American. Some (white) friends have been considering teaching in Korea, couching everything in really exoticizing/Orientalist terms. How do I tell them how much it bothers me on a this-is-my-IDENTITY level, without making myself too vulnerable?

I mean, the thing is, you have to work out how worth it is to you. I usually deal with those kinds of things on different levels, depending on how close I am to the person, how receptive I feel they are, and what I think their intentions are. I'm white, but I'm also working class and from a red state in the south. As I've mentioned before, I ran up against a lot of ignorance at my private art school in NYC about those kinds of things. Comments about accents, hillbillies and whatnot, as well as more serious condemnations about "the projects" and people on welfare (where my family lived, and which my family was). The difference between you and me is that I can pass -- no one knows my background just from looking at me. In fact, more times than not, the offending comments came from people who assumed that everyone in the room was just the same as them. And even when I did reveal my background, it was easy for people to brush it off as me being an exception -- I had worked hard to get myself out of my situation, and out of my ignorant hometown, which was, in fact, evidence that everyone else could do the same, if they so chose!

What I can say, from my own experience as a white person, is that even though I grew up with an extremely unusually high percentage of first and second generation friends from immigrant families, and I spent a lot of time with those families and in those homes, is that somehow it never really occured to me how much they were connected to their family's culture. To me, they were just American. I was really, really ignorant about how mixed their identities actually were. And it took me coming to Korea for me to really fully understand that.

If someone's just being an ass, and it's pretty obvious that they're just not going to get it no matter what you say, I wouldn't bother too much. In my situation, I would usually just throw a few choice words in their direction to let them know that, at the very least, they'd better not open their mouths like that in front of me again, and then let it go. But when you're close to someone, you don't really have that option. And you don't really have the option of not being vulnerable, either, unfortunately. You are vulnerable already.

The thing about white Americans is that, like me, they don't really understand how much they don't get it. They think as long as they go around thinking of everyone as their "equal", then everyone else does as well, and they don't have to be careful how they think or what they say. In their heads, you are just their American friend. They don't realize that you go through life every day hitting up against people who don't think of you that way, and that even they don't realize that you're really not American in the same way that they are. And that even they are being offensive, because just "having respect for a different culture" is not enough. The truth is, you need to just flat out be careful what you say when you're talking about another culture and you really don't know anything about it.

I mean.... I honestly don't know if it will work. But I would try just explaining to them that you are American, yes, but also... you are Korean. And when they talk about Korea and Koreans, they are talking about you. If they don't get that, then just try explaining that they are talking about your family. At the very least, hopefully they can understand and respect that.

Do they have Tim Horton's Coffee in Korea? How much is a cuppa brew if they do?

I have no fucking clue what Tim Horton's is, but I'm getting a pretty strong Canadian vibe off this one. Haha. I haven't seen one in Korea? But then, I haven't been on the lookout for one either. There are literally millions of other coffee shops all over the damn place, though, so you should be alright. (Am I committing some kind of Canadian sacrilege by saying that? Oh, well. I'm American.)

what does "s.o." stand for? i've read enough to know that he is your boyfriend but I'm painfully behind on internet lingo to know what it stands for literally. please enlighten me! and feel free to add in any other abbreviated monikers you or others use r

S.O. stands for "significant other". When I first mentioned him, I wasn't too keen on using the "B" word quite yet. He is known as "Busan" in the other blog. Other nicknames are Smalltown, my best friend in Korea for ages, an Irish guy who has since gone back to Ireland. The Kid is my best friend from high school, who is still my best friend and who lives in Scotland and is really, really cute. Mags is my best unversity friend -- a smartass New Yorker comedy writer who came over to Korea with me in the very beginning, but who is now back in the States going to grad school. The current figures are: IDD, HYF and Grace. IDD is It's Daejeon Darling, who has now gone off the blogging scene. HYF is Hot Yellow Fellows, and Grace is Dating in Korea. I meet them about once a week to have a massive meal and huge gossip session, and Grace has sort of become my girlfriend to Busan's boyfriend -- I think we spend more time talking and texting than he and I do. Sometimes I even talk to her on the phone when Busan and I are on a date. I think he's a little bit threatened, but he likes her, so it's alright. And I think that about sums it up.

YAH. I'm a redneck. I'm probably inbred...and my intellegence is questionable...but I love Korea and don't think it's stifling at all! So doesn't he sound like an idiot CANADIAN SYRUP-LOVIN' MOOSEHEAD instead? ^___^

Whatever. I'm from Texas. I'm still not a bigoted idiot, so Canada must not have everything going for it.

I've wanted to ask this question for a while, since I feel that disciplining is the one area of teaching in which I could improve a lot. It always seemed to me that an all boys middle school would be a difficult place to teach in (always having to be on y

If you rewrite this question in a shorter form so that I can actually read it or email it to me if it can't be shortened (imnopicasso@gmail.com), then I can answer it for Formspring Friday.....

I am curious why you don't point out that the contract doesn't allow 8 classes/day? Is it the less classes/co hating you tradeoff?

Where does my contract say that? I'm not really a contract-pointer, anyway. I don't mind doing things that are not in my contract. And I am over my contracted teaching and working hours at the moment, significantly. But that's alright. I really would have prefered that when I specifically asked only to be given two extra hours a week, that that was respected. But it wasn't. And even that is fine. What is really, really rubbing me the wrong way at the moment, and the reason why I'm having so much trouble letting it go, is that no one took responsibility for having made that decision expressly against my wishes. I don't feel like it was done at all in a respectful manner.

