160 COMMENTS

This week’s question is, how do Korean people react to us in Korea: more specifically, how do they react to us trying to partake in Korean Culture and the Korean Language? Do they approve, or do they find it insulting?

We’ve been in Korea for over three years now. As many of you can tell, we really love living in Korea and we’re having a great time here. From our experiences, we’re finding different reactions to different kinds of engagement with Korea. The first one we talk about is our engaging in Korean culture, which – all across the board – has been positive. Whenever we show our interest in Korea, and try to engage in Korean activities, we’re met with really warm and happy responses. We mention in the video our World Cup Soccer experience, which is – really – one of our fondest memories of Korea.

We were at the fried chicken restaurant, in a swarm of people all surrounding the TV. We wore red shirts, had the red devil horns and pitchforks. We had the stickers under our eyes. We cheered our guts out for Korea. When Korea scored, we screamed with everyone, jumped around, hugged and high fixed random people. We were just happy watching the game and rooting for Korea. Some people, though, were really touched by our passion towards the game, and bought us a lot of chicken and beer. They thanked us for cheering for Korea, and – I swear – we felt so close to Korea at that moment. We felt like we were a part of Korea, for that moment, and didn’t feel like outsiders at all.

 

Really, one of the most difficult things for us in Korea is the constant reminder of being foreigners, of being outsiders. We are not Korean. We don’t look Korean, as people constantly remind us when they point at us in the streets and say “Oh! Foreigners!” Even in a small elevator, people will talk about you as if you aren’t standing right beside them…even after you spoke to them in Korean. It’s really baffling. And so, after being reminded so often of being outsiders, that World Cup Soccer moment made us forget about that for a moment. And it’s really those times where we engage with Korean Culture that we feel a little more accepted here.

Speaking Korean, though, is a different story, and we have two different reactions to us speaking Korean. Most of the time, whenever we use whatever Korean we know, we’re met with “wow he speaks Korean very well!” or “wow your Korean is good!” Now, we know that this is not mean spirited. It just feels similar to those times that we’re pointed out in the streets as being foreigners. I think this is hard for us to explain fully without an example. Recently when we were walking Spudgy, we told a Korean couple (who were looking hesitantly at Spudgy) in Korea, “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite! It’s okay to pet him” and the boyfriend turned to his girlfriend and said, “he speaks Korean very well” and we said, “Oh thank you” In Korean, and he once again turned to his girlfriend and said, “Oh they speak Korean very well.” Now, we totally know he wasn’t trying to be rude, but COME ON! We’re standing RIGHT THERE, and we can clearly understand you! He literally added nothing to the conversation except that point.

The result of this kind of reaction is a constant reminder of our distance from being a part of Korea. You remember our Korean Like a Pro segments? At the end, when we’re pointed out as being foreigners, and then complimented for speaking awkward Korean…yeah, that’s not really a joke, it’s really what happens.

 

Now for us, it’s not as bad because we only speak basic conversationally Korean, but for our friends who are planning to live permanently in Korea and speak Korean fluently, their intellectual conversation can be disregarded because it’s a foreigner saying them. Again, it’s not to say that foreigners aren’t allowed to have good points in a conversation. It’s more that their good points are lost in the surprise that people feel at hearing someone speak Korean well. It’s like, if you heard a toddler give you his position on James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and how it affected postmodernism, instead of listening to his points, you might be more amazed by the fact that the toddler made it through that book, let alone formed an opinion of it. And so it feels the same way for us.

The other experience we get from Korean people when we speak our little bits of Korean is simply the “well, why don’t you speak MORE Korean? Why don’t you speak it more fluently?” position, and this position can be held both by Koreans, and Korean speaking foreigners, with an air of disdain. Now, we don’t experience this all of the time, but we have experienced it enough that we feel that we need to comment on it.

But how can we comment on it? It annoys us. Yes, we don’t speak Korean fluently, and that’s been our choice. We’ve dedicated every free moment to making a video blog. Instead of learning Korean, we learned how to shoot and edit videos (seriously: have you seen our first videos? They’re TERRIBLE!). We learned how to code a website, and we spend a vast majority of our time trying to talk to different people online, respond to their comments and answer their emails. And, hey, we also taught full-time. Plus, when you’re a happily married couple, you don’t have that urgency to get out there and start talking Korean to meet a hot Korean guy or girl.

