Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wash Your Own Darn Cup!

This morning I walked into the staff room to fix my usual cup of green tea. The principal was at the sink, halfheartedly running water over his coffee mug. As I entered, he gave me a pathetic little half-smile. This was not a look of greeting, but I had no idea why he was looking at me like that, so I smiled back weakly and proceeded to get my tea.

Five seconds later the female gym teacher comes barging in with a horrified expression on her face, yanks the coffee mug out of his hands, and washes it for him. He leaves the room without so much as a thank you when it dawns on me: He expected that I was going to wash his mug for him.

In Korea, female subordinates (by age or position) always do things like get the coffee and wash the dishes for the office. I try to ignore it because it gets the feminist all riled up in me, and usually I can because they don't expect foreigners to comply with Korean hierarchy all the time. But now that I'm married to a Korean man, the principal must think I'm a Korean woman.

I say to you Mr. Principal, if you are really so helpless as a 50 year old man that you can't wash a coffee cup, you don't deserve to be drinking coffee, much less running a school. Do you even wipe your own bottom?

Oh, Korea...


  1. Ugh. Number one pet peeve in the work place. Definitely number one. I won't even get into the things it makes me want to say when I see it -- that's how much it annoys me.

  2. Oh yeah, Liz. I hear ya. This was the first time it's been turned on me, though. Usually "foreigner" protects you from a lot of the gendered hierarchy that exists here... but hot darn.

  3. As a Korean guy, that's just embarrassing. But then again, I'm younger, westernized and come from a female dominated house where you were own maid. Nevertheless, still embarrassing.

  4. Thanks, LeeSkye. Just to clarify, one of the reasons I was so shocked is that most of the Korean guys I know (closer to my age) are not like that anymore in expecting women to do everything for them in an office situation. Heck, in our house, my husband does the dishes a lot more than I do. But our school's principal... he's very "old school" in that way.

  5. I'm telling you, he doesn't wipe his own bottom. He owns a Korean bidet.

  6. Be careful with the 'always' there :-) My Korean husband and his brother (the authority figures in their place of business) almost always clean up the remnants of snacks brought to the staff room by parents or teachers. I realize they are pretty exceptional, though.

    It has always annoyed me that the paid cleaning staff ignores these kinds of chores...

  7. Yes, Gwen. I didn't even notice stuff like this my first year here because I was lucky to work with such awesome men!

    What kind of pissed me off about the incident was that the gym teacher made such a big deal about how against the natural order of things it was for a male principal to be washing his own cup when I was in the same room. A gym teacher! Now there's an unusual profession for a woman in Korea, yet still... that's the prevailing attitude. And his reaction was also so blase, like the order of the universe had been restored and he could just go about his day as usual now. Ugh!

  8. So if the principal was an older woman would she have expected the same treatment?

  9. :) Old Korean men, they are used to be served in every place and time.
    I feel that it ain't easy to change their attitude in a short time. Will take a long long time~



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