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The Gyopo Experience ft Jen!

July 10, 2014

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When we were in LA, we spent a couple of days with Jen, who – by the way – is totally lovely. She asked Martina a really interesting question that really had us questioning ourselves. The question was this: do we consider ourselves Korean-Canadians or Canadian-Koreans?

It caught us really off guard. It’s not something we ever thought about. “Neither” is our first response. We have no Korean blood in us. We’re not Korean. Jen went on to say, though, that we’re in many ways more Korean than she is. We’ve been living in Korea for over six years now. We’ve been really immersed here. We have a home, a business. We eat Korean food every day. We speak Korean every day (not high level Korean, though: but more than enough to carry on conversations). We pay Korean taxes. When we were in LA, we were culture shocked by all of the things that are not like how they are in Korea.

But that’s not the point of our conversation. Though we’ve spent most of our adult lives in Korea, we still don’t consider ourselves Korean, yet we’ve adapted to Korean culture in many ways. Those of you angry Tumblrinas, please note: WE ARE NOT CALLING OURSELVES KOREAN. We were fascinated by the question, though, and what it implies.

Namely, the question of identity got us thinking. Back in the day, your language and your geographical location and your nationality and your heritage were very often all the same. A Korean person spoke Korean and lived in Korea and had Korean family. There was little mingling. But the world has changed a lot in the past 100 years. My parents are from Poland, but they have half-German grandparents. Then they moved to Canada. My first language was Polish, but then I dropped it for English. Now I’m living in Korea, and my identity and career are all based on Korean stuff. What do I identify as, then?

We hung out with Dan Matthews while we were in LA as well, who spent some time with us when he was shooting his documentary. He’s a Korean adoptee who spent his entire life outside of Korea. When he came to Korea, he hung out with us a bit, and we showed him around the area and taught him a bit about it. How does he identify?

Again, I’d like to make clear that I’m not here claiming some people are “more Korean” or “less Korean” than others. I’m not necessarily sure what I feel about the question of identity, either, because it’s something we’ve only been discussing recently, a lot more so after Jen asked us that first question. I’m not sure how much longer people are going to be able to identify themselves based on any country in the future, really, the more we travel and bring our history with us to plant in new places.

I remember when we were in Poland for our Polish meet up. It was a very difficult time for me, for reasons that I couldn’t really understand. I’ve always felt like a terrible Polishman. I remember visiting Poland when I was 16, and my uncle scolded me for not knowing Poland’s historical figures, and he stated that every good Polishman knows Poland’s history. I remember my brother not wanting me to speak Polish around him, because my pronunciation is terrible. I don’t know Polish well, I don’t speak it well, yet there I was in Poland, with a bunch of loving, Polish Nasties, all of whom I wanted deeply to identify with, but I felt deeply ashamed to. I had no right to claim any Polishness. I just had a Polish family and a bit of the language. That’s all.

A big part of this is why I’m fascinated with the gyopo experience in Korea (a “gyopo”, by the way, is a Korean who grew up outside of Korea). We’ve spoken with many who have a really difficult time here, some of whom have been scolded publicly for not being Korean enough, for not speaking enough of the language. It’s something I feel when I think about my Polishness. And it’s something that I consider while we’re here in Korea as well. What place do we have in this country? We’ll always be considered outsiders, no matter how long we live here.

I’m not sure what else to say here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, even though I don’t have any clear answers or questions. I just don’t know what cultural identity means anymore. I just know I’ll get a ripping from angry social justice warriors for questioning cultural identity, which won’t help me out much. What’s your position?

I also know that I was really happy to do this video with Jen, who could share her experience as a Korean American and touch on the questions of cultural identity as well. We hope you liked the video as well :D

If you’re looking for something more fun, though, I’d recommend checking out Jen’s video makeover on Martina. Side note: Jen’s got SUCH A NICER CAMERA THAN OURS. Ooooh look at that lighting!

And, lastly, click on this pretty button below for more TL;DRs, and for more collaboration videos. We’ve got another one coming next week with Korean Englishman, who’s, like, very similar to us but very opposite in many ways. Yay!

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The Gyopo Experience ft Jen!

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  1. OMG Simon in Polish… ish? :D So am I! This is too cool. Shame I doscovered you guys long after the meet in Poland. And don’t worry buddy – Polish can be proud, judgemental assholes sometimes, but we love our people lol :D And the history but… well, to be honest I don’t know that much either, so don’t feel bad. Polish history is long and complicated and it only gets interesting in XXth century ;) Anyway, hope yo see you guys in Poland very soon! And Simon – don’t ever be ashamed to speak Polish while here, we don’t really admit that, but we can’t speak proper Polish either, cause it’s so messed up :D

    5 years ago
  2. I was born in Korea, moved to Canada 17 years ago and never visited Korea ever since. If I ever go back (which I plan to soon), I’m going to be 촌년 because of the way I dress nor I know how to take the subway. Remind you, TTC (Toronto Subway) is the easiest of the world probably.

    Until high school, I was almost 2nd gen – speaking English at home while my parents spoke in Korean, listening to Punk/Rock music. And then, University hit me hard. My life changed. I met Korean International students in my program and became really close. Got to learn “soju” culture, and got into K-pop, K-dramas and shows. Then, I volunteered at KSAC (Korean Students Association of Canada) which is more of 1.5 gen, like myself, community. It was then, I finally found where I belong. People in my age, immigrated here with their parents, know both English and Korean, into both cultures, etc. It is difficult to fit in one way or another because we know little of both sides. Yes, it’s great to be multi-cultural and bilingual and all. But, we often feel empty and lonely because of no belonging.