But, even if we didn’t run a website, even if we weren’t that busy, it’s still not fair to ask that of people. Some people just don’t want to learn languages, not out of stubbornness or out of a sense of elitism, but because – hey – maybe they don’t like learning languages. Maybe they’re not good at it. Maybe they like the experience of newness. Maybe they don’t have long term plans for Korea. Whatever that person’s reasons may be, we don’t think it’s fair to ask them why they haven’t learned how to speak Korean as if it’s a requirement that comes with every country you visit.

The only time we feel a bit upset at people for not learning Korean is when they EXPECT that people in Korea should all speak and understand English, and then they are upset when Korean people don’t understand them. That, we totally disagree with. If you’re expecting all Koreans to understand everything you say in English, and you refuse to learn any Korean, then we feel it’s right to ask you why you haven’t made the effort to try and compromise for the sake of communication.

Anyways, despite our few discomforts with living in Korea, we hope that most people can see that we really appreciate the eye opening experiences life in a foreign country has brought us. We wonder if other people have experienced similar feelings of “foreignness” here in Korea, or what their position is on learning a foreign language in a country that isn’t necessarily their home.

ToFebruary
  1. I hear you with the your English is very good part. My husband’s family is Chinese and they are constantly saying that to me, even when I know I am making mistakes. The worst part about Chinese though, is it took me forever to get used to the giggling. Every attempt I make at Mandarin gets a fit of giggles followed by them speaking rapid fire to each other in hushed tones.. Instinctively, you feel like you are being made fun of, but in reality they are thrilled that you are attempting praise your Chinese relatives for having such a good daughter-in-law.

  2. People will sometimes say to someone not of the Caucasian persuasion that there English is so good not out of racism but out of sheer ignorance. I will give a personal example. I live in Milwaukee,Milwaukee is located in WI (a very white state),it is a very segregated city(not a lot of racially mixed neighborhoods). I lived in a part of the city with basically no Hispanic people(I am on the north side of the city and most Hispanic people are all on the south side of the city) so during my early childhood I hardly ever saw a Hispanic person let alone heard Spanish. So I automatically thought that if someone was Hispanic they were not from the United States. I then met a hispanic girl in grade school who became my best friend. If someone is raised in the right environment it can be this way at any age. Whether it is out of racism or plain old ignorance that they said that try not to let it irk you and hope that that little encounter helped change there views.
    tidbit – less than 3 percent of Milwaukee’s population is Asian and of course because someone is Asian does not automatically mean they go around speaking an Asian language and since that is the case not a lot of people here really bother to learn one so I have never heard any of the Asian languages except on TV/online.
    Well I will stop now before I bore you to tears if you even bothered to read this far. :)

  3. Aurélie Lefèvre

    which friend were you talking about? do they have a youtube channel? if they do, can you please post a link?

  4. Michikohime

    Even though I understand perfectly your point, I’ll continue to be happy when the Korean owners at the korean restaurant near my house tell me my pronouncitation is really good. I think I even go there more often just to hear the compliment rather than to enjoy the food. Ok no, that can be it, the food is as delicious as the compliments then…

  5. …So wait, am I the only one that doesn’t say “Oh your English is good!” to a foreigner? Judging by the amount of people commenting on how often they get that phrase, I guess I might be one of the few. I never assume that, just because someone looks Asian or Latina or Hispanic or something like that, that they can’t speak any English. I know some Asian people that have grown up in America and therefore speak English fluently and often times better than the language spoken in the country their ancestors lived in. I also know foreigners that come to America, learn the language, and could probably school me on English rules that Americans seem to overlook. So I just don’t assume, unless they come up to me and say “Sorry, my English isn’t very good, but can you help me with such-and-such?” and even then, I don’t really simplify myself unless they look like they don’t get it, then I’ll try to simplify things.

  6. totally agreeeee that World Cup was superrr awesome in Korea. I had the blessing to experience World Cup back in 2002, and i never knew Korea could be so…loving?? and united and there was just this spirit of togetherness. :) :) :)

  7. Jenny Adams

    Oh thank you for this blog!!!! I’ve been trying to get answers if Korean people do the same as Japanese when you speak Korean. I was in Japan for 4 years and constantly got that infamous “nihongo ga jouzu desu ne.” (your Japanese is great). They also switched to English even when I started off in Japanese, so I continued in Japanese and let them fumble around in English.
    Now if I do get to go to Korea one day, I know what to expect from the Korean people and I will just continue in the language. :)

