Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Celebrity Status

Sometimes living in Korea and being the only white person on my street makes me feel a bit like a celebrity. Keep in mind that there are good things about being a celebrity--I get told I'm beautiful a lot here (although if it's in Korean, I can't understand it... so maybe the ajumma this morning was telling me something else...). That's good for the ego. People all know me, even if I haven't been in their store or shopped at their stand, because I'm the white chick with red hair. Little kids run up to me and say "hello" and then giggle and run away.

But it can also be like living under a microscope. I can't do anything--like run out to the convenience store for a bottle of water or go for a little stroll--without being observed, stared at, asked my opinion about spicy Korean food, etc. There is freedom in the idea that you could do pretty much anything and the locals would laugh it off because you are the weird waegukin (foreigner), but that is also restrictive in another way. It doesn't bother me that much, but I can see how this place could start to get lonely after awhile. It must be hard wondering if your friends are your friends because they like you, or for the novelty of having a foreign friend--or because you are another lost soul who speaks the English language. Amplify that feeling by a factor of 10 if you try dating someone...

I have met a few people I like because they are intelligent, funny, kind people who I enjoy talking to or spending time with, and I hope to develop friendships with them while I am here--maybe even the kind that will continue after I leave. That's good enough for me because I'm not an extrovert. Even though I like meeting new people and such, I don't really need lots of friends, just a few who are up for good times (well, my idea of good times, which only coincidentally and occasionally involves alcohol, and not the standard "cool" definition that tends to almost revolve around the almighty poison) and like to laugh about random things. This place would likely be hell for your typical American extrovert--especially someone who was "popular" back home.

And yet, ironically, living in Korea is forcing me to get out of my inner bubble and seek out the bit of social solace that I might enjoy. Back home, I would never have gone to a bar alone, or invited a few people I barely knew to travel with me somewhere I'd never been before, or signed up for martial arts lessons from a teacher whose language I didn't speak. I would usually wait someone else to go with or to express interest in hanging out with me first.

I kind of like the bolder parts of me I'm discovering...


  1. at least you're not a gyopo who can't even speak the language; the pity stares they give you are the worst...

    btw, i love your blog. I found it through jane's and it's one of the few that i enjoy reading. maybe it has something to do with the really clean layout and straightforward yet thoughtful posts. it kind of gives newbies like me a good understanding of what is to be expected once you arrive at korea. i really like how you put a positive spin into your posts as well..alright enough from me, take care and good luck teaching!

  2. Jo,

    I don't know what it must be like to look Korean, but still be American and not know the language... I'll look forward to reading your insights into that experience when you get here!

    Thanks so much for reading my blog--I'm very glad you find it helpful. If I checked your blog right, you're heading here to the 'gu? Safe journey! I'll check your blog now and then to hear about your progress.




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