    When I visit Downtown Toronto, where a lot of Koreans hang out. By looking at their clothes, I can see that they’re International students because of the way they dress – probably the type of clothes they own because they bring it from Korea.

    I think Korean girls here try to follow up the Korean make-up style rather than North American. This is when we realize that Americanized make-up do not look good on our faces. Maybe it’s the skin tone, or the size of the eyes or nose, shape of the face. I usually ask my friends who visits Korea to bring me make-up so I use Tony Moly’s CC cream. I don’t personally like putting a lot of make-up on so that’s pretty much it. Sometimes, I put on Etude’s face mask on.

    Our house is the most Koreanized house that I know of. We live in a condo (apartment) and we make 된장, 간장, 고추장, 메주 and always have 3 kinds of kimchi at home. We shop at Korean grocery store and cook Korean food, eat Korean food and snacks. Even when I meet my Korean friends outside, we go to Korean restaurants. A lot of miss “home” in our heart. I know I do.

    5 years ago
  3. I’m Pakistani-Canadian. I was born in Pakistan but moved to Toronto when I was 5. Despite having spent almost my entire life in Canada, sometimes I don’t feel truly Canadian. People often ask what my cultural or ethnic background is. It’s never enough to say that I’m Canadian. Because I’m a visible minority, that somehow classes me as a foreigner. Once someone said I was Canadian but not a real Canadian. I grew up here, I’m a citizen, I speak both official languages, I’ve lived in both eastern and western Canada. How much more Canadian do you want me to be?

    I had to go all the way to Pakistan to be recognized as a Canadian. To my extended family we’re known as the Canadian relatives. People judgingly questioned why I didn’t know enough Urdu, why didn’t I know Pakistani history, why didn’t I understand Punjabi. Basically, why aren’t you like a normal Pakistani. It’s like they forget that I’ve grown up in a completely different environment. Your family can influence only so much of your identity. Your environment plays a huge role in shaping your identity. Stragely enough, I experience that same critisism in Canada. Pakistanis in Canada (mostly the older generation, but sometimes people my own age) will say you’re acting too Canadian or that I’m white-washed.

    I’ll be going to Turkey next year for an exchange program and do a mini-Euro trip afterwards. And I’ve been wondering what the heck I’m going to say when people inevitably ask what are you or where are you from. If I say I’m Canadian or from Canada that’s not the whole story. And if I say I’m Pakistani, well that’s not the whole story either. I’ll be in the UK for a bit which has a huge Pakistani community. Over there, I think if I say I’m from Canadan people will just leave it at that. I’m assuming to them a brown person saying they’re Canadian is no different than a brown person saying they’re British. I’m just really curious how Turkish people will respond when I say I’m Canadian. Will they just leave it at that or will they ask where are you really from? I guess I’ll find out when I go there.

    5 years ago
    • As an Arab-American, I can totally relate to your experience.

      I actually went to Turkey for a visit a couple months ago and people used to ask me where I was from. I would always say I was from the U.S. Most of the time they would pause and look at me for a second before moving on, and there were also a few who would ask the “No, really…” question. Why don’t people understand immigration!!?? lol

      5 years ago
      • Yeah, I think sometimes people in other countries forget that North America is made up of immigrants from all over the world. But I don’t really blame them because the Americans they see in films and television are usually white Americans or African Americans. Other groups have far less representation in media.

        5 years ago
    • I’m also Pakistani, but I was born and raised in America. I always got super offended when people called me Pakistani or Indian, because I always told myself I was American. I do love visiting Pakistan, and my family goes there every 2-3 years. I went a few months ago, and realized I’m a lot more Pakistani than American. But it’s still really hard to categorize myself as one completely. Similarly, I get called American in Pakistan, and Pakistani in America(and Korean by my family :)

      Also, I travel a lot, and when I tell people I’m American, no one questions me (and I look very Pakistani). But I guess your experience could be different.

      5 years ago
  4. A-yo! to all Konadians (Korean Canadians) out there!

    5 years ago
  5. So I’m a legit caucasian American and I and everyone in my family has always taken our shoes off in the house. We’re not as strict about it as in Korea; I will leave my shoes on to run into the house really quickly, but generally they come off. However, adult visitors generally leave their shoes on. That’s not the case for every house, but it is pretty common.

    I’ve been in a lot of different countries for work, and I’m always easily pegged as an American. I try not to wear the American tourist uniform (white athletic shoes, baggy blue jeans, untucked t-shirt, baseball cap, large bag/backpack), but it’s still pretty obvious to most people that I don’t blend in. Occasionally people think I’m an Australian (likely because Aussies travel more than Americans – I can’t think of another reason), but most guess American pretty early in the game.

    5 years ago
  6. There must be something to that “foreigner radar”. Back during the summer of seventh grade, I was in Seoul visiting my relatives. I walked into the local convenience store to buy something and when I walked up to the cashier, she immediately asked excitedly in Korean “Are you from America?” Startled, I shook my head yes and mumbled in extremely broken Korean while pointing in some general direction when she she asked where I was staying in Seoul. I’m not sure if it was my large build, my clothes or my mannerisms, but there was something about me that set off her migook saram alarm.