  8. culturally insensitive lol

  9. Hmmm… my english is not good. Sorry.
    Your video is wonderful and comments are so interesting. As always :)
    After all of that i have one question: why `russia saram` with `eyebrows` means `prostitute`?
     I’m Russian, so I really wonder why Koreans say it. >_<
    As for the language …. every time I talk to foreigners, they say to me: "Oh, you have a good English!" Although I know very well that it is not. Especially funny when they say it, for example, in the Czech Republic or Finland. Most want to answer "Yes, you too, good English"I also teach Korean. And my teacher says other Koreans, "She's fluent in Korean," I replyin Korean, and they are looking at me saying, "Yes, she has a good Korean" are not embarrassed by the fact that I'm standing next to them and understand it. Sometimes it's so … strange. 

  10. Colin Chau

    They’re not reminding you your korean is good because they think it’s good. they’re trying to encourage you because you’re barely scraping by and you sound cute.

  11. Colin Chau

    I’m a foreigner in Korea working as part of a diplomatic staff.  
    I can say that honestly, with the 95% of foreigners who are in Korea as teachers, the main problem is that their minds are in vacation mode and they feel that they are complete submerged into a brand new novel world.  What you often hear foreigners talking about in public and on public transportation is their efforts to analyze Korean culture and girls, with one friend speaking rather authoritatively (confidently) about the matter to the other friend.  Many Korean have a good grasp of English, so you should be careful what you say as it’s quite possible there are people who understand you (i.e. me). I conduct my daily activities in Korean, and do not go out of my way and actually actively avoid meeting foreigners.  

    Cultural sensitivity is very important.  It’s one thing to not know not to speak loudly in public transportation (in other words, be obnoxious), and it’s another thing to have absolutely zero social skills and social tact in noticing that around you, people aren’t being as loud as you are.  Take a moment to look around and realize that even though you and your other English speaking friend are the only people in the world right now because both of you are the only ones the other person can understand, outside of that safety bubble you are in is a whole other world of people who are citizens of the country that is hosting you.  

    Lastly, if you find yourself in love with Korea for all the stereotypical reasons, start studying your history, politics, and economics books and understand the many challenges that Korea is facing now, has faced, and will face, and no that just like any other country in the world, it has nuances that are neat yes, but many of which also pose a challenge to its long term sustainability, which it is trying to tackle in a mature manner.

    I have lived and worked in about 9 different countries on five continents, so here is the advice I have to give to you, no matter where you live (FOR THE PURPOSE OF WORKING or STUDYING FOR A LONG TIME) in the future (though if you are an English teacher, the likelihood is that you are treating your stay as a vacation and have no future as a person working abroad on business)

    1. Be culturally sensitive.  You’re also in a different country under different laws.  respect it the same way you expect other visitors to your own country.

    2. Get rid of your superiority complex and humble yourself.

    3. Don’t complain about anything in your host country unless you have studied the matter and the different perspectives the same way one would do to complete their PhD Doctoral Thesis.  If you don’t, you have no right to comment on it.

    4. When you meet members of your host country, treat them like normal human beings, and treat yourself like a normal human being as well.  There’s no need to patronize each other for how cute, neat, or different the other culture is.  You’re in the country, live in it like it’s your own rather than be some wanderlust completely flabbergasted by everything.  Treat others like normal human beings and the same way you would treat meeting a new person in your own country.

    5. Get a fucking grip on the language.  I mean it.  I appreciate it when I see a foreigner making a concerted effort to learn the language by not being shy, practicing, 

    6. Stop hanging out with other foreigners and expats.  They are not your pillar and comfort bubble.  You are not helping them and they are not helping you.  Don’t want to feel isolated in Korea?  Start adapting.

    6. Listen to your superiors and respect seniors.  I know this is counter to the labour-union and right oriented culture of the west, but YOU made a choice to come to Korea.  Unless you have a very liberal boss, know to sit down and shut up when you know it’ll help you keep your job.  The job market is tough here, you are always replaceable.  

    7. Stop taking pictures of everything you see and eat.  You are embarrassing yourself as well as your friends.

    8.  Make an effort to speak full sentences, and don’t drop random Korean words.  You sound ridiculous.  If you’re not going to learn the language, at least work on your pronunciation.  I don’t think you came to Korea in order to sound like a donkey.   

    9. For the men – when you speak Korean, you don’t have to go back to sounding like you’re in the midst of hitting puberty.  But don’t be flat either.  