It's one thing if you approach an employee and explain that you're sorry, but this is just what you really need from them. That it's for the good of the school and the students and the other teachers. It's another thing entirely to just try to slip it in under the radar and expect the employee to just suck it up. I'm really good at taking shit on the chin. I am not really good at not having that acknowledged. To me, the manner in which something is done makes all the difference in the world. And I realize there may be some cultural differences at play, but the fact remains that I'm still having trouble with it. And my co-teachers in the past, who have all also been Korean, have all either respected my wishes with regards to overtime work, or explained it to me in a respectful manner that they really needed me to just do it.

I really don't find Asian women attractive at all. Are there a lot of options for dating western women in Korea? Thanks, Roy

Well, Roy... I'm not one to jump down people's throats about their preferences -- we all have them -- but it does make a mind wonder.... why don't you find Asian women attractive? All Asian women? I have a feeling that might change once you're here and once you really see how vast the options are, even among just Korean women. It's fair enough that cultural differences can seem really off-putting at first, but once you start to adjust to the culture, you might find your preferences adjusting as well.

But that's not what you asked. I mean. It's a regular occurance that one or another of us girls will get bulldozed by a foreign man (or woman, but usually man) about why it is we "prefer" Korean men. The truth is, I think two of the other three do prefer Korean. And they have their reasons for that. As for me, I don't really have a preference. As far as race. But, the more time I spend in Korea, the harder it becomes for me to find a foreign man who I think I could really relate well to while living here. There aren't a lot of foreign men around to begin with, and there are even fewer who have been here as long as or longer than I have. And not having the same relationship to the culture and work environment and job as your S.O. can really wear on you when you are both in a foreign country.

The truth is, you are going to have fewer options. Period. There are not boatloads of foreign women around to choose from. When you factor in how many already have boyfriends, either foreign or Korean, then the pool gets even smaller. But there's no reason why you can't make it work. You might have to go to extra effort, such as joining dating sites or meetup groups, because it's harder in general to just run into foreigners out and about period. But finding someone you really connect with is difficult, period. We all have to just get lucky, one way or another. So I think you'll be alright.


Anonymous said...

Tim Horton's is, indeed, an incredibly popular Canadian (though now American owned) coffee shop chain. I don't even drink coffee and I miss Timmy's. It is not sacrilege; it's not hugely well-known outside of Canada (though I've seen weird little Timmy's donut outlets in other countries in Europe).

Morrison said...

@Roy, I am exactly the same as you. I've been in Korea 18 months now. There are, as INP points out, fewer western women, but I would suggest that that actually, in a weird way, makes it easier to date here. Once you factor in the number of western guys who are in relationships with Korean or foreigners and the number of western guys who only exclusively date Korean, the pool of competition (as it were) shrinks. There are a fair amount of women here who aren't interested in dating Korean/Asian guys. It is very, very easy to date western women here - probably easier than at home. Best of all, because of immigration requirements, you only generally meet intelligent and educated women. I've certainly been on more dates in the last 18 months than at any other time in my life. Having said all that, the female I'm crazy about at the moment is in a relationship so what do I know.

Morrison said...

Also, to add to that, I'd generally suggest that you avoid internet forums or blogs for information about this kind of thing. You'll just read over and over again the same old pathetic fuckwits denigrating western women as being fat, ugly, etc., etc.

R said...

"Don't have a clue, to be honest. My 나쁜놈s were just straight up bastards. Which is to say, they were American.


First, I must say I love your blog. It is awesome - plain and simple.

Now, I can understand if you've had bad relationships with American guys, but that comment... it's just racist. Not the exact langauge, because well, "American" is not exactly a race. But it's racist in its intent. What if I said this:

"Don't have a clue, to be honest. My 나쁜놈s were just straight up bastards. Which is to say, they were Koreans.

I think people would jump down my throat, don't you? Especially if I was a white girl. At the very least, it would make me look insensitive, unexperienced, and unintelligent. Even if I was a Korean girl, calling all Korean guys "straight-up bastards" would at the very least make me look foolish.

Just my two cents - that's all. I think you're better than that.

I'm no Picasso said...

R -- If you think I'm better than that, then wouldn't it make sense to maybe take a second and consider the fact that perhaps you misunderstood?

나쁜놈 translates loosely into English as "bastard". I was making a language joke. My 나쁜놈s were bastards, because they were American and, therefore, they speak English. All I said was that my bastards were bastards. Nothing even remotely close to "all American guys are bastards" or even, "all the American guys I've ever dated have been bastards". Because that's not true. Obviously.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot said...


3gyupsal said...

Uhh, R, you are right it might be offensive to say that Americans are bastards, but sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't. I'm American and my father never abandoned my family, I'm also American and I'm pretty sure that I'm a decent fellow, that doesn't have anything to do with whether or not my father abandoned me since some of my best friends were literal bastards but in fact they were great guys and also American.

I don't think that you should spend so much time getting offended by what someone says on a personal blog about how they interpret their own life in Korea. Some people have a great time here, some people have a shitty time, it isn't a slight to anybody about what one chooses to write down.

R said...


Ah, that is a fairly...subtle joke. Mea culpa - I misunderstood.

3gyopsal apparently misunderstood as well, so it's good not be alone. Also, 3gyopsal has a comical argument. You say you understand the comment "might be offensive" (which it was not apparently.) Then get all huffy about me getting "offended." Didn't really think that one out, did we?