    As someone who’s struggled with identity issues my entire life, I can definitely relate to what Jen’s talking about. Being born in Seoul, moving to NYC at the age of two and growing up in the ‘burbs in a large Korean-American community, I felt like I was constantly being besieged on all sides. The American kids always pointed out that I was different for being Korean, while the Korean kids flat-out rejected me for being too American. My parents kept trying to make me more “Korean” by enrolling me in Korean language classes and having me interact with the Korean community; I kept trying to make them more “American” by trying to teach them the do’s and don’ts of everyday American society. Once I reached adolescence I just said “fuck it” and rejected both whitebread America and my Korean heritage to become a full-blown gangsta-rap-listening baggy-pants-wearing wannabe. I felt like I could identify with the angry anti-establishment plight of black youth; to me, whites and Koreans WERE the establishment. Of course, this misguided adoption/idolization of gangsta rap culture led me down a predictably bad path which ultimately completely changed the course of my life. And to think, it was all because of something as seemingly innocuous as cultural identity.

    While I consider myself American, it’ll always be with a caveat. “Korean-American”, “American of Korean descent”, etc. And it’s because both sides, both mainstream America and the ethnic Korean community in America, continue to stress this distinction between “real” and “fake” Americans in public and private life, whether it’s a newspaper article automatically pointing out an Asian-American’s ethnicity when writing about them or my mother exclusively referring to white people as “Americans”. Speaking of which, as you guys talked about on the “gyopo” issue, I’ve also personally found that Koreans are much harsher on their own people than to non-Koreans. People always want to point out the racism and prejudice of majority populations who put pressure on minority groups to assimilate, but nowadays, it’s usually the conservative members of one’s own community who are the harshest judges. This is why, like Simon, my relationship with my ancestry is very complicated. While I’ve come to embrace my heritage in recent years, I’m still pretty much ashamed of my inadequacy in the language and lack of knowledge of social norms and customs. It’s difficult to even bring myself to go to a Korean restaurant because I don’t want to be questioned in Korean and then have to explain how I don’t speak the language fluently even though I’m of Korean descent. If I’m going to some other ethnic restaurant, I’m totally fine. There I would feel as if I’m entitled to mispronouncing the menu items or being ignorant of the traditional fare and dining etiquette. But to do that at a Korean restaurant would be regarded as a failure of some sort in my eyes and ostensibly in others’ eyes as well.

    I’ve always found it interesting how you guys talk about being considered perpetual outsiders in Korea. On the surface, it appears to be a pessimistic assessment. Like many other first/second-generation immigrants, the notion of being rejected from the in-group is a deeply personal and painful one. But due to your unique circumstances, it seems like you guys are at peace with it. Because you two already came of age before moving to Korea, and found unconditional love and acceptance with each other, you guys probably didn’t feel such a need to find acceptance within Korean society; as you’ve stated multiple times before, you’re perfectly fine in your Simon & Martina bubble. The fact that you’re both free-spirited counterculturists/dirty hipsters with perhaps a dash of subconscious White Privilege probably helps sugarcoat any angst you would otherwise feel. I am drawn to one anecdote, however, which may paint a more complex picture, one you consistently bring up as your favorite memory in Korea: the one where you guys were cheering for Korea at a bar during the 2010 World Cup and people bought you free chicken and beer because they felt solidarity with you. And you treasured that memory because it was the first time you truly felt you were a part of Korean society. So maybe you guys do genuinely want to be accepted, just in a measured realistic way that doesn’t interfere with your personal autonomy. Have your cake and eat it too, if you will. Regardless, you guys have succeeded in carving out a Nasty Niche for yourselves in Korea by creating a wholly new and wonderful community to be a part of, so perhaps my point is moot.

    5 years ago
  7. I’m Mexican-American even though I am about to turn 24 this year. A lot of older generations Mexicans find it weird and a few find it shameful that I cannot speak Spanish properly. It’s partially my fault, but growing up in almost all white county in NC there was no way I could have not learned English and forget my Spanish. My parents encouraged me to speak to them in English while I was at home so they too could pick up the English language and culture. Now that there are more younger generations of Mexican-American children, the older generations think of it being okay for the younger kids not to speak Spanish because of how society is now a days. I just accept the fact my Spanish is no good and that’s how it is. I love the Korean culture by the way, it reminds me of my heritage, but more classier (lol). The music and fashion is a plus! :)

    5 years ago
  8. I can totally understand your confusion of self-identity. I am Native American and Filipina. My mother is full-blooded Native American and my father is half Native (a different tribe than my mothers) and half Asian. Growing up, cultural identity was never an issue. Because I grew up next to Chinatown, my first language was Mandarin, which I later learned, there is some Chinese mixed into my Filipina heritage. I am second generation born in the US. My Lolo (Grandfather) immigrated to the US from the Philippines and lost contact with ALL his family there. Now, I don’t have any family I can find so I don’t have any extended Filipino family (that I know of). I identify as Asian-American though, because that is how I was raised (despite the fact I am 75% Native American). We moved to my Mother’s home (on an Indian Reservation) when I was 4, for a few years. I had to learn both Navajo (Native American Language) and English from a young age in school and so my family decided to speak only in English to me. I stood out so much in a Native American school. I never had American food or Native food, and was made fun of for bringing Asian food in my lunch box. I learned I don’t identify with any culture. I’m too Asian for my Native side of the family, I’m too American for my Asian half, and I’m too “ethnic” for American society. I understand some Navajo, but I don’t speak it very well because my accent is too “Americanized.” I understand some Tagalog and can speak it with the correct accent and pronunciations, but I don’t know very much (yet – I’m re-learning). I understand Mandarin the most (even though I’m probably a very, very, tiny percent Chinese) and speak it pretty well enough to pass. In fact most Chinese people will tend to speak to me first in Chinese before English. Weird? When I’m out and about, I’ve been mistaken for EVERY race imaginable! I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with finding a self-identity, but I tend to think of myself as a person of the world. Traveling overseas, I definitely stood out! I’m too tan and too American for most Asians, but, I’m labeled Asian when I travel to European countries. I think this topic will become more and more of a topic in years to come, being that most kids in the current generation are quite mixed, ethnically. In my generation, it wasn’t as common, especially being mixed Native American and Asian, but now, I’m finding more “Nasian” mixes, just like me. I think I worry most about losing the knowledge I have of my Native American half, being that it’s a very under-represented race. I mean, people that usually claim it, are typically 1/164th blood quantity. Being that I’m enrolled with 3/4 blood quantity makes me feel obligated to carry on the traditions and teachings (that I have little knowledge of, because I was not taught). I think there’s that sort of obligation any way, with any culture, but being mixed, and being American makes it harder to balance your identity. Nonetheless, great topic! It was sort of therapeutic to read everyone else’s experience and to know it’s not just me who deals with this on a daily basis. :)