    10. Eat your food.  If it won’t kill you, just eat it, and stop making faces and comments.

    11. If you are unable to do at least 5 of the above, return to your place of origin.  You either do not want to adapt, have tried to but unfortunately were not able to adapt, completely failed to adapt, or simply the place is not for you.  Before your own dignity and self-esteem is completely demolished, recede back into your home of comfort, and do not go to another country for the purpose of a long-term stay again.  You were not made for it.

  12. 재윤 김

    Yeah. Actually, I’ve done like that when non korean speaks korean even just a word. Because, I think it’s hard to learn, memorize and pronounce. When I say “you speak korean very well”, it means I’m so impressive and not just encourage. :) I didn’t know it makes you guys get annoyed.

  13. Anonymous

    I’m wondering if this would only happen with people who are distinctly foreign, like a non-asian. Would this happen to another asian? hmmm…

  14. interesting. pretty much the same as in japan, i guess. although there is one thing that sometimes happens here, that you didn’t mention,  so i’m wondering if it happens there too…

    i speak pretty decent japanese, and i don’t live in a big city, but this sometimes happen if i go to Tokyo or Osaka and whatnot. i’ll go to a restaurant or something, and start speaking to the staff in japanese, and they’ll imediately switch to this completely bastardized, unintelligible english. now i KNOW my japanese is fine, but it’s like they have a mental block or something that the foreigner cannot speak japanese, so they carry on in that weird english that i can’t even understand… it’s REALLY annoying…

    • What I figure is probably the case, is that most Japanese people have learned at least a tiny bit of English in schooling. But they probably normally don’t have that much of a chance to ever use it often. So when they see a foreigner that knows English, they probably jump on the chance to practice their English. Just what I was thinking.

  15. I think stuff like that happens where ever you go in any country when you are always a foreigner.
    In Japan, it’s sort of a similar situation and instead of 외국인 you would hear gaijin whispered or right in your face.
    For me, living in the Middle East for almost all my life and only being born in Korea has its quirks too.
    Here there is quite the diversity of nationalities as expats make up a lot for the workforce as the locals will never do anything for 3D jobs. Hence just because I’m Asian, the locals will come up anytime even though I’ve never met them or even talked with them and ask me right off the bat, “where are you from?”.
    Or some come up to my face and immediately go “Chinese? Japanese? Thai? Filipino?” And when I say no to all of them, then they’ll wait for my revealing answer.
    So now when I get that and I get that often, I say “None of your business”. Or sometimes I do the same, “Pakistani? Bangladesh? Saudi? Irani? Omani?”.  I don’t want to be rude but they are being rude. If we got to know each other and then it came up, then it wouldn’t be such a problem.
    Once I was buying printer ink at a store and when ringing it up the guy asked where I was from. I told him why he needed to know that and what it has to do with me buying stuff at the store. I then asked, if I told you where I’m from would I get a special discount for telling?

    I now even tell my wife that when anyone asks stupid questions like that to not get the image they are being friendly and don’t bother taking the time to tell them where. They just find it amusing to ask…

  16. I guess unlike in Canada, an English speaking country where you’ll see tons of foreigner speaking english, in Korea, it’s not common to see a foreigner speaking Korean.

    For me, I still think it’s absolutely completely necessary for a foreigner to try to speak Korean; I take it as the very least thing one has to do to live in Korea, and if a foreigner ask me a direction or something in English, I would never bloody answer despite being able to speak English without much trouble. Even if you’re just visiting for a couple of days, one should try learning how to say hello, how to ask direction, simple stuffs that you can learn in a couple of hours. Imagine if you come across someone in Canada, who’s asking you for direction in Italian.

    However, whenever I do come across one, I get surprised, because not many people do try speaking Korean (or, respect the country they’re in). The person will be instantly much more memorable, and I think that’s why people point out.

    People who scold foreigner for their not-as-good Korean, I don’t know about them, I just think they’re idiots.

    • Mike Parker

      The problem is that many foreigners come to Korea with the intention to at least attempt to learn the language. However in all cases, particularly mine, they are met with hostility from Koreans who are either guarded about their homogenous culture (uncomfortable with a white face speaking their tribal tongue) or just see a caucasian as a means to free English practice. I can’t count the amount of times when I’ve built up the courage to talk to a stranger in Seoul, then been shot down by a 영어시키는상대방 who tells me that everyone knows English and I “dont need to” or “shouldn’t” speak Korean because it sounds strange.
      You’ll notice that foreigners in other countries make more effort to learn the local tongue because we are encouraged to. I didn’t feel that encouragement often in Korea. If you are as you suggest in your post, then you are one of the few decent ones.

