July 5, 2015
Hoooooboy we were excited and nervous about this weeks video question! We asked people to send a message to foreigners living in Korea, and we weren’t sure how negative or positive it would turn out. We left it open ended so that people could honest and not sugarcoat. It was surprising to us that we got a nice balance of negative and positive comments.
I have to give a shout out to Maya and Whitney who appear at the end of the video because I burst out loud laughing with your “don’t be an asshole” comment. Hahahaha! But seriously, they went on to talk about a subject that Claire and Pat at the beginning of the video touched on too, and that is when people move to Korea for a job and then hang out only in the foreign neighbourhoods. This is a kind hot topic amongst foreigners in Korea and it creates a lot of angry fights online. I’m going to weigh in on this fight right now.
Martina’s Message to Foreigners Living In Korea
There are those of us that come to Korea with the mindset of exploring a new culture. Whether it be for work or for school the prospect of living in a foreign land is exciting and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into new food and adventures. I would say majority of foreigners I meet in Korea share this perspective, but we all experience living in Korea in different ways. If you are attending university in Korea with the goal of learning the language, you will have your own unique experience with Korean culture and school life and it will very different than those of us that came here to work. Having had taught for three years in a Korean high school, I’ve learned about the politics of interoffice relations, the Korean education system, and I came to understand the life of a high school student very well. And my experience of teaching in Korea will be totally different from another person who is teaching in a rural countryside town, because country life in Korea is nothing like city life! But if you come to Korea with the mindset of exploration and adventure you can make the most of your time here. You can see the positive with the negative and your time here will be amazing!
However, as Maya and Whitney mentioned, there are those people that come to Korea and only hang out in the foreign neighbourhoods and make no effort to learn how to read Korean. If you can’ t read Korea, you are limited to where you can eat as a lot of restaurants in Korea have no English on the menu. While I personally think it’s a shame that they are missing out on amazing opportunities to experience new things, I still have to be honest and just admit that some people are only coming here to work…and that’s okay. It’s okay! They haven’t been longing to travel to Korea their whole lives, they just need a job. Once you get a job, the appeal of the foreign neighbourhoods are in community. Organized events like poetry reading, trivia night, sports clubs, the streaming of sporting events, and more help people to feel part of something. Not to mention that it comes with the comfort of ordering a meal that reminds you of home. You can fall into a normal routine if you want, and so some people that come to Korea for a job enjoy the small comforts of a local community.
If you do come to Korea to learn the language, you’ll already be guaranteed to meet other like minded people in your program or in your classes, but when you come here to work, you might be the only foreign person at your whole workplace. It can be very lonely and even if you learn the language it doesn’t automatically mean your Korean co-workers are suddenly going to say “OMG now we can be BFFs forever!!!!” It’s a job for them too, they already have their own friends and family. Simon was unlucky enough to have this kind situation at his work and it made him very depressed but I was lucky to meet some amazing people at my work and I became very close friends with them, but at the end of the day Simon and I had each other. A lot of people don’t have someone to come home to so if hanging out in a foreign neighbourhood and developing relationships helps you to enjoy your time in Korea, go for it. But heed my one final thought: if you spend all your time in a foreign neighbourhood and you don’t interact with Korean culture, don’t fall into the pitfall of hanging out with people that are Negative Nancies. I totally support venting and being angry about your bad experiences in life, but I don’t support it when it becomes a blinding never-ending cycle.
At the beginning of the video Claire mentioned the “foreign groupthink” and it’s a real thing. Yes, you will totally have bad experiences in Korea (just as you’ll have bad experiences back in your home country) but if you focus on it non-stop and hang out with other like minded people you will become a sad crusty angry asshole spewing out negative shit all day on forums, blogs, videos, and to anyone that will listen to you complain. At the end of the day, what is the point of all that anger? It will only make you feel worse and in the end you are the only person that actually experiences your daily suffering. So instead I suggest Claire’s approach. Take a deep breath, step back from the anger or cultural misunderstanding, and go find some friends that support being positive…whether that’s in the foreign neighbourhood or not.
Next week we’ll be posting the response video which is a message to Korean People Living in Korea. How exciting! :D