    5 years ago
  9. My experience of having a national idendity is really lame compared to the ones I have read here…
    It might be because of all that social justice BS going on on tumblr about “well shit I didn’t know you are five diffrent flavors of vanilla at once” but oh well, here I go:
    I was born in Germany in the northern part of Bavaria, where I still reside. My paternal grandfather was a Czech with slight German ancestry and fled to Germany after World War 2 because he was afraid of being persecuted and associated with the Nazis in his home country. Similar to Simon’s case, his mother tongue was Czech, however he dropped it in favor of German and even refused to teach my father Czech because he was ashamed of his heritage (Talk about the media brainwashing people into thinking that everyone from Eastern Europe is an alcoholic burglar).
    My grandfather’s sister however still speaks Czech occasionally and she still has strong accent when talking German. My paternal grandmother’s family originates from France. Stereotypically they were all winemakers, my great-aunt owns a huge winery in Rhineland-Palatinate.
    My maternal great grandfather came from Tyrol (which is now split in half by the Austrian and Italian border). He had 2 brothers, one of the stayed in Austria and the other one emmigrated to the US. We completely lost touch with our Austrian relatives and the last time our family had contacted with our American relatives was when ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ was a hit single. All I know about them is that they live in Milwaukee and Chicago.
    I don’t really feel ‘German’. Matter of fact, I don’t there are a lot of Germans who feel ‘German’ or have a national pride similar to the USA’s or France’s. Anyone being proud of his nationality here is still associated with Nazism. There was literally a German actress posting a selfie with a German flag with the caption “I love Germany” she got thousands of death threats, was scolded publicly and eventually had to shut down her facebook page because all of the hate she was getting. I also didn’t have great responses from people when I said I was German while I was on vacation. I still remember some guy mumbling “cochon allemand” after talking to him. I have also met some tourists from America that were super duper racist and prejudiced towards Germany. They were literally asking me if we hid our “Nazi stuff” in the non touristy regions. So naturally, I kind of tend to identify more with my ancestors nations, like Austria (which is a stunningly beautiful country with lovely food oh my god.)
    But I think this mentality from German people and towards German people is in the process of changing right now. A huge contribution to that is soccer, which is like a self-esteem boost for the whole population. I also think the steadiness of German politics and our female head of government increased Germany’s reputation among other countries a lot.

    5 years ago
  10. I’m Chinese – American and I can say that even though the US is considered one of the most culturally diverse places in the world, a lot of the Midwest still is pretty isolated and conservative. As a babe I lived in the suburbs and then I moved to a relatively rural city when I was 9. I grew up identifying myself as a Chinese – American but when I started getting into my awkward years it was really difficult to deal with both.
    It wasn’t until I was in 7th grade that I realized that most people in my town really saw me different than everybody else (and when I say everybody else I mean basically caucasians, lol). When kids my age in the US see me, they don’t think “American” they think, “Oh, she must get good grades and be planning to be a doctor.” and it’s the most frustrating feeling in the world. A lot of teenagers still buy into so many of the stereotypes they hear about Asians and it really effects the ways Asian – Americans grow up here. I have a lot of Asian – American friends and we discuss this all the time. When you go back to your “country of origin” you become “the foreigner”, but in the US you’re still viewed as “the Asian”. So what do you identify as? We struggle with this question everyday and it makes us resort to becoming “the Asian”. My brother once told me that, “The reason I’m the clown is because everybody in this town only sees me as the Asian.” It made me really sad because I really love ma bro and it breaks my heart to think his making me laugh is just an act. And sometimes it makes me feel like I have to play up “the Asian” act just to get people to accept me. It sucks. :(
    Just a couple weeks ago I was in China visiting relatives for the first time in like 8 years. The experience was just so refreshing, especially after such a long time. But I felt so guilty during a lot of the trip because despite the fact that I grew up in a pretty culturally Chinese household, my Mandarin was pretty basic. I asked my parents so many times if my accent was alright and every time they’d say it was fine but I still couldn’t shake my insecurity. A lot of my family members never really teased us about being “Americans” and I really appreciated it but I still felt out of place as is expected, haha. Another weird thing was that everyone was calling me pretty, and they usually do when I go to China (not meaning to brag). I guess I fit the beauty standards or something. But in the US guys don’t so much as give me a sideways glance. It really brought up my confidence for the days I was there but as soon as I got back to the US I thought, “What if they were just being polite?” It was nice being pretty for a few weeks I guess. :/ Which is another thing about where I live that I hate. A lot of the guys in my town only date like really, so called “white Asian girls”. Like Asian girls that don’t seem like they still adhere to a lot of Asian culture, like using chopsticks or speaking in the “native tongue”. Not that I’m complaining cause guys my age are dumbasses, lol. But stereotyping and discriminating is not cool guys. :(
    I’d say I think I’ve pretty much accepted who I am by now and I know how to play my “Asianness” up to get a few laughs and be socially acceptable but it is really frustrating how society works. I think these days the world is just getting more connected and becoming global by cause of technology and the internet, so these kinds of mixed identity and race things are only becoming more common. I don’t think identity should be defined by race or country of origin. You are as you define yourself to be. And thanks to the internet and wonderful people like Simon and Martina, people who suffer with these kinds identity crises can come to feel more at ease with who they are and let out their frustrations as well. I really appreciate this TL;DR because it gave me a chance to discuss something that really matters to me while at the same time letting me comment for the first time on the Eat Your Kimchi website. Thanks S&M for choosing this much debated topic!