      많은 외국분들이 적어도 간단한 한국말만 배우려는 의도로 한국을 찾아요. 그분들 특히 제가 백인으로써 같은 경우엔 옛날생각 가진 한국인들이나 영어연습을시키는 한국인들에게 적대적 반응을 많이 받더라고요. 저는 용기가 나서 낮선 한국인에게 말걸으려다가 제가 한글로 한 말에 영어로만 계속 댑하거나 우리말로 하지말라는 사람들이랑 접한 적은 셀수도 없고요. 여러 나라에서 거주하는 외국인이나 서양인의 모습을 보면 그나라의 말을 열심히 공부하는 외국사람이 많다는것 볼수있을거에요. 저는 한국서 있었던 동안 저 주변에 그만큼의 한국말 열심히 배우라고 격려해주는 사람들은 없었던 것같는데요.
      그런데 요셉씨가 글에서 말씀하셨던 것처럼의 생각이 가진 분이라면 반갑고 요셉씨의 마음을 가진 한국인들 더 생겼으면 좋겠어요.

  17. I could not agree more. I don’t know much Korean. I can read and write, but my vocabulary is small, but even when I try to speak Korean I always get the “wow, your Korean is really good!” thing. The Japanese do the exact same thing, but without the “why don’t you learn more” part. It still has that awkwardness to it, ’cause you know they don’t really mean it (they’re just being nice). Anyway, I’ve also had experiences where I’ve felt like a total outsider, and experiences where I felt they were a lot more accepting of me as part of their “group”. 

    This is totally off-topic but… your apartment is awesome! It’s so nice looking! Would I sound like a crazy person if I said it would be super awesome to meet you guys? I’m not, I swear! But I live at the end of the #1 line, so it’s a little far from you guys. :(

  18. JinDo Mann

    About the
    speaking, i think you are right. I experience the same. But I think is kind of
    the Korean behaved to non-korean- people. A lot of people said I am pretty, which
    flattered me at the beginning, but now a lot of people said it to everything
    (new dress, new hair…)and I do think now it’s just the be nice, not that the
    really mean it. And I think it’s the same with the language. The “Your Korean is
    good” is more like “you Korean sucks, but thanks for learning my language” kind
    of. >.<

    And what
    really annoyed me is everyone things you are American, tried to speak English
    with you or in my case thinks you are from Russia. Why can’t they just ask instant
    of guessing around…

    But all in
    all Korean people are really friendly and they feed you a lot^^ =) And they are
    really concern if the food is to your taste or too spicy.

  19. jelliekookie

    I’m a Filipina and I can speak English really well. When I’m outside with my non-Filipina friends, I talk to Filipino staff in Tagalog, using honorifics such as “po” and “opo”…like “yeo” in Korean–and they’re so surprised I’m a Filipina. xD They say “Wow, you can speak English really well.”

    I’ve been fluent in English all my life, but my accent’s all over the place– I sound American/British/Australian/Canadian, all at the same time. :D
    This is really interesting, my Korean friend say that her friends were fascinated by how well she spoke in English. :)

  20. jelliekookie

    I’m a Filipina and I can speak English really well. When I’m outside with my non-Filipina friends, I talk to Filipino staff in Tagalog, using honorifics such as “po” and “opo”…like “yeo” in Korean–and they’re so surprised I’m a Filipina. xD They say “Wow, you can speak English really well.”

    I’ve been fluent in English all my life, but my accent’s all over the place– I sound American/British/Australian/Canadian, all at the same time. :D
    This is really interesting, my Korean friend say that her friends were fascinated by how well she spoke in English. :)

  21.  was born in Nigeria but moved to Canada and then the U.S. I have spoken English (albeit with a slight British accent). When I tell people I am Nigerian, they go, “Aw, your English is so good.” I am tempted to tell them that I probably speak better English than they do :-). 

    My mom has lived in Canada and the U.S. all her life but because she retains a bit of a Nigerian accent, I get addressed more often than she does when we are together in grocery stores. They think she doesn’t speak English. Sometimes, I want to tell them that she went to college, got a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and PhD, speaks fluent English and is a tenured professor at a prominent university in the U.S. but I refrain.

