Busan's Taipei revelation.

Had a very nice weekend. These days, even weekends are low-key and routine, and I don't really have a problem in the world with that. Went to meet Busan a bit late for dinner in his neighborhood on Friday. Busan's always waffled between being amused and confused by the way my stress levels ratchet up out in public, but one of the nice side effects of spending some time with him in Taipei was that I feel like he finally gets something on a fundamental level that's made him a lot more understanding.

Now, in the first place, Busan is still sort of getting used to being a foreigner's boyfriend. He started out amused by the bizarre behavior we sometimes get in response to me simply being out in public, but has been far more annoyed by it than I am for a while now, possibly just because I've had a longer time to get used to it. On the train on the way to the airport before we flew out, an entire elderly section were passing the time by staring, pointing and discussing me, a few seats down and across the way. Busan noticed it before I did and said, "Watch. I'm going to win." He then attempted to stare back at them hard and long enough to make them look away. Needless to say, it was a losing battle from the start. "우와. Their endurance is really incredible," he said, as he finally shook his head and gave up. 

While we were in Taipei, there wasn't an hour that passed when he didn't remark upon the fact that nobody even noticed me, or if they did, they were discrete about it. He continuously muttered, "Poor Liz. Why did you choose Korea? Why Koreans act like that?"

But the main point I was happy, myself, to drive home in Taipei, was how the competitive and aggressive behavior out in public is simply not necessary. He was amazed to see people standing patiently in line for the subway, like it was no big deal, and navigating crowded subway stations and sidewalks in a calm and orderly manner. No bumping, pushing, shoving or charging. Even in chaotic pedestrian intersections, people would pause for a moment when two paths were merging, in order to work together to navigate the space with respect to one another. No one pressed up against anyone else's back when moving in file to get through anywhere. No body checks or elbow digs. No charging toward buses the second they pulled up in a mob in order to board first.

Just calm, decent public behavior.

I don't necessarily feel the need to carry on and on about the way things go out in public here in Korea, but he's definitely aware that I'm tense when we are out and about. Since we came back, instead of just laughing every time I grumble about getting bulldozed on a sidewalk or shoved out of the way to board a mode of transport, he's seen it coming even before I have, and started making his own comments about it.

Which is to say that it's also suddenly started to bother him pretty badly, as well.

As we stood in the entrance of one of a dozen over-crowded restaurants on Friday night, waiting to be seated, three or four groups of people waltzed in, observed us sitting there, and moved to situate themselves in front of us. In the end, when a table finally became available, a group of four or five men presented themselves as the next customers to be seated. Busan, who possibly would have just ignored it before, and laughed at my annoyance with it, marched straight over and confronted the situation head on. "Excuse me. We have been waiting here for ten minutes. You only just came in. We're next."

Once we were seated at our table, he grinned across the grill at me: "잘 했지?"

True. He had done well. And while we're not necessarily going to be able to change the country on our own, I feel a bit relieved to have him on my side a bit. As I explained to him while we were in Taipei, and he commented on how much more relaxed I was while we were out and about, despite the crowds, I didn't grow up with this stuff -- it's something I'm still trying to get used to, and not be nasty about in return. To not take personally and get worked up about.

But it certainly helps to have him see a bit of where I'm coming from. And he's happy enough to occasionally be the hero of the day. 


Urashima Joe said...

Nice post! ^^

It must feel nice to know that Busan can get what it is like for you. Also funny that now he is the one who is feeling angry about it and you are kind of over the whole thing.

A year and a half now since I moved to Japan and I have gone through lots of various stages regarding being stared at/talked to in English etc., but generally I guess I feel apathetic, resigned and/or at just at peace it.

Now and then though when I am stressed I can snap. Yesterday I was a bit hot and bothered anyway only to get full on ogled at in a way that was not only painfully obvious, but the girls who were doing the staring were standing literally two meters away and verbalizing their amazement. Even after I caught them doing it they continued and I ended up suddenly feeling really fucking angry and let them know it by asking them what their problem was. The worst part is that then you get to feel pissed about losing your cool about something so small... argh!!!

Anyhow, still reading and enjoying your blog! I have had to think quite a bit about bi-lingual, bi-cultural relationships recently myself now I have started dating a Chinese girl. It has been a few years since I last tried this and I hope it works out better this time!

I also want to wish you the best of luck with your future plans to move on to uni in Korea.

Anonymous said...

As someone who's lived in both Taiwan and Korea, I have to say that Taipei isn't perfect. You definitely still do get stared at, and have people make comments, and be skittish around you, and all that. But it's way, way less often, and way, way less dramatic, than in Korea. Why, I'm not sure. I think there's been a stronger Western presence here for longer, so most people find non-Asians much less of a shock. I also suspect that nationalism in Taiwan tends to be shown more in terms of the relationship with the PRC and the various ethnic minorities and aboriginal groups still present on the island. There's much less of a sense of "Our Culture vs. Everyone Else's" than there is in Korea.

And also the fruit here is way cheaper. Oh man.