    5 years ago
  11. I’ve always wondered about the shoes too! It bothers me so much when I’m watching American shows and they don’t take their shoes off. It’s the norm here in Canada.

    5 years ago
  12. I’m biracial Vietnamese-Lebanese and was born in Canada to first generation immigrants. Spoke French, Viet and English (in that order) until I lost the Vietnamese (my father had stopped me since he felt my mother would say things without him understanding – I’m still sad about that). They never really taught me anything about their cultures as they would offend each other in doing so. We moved southward every other year as my father wanted to go to the US and my mum wanted to stay near her family in Montreal. I never kept any childhood friends and ended up in foster care at age 12. During this time I lived with 6 different Caucasian families until I left the system at 17. A stroke of bad luck had me homeless for a couple months until I finally found an apartment I could afford. My neighbour was Haitian Creole and we had drinks and breakfast together with 5 Chinese migrant workers almost every day for the time I lived there. I graduated high school that year and left to work in Northern BC before going to Ukraine to teach French.

    Later I finally returned to Montreal to go to university (cheap tuition yay!) and that brings us to the present day, where I cannot really identify as anything. Though I seem more Viet than Lebanese or Caucasian, I don’t feel that I can own any of that heritage, and when I say ‘Canadian’ I keep getting that look and the words “no but really, where are you from?”.

    5 years ago
    • That said, thanks for this video and blog post – it hit sorta close to home, ha. And no, no shoes inside, ever.

      5 years ago
  13. So I’m just answering the shoe question. I live in America and when it comes to shoes on or off, usually people take them off unless the host says something. That’s it, bye bye!

    5 years ago
  14. Both of my parents are from Croatia but I was born and raised in the US. I’ve visited my family there almost every summer since I’ve been one and I speak conversational Croatian. However, whenever I’m there I know I stand out and everyone makes it a point to tell me that I’m not technically Croatian. I’m know as “the American” amongst the locals. The funny part is, like you guys said, if I act too much like an American and speak too much English, I almost get scolded by whoever is around for not embracing my Croatian heritage. So essentially, when I try to blend in they point out I’m different and when I act different, I’m told to blend in. The fine line is so difficult to understand haha What also sucks is that here in the states, I’m also called a foreigner. Weird, right? I was born and raised here but apparently because I’m bilingual, have spent a lot of time in Croatia as a child, and because I’m not the “average American” (as in Italian, German, Irish, etc..that’s what I was told to be the average American by someone when I asked what an “average American” is -_- ), I’m a “foreigner”. It’s almost as if wherever I go, I am denied my nationality/heritage and can’t blend in. So stupid and it sucks cause I know so many other people who are labeled as foreigners in their own country.

    5 years ago
  15. I live in the USA (the Blue area :)) I detest wearing shoes in the house or when my family does. You only where shoes in the house when you are going somewhere SOON! Because shoes are loud and dirty. My family members will complain about each others loud dirty shoes too. (especially when its 5AM). If we have guests (that don’t come over all the time) we probably will where shoes in the house though. My grandmother always wheres shoes she probably the only one who can get away with it. It seems like most people do where shoes in their houses but that might just be because I’m a guest (or there floor is dirty). Since I wear high heels so often I tend to get away with taking them off though. Also recently I had to walk bare-foot through wal-mart cause my heel broke off.
    I’m pretty much very Caucasian American I guess. Although I do have an UN-pronounceable last name. So usually I tell people I am part Austrian (but have never been there and don’t speak a word of German). People who actually can pronounce my name tend to think I’m German. I remember once in elementary school a Teacher asking if I knew how to pronounce the German words in a book, at the time I don’t think I even realized I had an “odd” last name. So I just shyly said no.

    5 years ago
  16. I love Jen, I swear I am so much prettier now since I started watching her videos…I also buy a lot more makeup.

    I have nothing to add to the identity conversation, but, as a Canadian, we take our shoes off in our houses and I think it is very weird that other cultures don’t.

    5 years ago
  17. I think we should forget about being “too much” or “not enough” of certain nationality. As someone pointed once, I prefer considering my self a – Citizen of the World -. It is so big and wonderful so why impose to yourself even more boundaries. Just enjoy the differences!