  22. I was born in Nigeria but moved to Canada and then the U.S. I have spoken English (albeit with a slight British accent). When I tell people I am Nigerian, they go, “Aw, your English is so good.” I am tempted to tell them that I probably speak better English than they do :-). 

    My mom has lived in Canada and the U.S. all her life but because she retains a bit of a Nigerian accent, I get addressed more often than she does when we are together in grocery stores. They think she doesn’t speak English. Sometimes, I want to tell them that she went to college, got a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and PhD, speaks fluent English and is a tenured professor at a prominent university in the U.S. but I refrain.

  23. I was born in Nigeria but moved to Canada and then the U.S. I have spoken English (albeit with a slight British accent). When I tell people I am Nigerian, they go, “Aw, your English is so good.” I am tempted to tell them that I probably speak better English than they do :-). 

    My mom has lived in Canada and the U.S. all her life but because she retains a bit of a Nigerian accent, I get addressed more often than she does when we are together in grocery stores. They think she doesn’t speak English. Sometimes, I want to tell them that she went to college, got a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and PhD, speaks fluent English and is a tenured professor at a prominent university in the U.S. but I refrain.

  24. i went on exchange to Germany and i got a few “your German is so good” but never to the point that it got annoying but I did experience a similar frustration when I was got angry with someone and all they did was laugh at my poor German because I couldn’t concentrate on the language while being so frustrated and it just frustrated me even more because I wasn’t able to express myself

  25. junelizondo

    hi pplz! i am a person that lives in japan and speaks fluent japanese and english. kpop is my life and i went to chilies once saw a guy that had the same hair as simon and yelled at the top of my lungs. OMG!!!!!! its SIMON!!! HI SIMON!! YOU PROBABLY DONT KNOW ME BUT HIIIIII!!! once i noticed it wasnt simon i ran to the bathroom and started to laugh at my self and said, thats not simon!!!

  26. Anonymous

    Hi I have lots of guy friends that really like me and  think one of them is going to ask me to be their girlfriend so I just wanted to know in case, they invite me to their house how should I address the mother and father and what kind of manners should I show inside the house?

  27. i’m super about the adventure videos and seeing more of korea and the culture.  I’d think it’d be really cool if you guys featured some food in the adventure segment because the few episodes/videos you two do with food i find really interesting, like the kimchi making video was fascinating to me. 

  28. Oh man! I can so identify with this video! Haha. Well, I’m Asian so I think many Asians find it truly amazing whenever foreigners pick up our language. I can’t speak for Koreans but I think it’s cool that Simon and Martina knows the language and are sharing so much stuff about Korea to us in ENGLISH~ :)

  29. Tanya Bradanovich

    I loved the points you made and I find quite interesting that the whole “your (insert target language here) is pretty good” seems to be more the rule than the exception in lots of cultures. I’m Chilean and I’m also an English major, so my level of proficiency in that language is quite decent. I still can’t get over your English is pretty good phase when I meet for the first time a native speaker. At the same time, my family and most of my friends who don’t speak English (or Chinese or Portuguese or whatever the native language of the person they’e talking to is) automatically make that compliment and spend some time talking about their language level no matter what. It is annoying, but it is part of our culture

  30. Tanya Bradanovich

    I loved the points you made and I find quite interesting that the whole “your (insert target language here) is pretty good” seems to be more the rule than the exception in lots of cultures. I’m Chilean and I’m also an English major, so my level of proficiency in that language is quite decent. I still can’t get over your English is pretty good phase when I meet for the first time a native speaker. At the same time, my family and most of my friends who don’t speak English (or Chinese or Portuguese or whatever the native language of the person they’e talking to is) automatically make that compliment and spend some time talking about their language level no matter what. It is annoying, but it is part of our culture

  31. VBNinja

    I loved the points you guys shared in this one.  I have to share:  My experience with the many Korean people that I know here in the States is mixed.  About half have come here recently; within the last 5 years, so their English is either pretty darn good or non-existent.  But I have found that even though they are very respectful in communication as a rule, they are ALL very blunt.  I think most of the time it translates as a bit forward and rude but when I apply this rule to dealing with them, they are NEVER offended.  (Or they’re lying…LOL)  When I am blunt, (which is often no matter who I’m talking to) I apologize for my frankness and ALWAYS my apology is met with “no, you did nothing wrong, I understand you completely.”  (In fact, Americans CANNOT handle frankness quite as well as Koreans.)  I think Koreans believe in feed back and confirmation of their actions through statements that point out…well, the obvious.  Ah, the things that make the world go around.  Love & Peace.

  32. Anonymous

    My sister Hyeon-Jin once told me about how her friend Jen, also an exchange student, had a very funny moment with a school principal. She went to great her, and not realizing that Jen had been speaking English since the third grade and had lived in America for 3 years already said “HELLO.WELCOME…TO OUR…COUNTRY! I AM YOUR…PRINCIPAL! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS???”  And Jen just looked at her and said in perfect English, “Yes I do know what that is. Also, I am foreign, not deaf.”  Best embarrassing moment ever xD

  33. Anonymous

    as an asian-american, i’ve gotten plenty of ‘oh your english is very good’

    but what’s worse is when making small talk with new people, there’s always that one guy that asks if i spoke ‘asian’

    • Lol I’ve had that too. I grew up in New Zealand and I’ve encountered the odd ignorant mong face here and there that after I converse with go, “Heeeey… your English… You speak English really good!” And I’m all, “You mean I speak English well. Better check yo’ grammar, son.” (30 Rock reference somewhat).

      Or another thing that annoys me is when the first thing out of a stranger’s mouth is, “Where are you from?”
      Does it really matter?? What irks me about it is that the asian population in New Zealand is huge. HUUUUUGE I tell you!
      And if the first thing they say to me is not, “Hi, how are you?” or “So what do you do?” or “Nice day today huh?” but “Where are you from?” it tells me they’ve been living under a rock for the past 25 years and I’m the first asian they’re encountering and it’s BLOWING. THEIR. MIND. So ignorant!!

      Sadly I’m part of the generation that was pre-Korean-immigrant-influx. The kids now are all bilingual and have an understanding of each other. When I was growing up, the new Korean kids mocked me and my brother for not speaking Korean and the white kids were all ZOMG CHINAMEN!!
      The worst is when they thought me and my two other Korean friends were triplets. Da fuq.

  34. Anonymous

    Haha I know what it’s like! We have a couple Korean exchange students at my school here in Canada and one of my best friends (who is Korean) will introduce me and be like: “HEY SHE CAN SPEAK KOREAN” and they’ll get all giddy and excited. Even though I only know really simple things, they’ll always encourage me and stare, etc. It’s both a little annoying and encouraging, haha. They’re always amazed about how much I know about music and little bits about their culture. Since I’m also fluent in French, they seem to say “I’ll teach you that in Korean, if you teach me it in French”, because they, for the most part, are really interested about learning our culture and our languages. It is, however, like you said, kind of annoying.

    But even in my small school, exchange students get critised for not being able to speak “fluent English”. So I suppose it’s as much as a problem here as in Korea? Even if a student’s English is really good, a teacher or other student will go, “Oh! Your English is very good”, and I know it annoys them. Other exchange students have problems with students finishing their sentence for them. It’s fine to help them out, but talking for them won’t help them learn anything.

  35. Anonymous

    OMGsun …..reminds me of when people tell me all the time that my English is good….Guys just because i am chinese and lived in NEW ZEALAND my whole life {14 years} that i need to be reminded that i speak better english….Gosh its annoying…

  36. Anonymous

    Is it really that surprising the reactions you get from Koreans as foreigners? Not so long ago, countries like Canada and the US had a mostly homogeneous population, and for the most part, it still is that way. Caucasians would offer those same reactions that you receive from Koreans, to non-Caucasians. 

    As an full-blooded Asian born and bred in North America, I distinctly remember going to the grocery store with my mother many years ago, and the cashier exclaimed [about my mother], “Wow! You speak English really well!” Gosh, I hope so, she’s only been living here for 20 years…

    We might pride ourselves on being multicultural and accepting here in North America, but although the situation has improved a lot over the past few decades, it is not totally different from South Korea. Minorities still get the outsider treatment at times. We might speak English like you, enjoy good Western food like you, watch football like you, but we’re still not like you and we don’t always get to forget that. Maybe it’s just something like the odd glance when we walk down the street, the surprise when they realize we’re not that different from them, but it’s still there.

    It’s funny when the tables are turned aren’t they? I don’t mean to be offensive or anything, it’s just that you have to remember that these racial/foreign issues do go both ways. Foreigners in America get treated just like you do in South Korea. Maybe not to such a great degree, maybe not everywhere, but we still have a long way to go.