    5 years ago
  18. I can soooo relate to this! Both of my parents are chinese, but I was born in Costa Rica and I still live here. Every 3 years or so I go to China with my parents to visit my relatives, and it becomes so evident that I’m very different from my family even though I’m “100% chinese”. I don’t really feel a pressure to be more chinese, but that might be because my knowledge in chinese history and etiquette makes up for my broken cantonese. Personally I identify as a costa rican because I have no intention of moving to China, and because I do feel more like a costa rican: I identify Costa Rica as my home. That being said, a lot of my mannerisms are chinese, so I don’t think people would say I’m a costa rican. Also, identifying as al costa rican doesn’t mean I don’t love the chinese part of myself, it actually makes me want to have it all? Like, being the perfect combination of a chinese-costa rican, I don’t think that loving one means severing all ties with the other one. I think that identity is completely individual, so “identifying as *insert*” only serves the purpose of guiding people to understand someone better… I don’t know if that makes sense.
    Sometimes the differences make it really hard because sometimes you HAVE to fit in, for example the problem with clothes. I believe Martina and Simon have talked about how hard it is to find clothes their size because they are so huge compared to koreans. I do suffer from that too, here in CR clothes are made for taller people so clothes don’t fit me like they should (I’m 1.53m), and if I attempt to buy clothes in China they don’t have my size (sucks to have nice curves). To finish, I would like to think that people will eventually realise that globalisation is not something external to people, that lines keeping outsiders apart make no sense when you want to share your culture.

    5 years ago
  19. I was born in the US but went to live my first 4 years in Mexico. Then we came back to the US and I grew up there. After living in the US for 14 years I sometimes start to wonder exactly where I belong. In my house we talk Spanish and English and we eat both American and Mexican food. I always see my parents who are always have this certain pride in their country(Mexico)but for some strange reason I can never really understand or relate to it and it’s not because I have pride in America. I talk perfect English and Spanish,and I did get the feeling that my parents wanted me to be more “Mexican”. Like Simon I also got in trouble for not knowing Mexico’s History. There are Mexicans were I live and I have seen people my age who seem really Mexican but I was never able to feel like part of their group you could say, but it never really bugged me till I went to Mexico for the first time in 12 years. When I arrived my whole family (Which I had no idea I had) always kept me far away or not a part of them. They didn’t do it on purpose its just they just thought I would know what certain things were like because I lived in the States. Everybody in the small town I went to visit knew right away that I was not from there. However it was not because I didn’t speak the Spanish correctly it was because I didn’t have this certain accent they had.It was funny because they tried to tell me my Spanish was weird bu they couldn’t because my Spanish was technically correct and without their accent that they have. Another thing that made me stand out was not being able to eat spicy food. As you might know Mexico is known for their spicy foods. Which was a complete nightmare for me because if we had to eat out they would almost always order spicy food. I felt really out of place! So that really made me wonder where exactly do I belong? I am not accepted in my parents country and I am not exactly 100 percent American.My question is where exactly do I belong? It’s really confusing. I don’t really have pride in any country but I don’t worry about it too much as long as I am happy where I am at. Plus I know I’m not the only one who is confused because I have many friends that are in the same situation as me. A good thing is you get the best of both worlds.

    5 years ago
  20. I was born in indonesia and raised in taiwan but however unlike most cases, i grew up with my cousins in taiwan while my family and my brother continued to live on in indonesia. And because the reason of studying in taiwan was to pick up chinese and be bilingual , i grew up speaking chinese and never had the chance to learn any of my national language since my family and relatives all speak dialects and chinese.

    i often feel really confused when people mentioned why I’m so not indonesian and why don’t i have my national/cultural “pride” in me. it wasn’t my choice or my fault.. i just wasn’t exposed to it at all. Even when i travel around indonesia i was never recognised as a indonesian even if i say i am, they would just assume I’m lying.. urgh frustrations.

    but the worst part of it is even my brother makes a fuss out of it that i do not have any national pride and how i could not speak the national language. Noone thought me the national language, i had never studied in indonesia before and my family or friends do not even speak to me with it but everyone seems to expect me to “master” it. sometimes it really becomes a pressure because it just seems like my fault that i had forgotten my “roots”

    people just expect too much from others sometimes. its true that it is sad to not have any roots since I’m still an indonesian but if having roots is the reason why I’m stressed about then i’d rather have no roots, culture , heritage at all.. after all we are all just humans of planet earth. we live on the same land , we breathe the same air but why must we see the differences and not the similarities ??

    thank you so much for discussing this topic eyk because for the first time I’m able to actually talk about it and hear that so many people are actually facing such issues! glad I’m not alone :)

    5 years ago
  21. I’m from Connecticut, and I have to say that unless I’m running in to get something or I’m leaving really soon, I always have my shoes off in the house. I prefer walking around barefoot, so that could be part of it, but honestly it just seems really uncomfortable to leave them on all the time, and almost no one in my family does it. My sister’s boyfriend does, though, and she’s always nagging at him to take them off, lol.

    5 years ago
  22. In speaking of shoes, it all depends on the individual house, though it is typically seen as ok to keep your shoes on in the house.

    At my house it is perfectly fine to have your shoes on in the house. I know my parents’ thinking is that for guests, they should keep their shoes on. My house is really old, we have wood floors, my 3-year-old nephew is over all the time, and we have a cat. So dirt, dust, and fur are forever present, no matter how much you clean. Keeping shoes on keeps your feet clean. I’m not saying my house is super dirty, because my parents can kind of be neat freaks. There isn’t any big dirt, it is mostly to keep the dust and fur off of our guests. I, personally, take my shoes off as soon as I get in the house and I know I’m not going out again because I don’t really like wearing shoes (unless we have guests over). In fact, I’m perfectly ok with going outside and walking around barefoot. It is more comfortable for me and I don’t care about my feet getting dirty. Though my dad makes a big deal out of it if we just got home and I’m asked to run out to the car to get something, but I already have my shoes off. He doesn’t like me going barefoot outdoors because he doesn’t want me hurting my feet.