    • Doreen Park

      you said the words right out of my mouth. Although North America (US and Canada) are multicultural countries, I have experienced every bit of “insensitivities” Simon and Martina have talked about in those two countries. From the way Simon and Martina compared the “multicultural Canada” and “culturally insensitive” Korea, I don’t think they were thinking at that time that things can go the other way around. It might be because they were never a minority in their own community and didn’t see someone get that kind of treatment around Toronto.

    • Doreen Park

      you said the words right out of my mouth. Although North America (US and Canada) are multicultural countries, I have experienced every bit of “insensitivities” Simon and Martina have talked about in those two countries. From the way Simon and Martina compared the “multicultural Canada” and “culturally insensitive” Korea, I don’t think they were thinking at that time that things can go the other way around. It might be because they were never a minority in their own community and didn’t see someone get that kind of treatment around Toronto.

    • I don’t think they ever meant to say that it WASN’T the other way around. That wasn’t ever brought up. Of course this unfortunately happens outside of Korea. They never said it didn’t. They were simply addressing the question at hand, which they did perfectly.

      • Anonymous

        Of course, I’m sure that they didn’t mean to do that. It’s just that the problems they face really shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s the same problem any foreigner faces in any country. You have to come to expect to not fit in.

        It’s nice that they got free chicken and beer during the World Cup, though! If I walked into a sports bar in Toronto and went all out for Team Canada, I probably wouldn’t get anything besides the odd drink from some drunk trying to get lucky.

        • Depends on the people really. I remember once when our department was out for a party. There was a big TV there and it was showing a match of Liverpool Vs something … One of my colleagues was a big football fan and he hit it off with a British sitting near us cause he happened to be a LIverpool fan as well.  After the match was over, he said “Glad to see more fans here. Let me buy you guys a drink!”

    • Anonymous

      perfect comment.

      • Anonymous

        That kind of praise is more than a bit unwarranted…

        • Anonymous

          perhaps, but you pretty much said everything that I wanted to say. I’m also an Asian-American (born and grew up in the states). while I don’t frequently experience ignorant/racist comments (intentional or not), it happens enough that it makes me a bit defensive.

  37. You two make me so stinkin’ happy, I’m seriously all smiles and laughs when I watch your videos! Love it! Keep up the AMAZING work :)

  38. Yeah… I constantly realize how ignorant Koreans are in engaging foreigners. It even seems bit like a racism. I apologize on behalf of Koreans…Sorry. People are just not used to meeting foreigners and I hope it will improve over time.

    • Doreen Park

      솔직히 이런거같고 사과안해도 될듯싶어요. 우리나라에서만 이런일이 일어나는것도 아닌데 꼭 사과를 하고 미안해야할 필요가 있나요? just fyi it happens in a lot of different countries.

      • 다른나라에서도 그런다고 고치지 않는 것보다는 직시하고 고치는게 낫다고 생각해서요. It’s better to  acknowledge and change than to shove off because other countries are the same

        • Doreen Park

          그래도 한국사람을 대표해서 사과하는건 좀 아니라고 봐서요.. sometimes I feel like Koreans are just too self conscious of what their people do and tend to apologize for every single thing. It’s not a thing to apologize for. Just recognizing that it’s a thing to improve on is enough.

        • 확실히 오버한 면이 있을지도 모르겠네요. 그 부분을 지우겠습니다.True…. I admit that was a bit over reacting of my part. I will erase that part then.

    • Doreen Park

      솔직히 이런거같고 사과안해도 될듯싶어요. 우리나라에서만 이런일이 일어나는것도 아닌데 꼭 사과를 하고 미안해야할 필요가 있나요? just fyi it happens in a lot of different countries.

  39. Anonymous

    are you guys talking about your friend Jennifer? She was on running man too for the cooking ep right?? i was surprised by her korean but i obviously didnt know she was fluent haha but yoo jae suk and everyone had the same reaction!! i totally get what u mean. even my korean friends here in the US always say “wow your korean is really good” even though i only know like five words but still lol

  40. Great video again guys!!
    One thing I just wonder….did you guys go to clubs or disco in Korea, and if so, do they played lot of K-POP for party people to dance with? Here in Hong Kong some small club/disco bar will play a few K-POP, but usually SJ-Sorry Sorry and Wonder Girls_Nobody only! Last night I’ve been to disco bar that the DJ play lots of K-POP from f(x), 2pm, SNSD, T-ara and so on, with the PV played on the screen as well!! Really really cool!!

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