    If I go to a friends house, I always ask if it is ok for me to take my shoes off. But I don’t do that right away and right at the door. It is usually if we’ve been there for a while. It can be seen as rude to just take your shoes off and walk around someone’s house. It is like, making yourself too much at home I guess? Plus, a lot of people are grossed out by feet.

    Some people don’t like you wearing shoes because they don’t want the dirt from outside on their carpets or whatever. If that is the case then they’ll ask you to take your shoes off at the door. I always make sure if I see shoes piled by a door or if I see white carpets, to ask if it is ok for me to keep my shoes on or if they would prefer I take them off.

    5 years ago
  23. My whole family and relatives are 100% Chinese. I was born in Hong Kong but my family immigrated to Canada when I was one. My parents didnt want me to forget my culture so they forced upon my siblings and I to speak Chinese when at home (which is why my first language is actually Chinese, English, AND French at the same time… what a childhood that was Lol)

    I think the whole Cultural Identity is more about cultural “Pride” than anything. The country you were born or whose blood run in your veins doesn’t define who you are as a person. It’s the same as being racist to be honest.

    I’ve lived in Canada my whole life so of course I know little about China’s culture. But does that make me less Chinese ? No. It just makes me less knowledgeable about a specific subject. Why do people get mad at someone for not knowing “enough” about their own culture but are happy when foreigners do ? Pride, nothing more.

    I am proud to be Chinese and also proud to be Canadian. I dont choose one over the other. Both are important and both are part of my life and a part of who I am as a person.

    5 years ago
  24. What I identify as really depends, and I find myself qualifying no matter what I do say. I’m Chinese-American to most non-Asians (it’s just easier to identify geographically); I’m also Chinese-American to Mainland Chinese. However to Canto/Taiwanese people I’m Canto/Taiwanese-American-by-virtue-of-one-parent-this-one-parent-that-but-sorry-I-can’t-speak-our-mother-tongue-only-Mandarin. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in an area where there was a large Asian presence, and I’ve rarely been singled out for being “not-white” or “not-Asian”. In terms of the Motherland, I’ve only been to Taiwan for a month. My aunt who lives there was confident that no one would rip me off right away for being a foreigner and no one did (Yay…?) My grandma on the other hand told me that I shouldn’t be allowed to speak outside of the house.

    Oddly enough, when I did a study abroad program at Ewha for a semester, I was often mistaken for a Korean unless I spoke in English from the get-go. I’ve never felt I looked remotely Korean but there you have it. This led to some interesting incidents… Some Chinese tourists asked me about something in a shop window and they were very surprised when I answered back in clear and fluent Chinese (I wasn’t dressed up, just normal jeans and t-shirt). One of them praised me for it and remarked to her friend that it was fortunate they found a Korean who spoke Chinese. On the other hand, taxi-ahjusshis and restaurant servers would work themselves up into a tizzy when my vocabulary, pronunciation or inflection was off. They scolded me about how I was ignoring my heritage and being a bad Korean (ironically translated by my way-gook-in or gyopo chinjus), and then rapidly deflate when I claimed Chinese heritage. H-awkward~!

    5 years ago
  25. Such an interesting blogpost and such interesting comments. I’m an ABC, always identified as one. My parents compare us to bananas…yellow on the outside, white in the inside. Anyway, i’m going to china in a few days for vacation and I think there is such a difference between American born chinese and chinese who live in china. I think it’s the way they dress and the way they look too…not sure what it is, but to me, there is a clear difference between the two. My dad told me that i’d could be passed of as a China-Chinese person if i just kept my mouth shut ahhaha But i disagree because there is something very different that I just can’t write out in words.

    For me, luckily I grew up in a very diverse town with a lot of Asians so identity isn’t something I struggle with because we’re all basically in the same boat.

    5 years ago
  26. Hey guys! So, a little backstory, my mom is Korean and my dad is Irish. I was born in Ireland and I moved to the U.S. when I was 7. My Korean grandmother, who doesn’t speak much English, and my Korean aunt live near us so In the U.S. I grew up with a lot of Korean culture along with American culture. The result was a very unsettling feeling of never belonging anywhere. I was too foreign to really be considered “American” by my peers even though I am an American Citizen, I was too Korean-American to be Irish any more even though I was born there, and I was way to Irish-American to ever be considered Korean no matter what the circumstances are. Being uprooted when I was so young and the inability to “fit in” to any specific group of people has left me with the strange feeling of not having a home country, or even an extended family. Imagine a tiny Asian girl going to an Irish family gathering where everyone is white. And when I go to Korea, like Martina and Jen were saying, I’m the American girl even if my face looks Korean. It can be a struggle but it’s also kind of liberating, my Korean family doesn’t expect me to be Korean and my Irish family doesn’t expect me to be Irish, I’m free to do what I want even if it that means I don’t have the comfort of a place or group of people I feel at home with.

    5 years ago
  27. Background info: I’m first-gen Portuguese Canadian (my parents lived in Portugal until their early teens, when their families moved to Canada. They met in highschool). Growing up, they spoke Portuguese amongst themselves, but I never really learned to speak the language (took some classes, but the teachers were AWFUL). At home, we ate Portuguese food, we would visit our family every summer, and we were involved in the cultural clubs for Portuguese expats living our area. But everything else growing up was very Canadian. As a result, I feel like I’m in this strange bubble where I’m ‘too Canadian’ for my Portuguese friends from my childhood, and ‘very Portuguese’ for my non-Portuguese friends now.

    When I go and visit these days I can pass as a local until I open my mouth. (I’m in your country, and want to practice dammit!) It’s even stranger when I go and visit the US; where everyone thinks I’m Latina and would speak to me in Spanish, or remark how I “didn’t have an accent”. O_o

    5 years ago
  28. On the shoe topic, my father’s side of the family takes their shoes off at the door or did when I was growing up. My grandmother was born and raised in Hawai’i and that’s how she did it growing up. I have always tried to enforce that but no one seems to get it.
    There is some slight awkwardness since my grandmother was the second generation born in Hawai’i despite being of German descent. She used to talk about going to school, learning Hawai’ian, learning to hula, competing in the Miss Hawai’i pageant and not winning because she wasn’t descended from royalty etc. In fact, she taught me my first “swear” it was “howlie”. I still use it, lol. The point of my ramble being that there’s some expectation the other way as well, that people who don’t “look” the nationality in question can’t really BE the nationality in question.

    5 years ago
  29. Bre

    Jen grew up around Caucasians, right? So, what about the Koreans who grew up around Koreans in the US? What is their experience when going to Korea? Are they used to Korean fashion and other things so that it doesn’t come to a shock as much as it did for Jen?

    5 years ago
  30. Yeah, I definitely wear shoes in the house. I’m never barefoot. The thinking behind it is that Americans think floors are gross and dirty, even in the house. My mom actually yells at me when I don’t wear something yo cover my feet. I think it’s pretty nasty when people pick up the dust from the floor on their feet. People I know with pets definitely wear shoes in the house because animals do gross things that you don’t know about on the floor and then you’re stepping in their mess and hair and saliva. Nasty!

    5 years ago
  31. I live in the States! Kansas to be exact. We do keep our shoes on in our houses! Although I wish we did take our shoes off, keeps the floors cleaner…

    5 years ago
  32. I’m half Korean and half Chinese, but I lived as an American for my entire life. Unlike most of my gyopo friends, I never been to Korea from the day I was born to now. My mom is Korean, but she was born and raised in Japan. This, she grew up in Japanese culture. And no I never been Japan either… Sorry! I didn’t know about my Korean heritage until I entered high school. It was kind of awkward because I thought I was half Japanese until I finished middle school. My mom didn’t grew up in that culture and doesn’t speak, read, or write Korean. I wanted to learn more about my culture by reading books about Korea and tried to learn basic Korean from one of my gyopo friends. I’m still trying to learn about Korea any way I can. It was just a little awkward and isolating at first because I never grew up in that kind of situation.

    5 years ago
  33. Ok so lets start with a little background. I am Mexican-American which means both of my parents were born and raised in Mexico and I was born and raised in Los Angeles,CA. My home was very Mexican and both my brother and i were raised with Mexican values and norms but we lived in America. When i was in kinder and first grade my classes were in Spanish and English. I learned Spanish first and to this day always use it at home. I have a lot of family in America and Mexico but we mostly use Spanish to communicate. It is only with my cousins and in school that i use English. In first grade they decided i was ready for an all English classroom and i did pretty well. So technically I’m an English teacher in Korea but i guess it’s not my first language?? lol I usually just say i learned both at the same time which is kinda true. My English education is definitely better than my Spanish, though.

    When I was growing up and would go back to Mexico i would always be treated like a “rich American.” My parents town is very poor but because i was born in America i was “rich.” That was not always true. When i was 5 my family was homeless and we lived in a van for 2 months. When i spoke English with my brother, people in Mexico would stop and stare at us and then say look at the Americans or we would get called “pochos.” Pocho/pocha is the gyopo equivalent for a Mexican descent person born/raised outside of Mexico. In America, especially when i left LA, i was treated like a Mexican never fully American. America and their current status on Latinos and immigration is not good. Even though i was born in America there have been many times when I have been treated like an immigrant. At first it was so confusing for me. I was raised very Mexican and if you asked me what i was, up until middle school, i would say Mexican, never American.

    As I grew up i realized I wasn’t completely American or Mexican. I grew up with many American values too and that sometimes clashed. Like when i decided to move across the nation for my University. That was seen as a very bad thing to my really Mexican family. According to them i was abandoning my family and being selfish.

    Also there was a question you asked Jen that reminded me of something. When i was in high school my grandma and aunt from Mexico moved in with us in America. Keep in mind my grandma is from a very old generation where a women didn’t study and prepared to be a housewife. By that time i was so focused on studying that i wasn’t doing house work and staying late in school. When my grandma saw this she went a little crazy and told off my parents. She said they were raising me “badly.” She told my parents and me “how can she be a good wife to her future husband if she doesn’t know how to cook or clean.” My parents kindly told her that education would be my key to a better life and that it was more important. I am thankful for my parents support because up until me no one in the family had gone to a university. My grandma since then has changed and seen what education has offered me.

    Sorry if this is long guys! lol

    5 years ago
    • Trust me I went through something like that and it is true people in Mexico also believed that I was rich just because I lived in America most of my life.I normally talk to my brother in Spanish also and we both got a bunch of stares especially when we went to the market place.

      5 years ago
    • I totally feel where you are coming from! Although if asked I would say I’m more American than Mexican. I grew up in a Mexican household in the U.S. My parents were always working and so I slowly lost some Spanish knowledge. I learned to read and write Spanish by watching novelas. Whenever we would go visit family in Mexico I didn’t feel at home. It was obvious that I wasn’t true Mexican, especially my Spanish. I’m sure I also got that oh they’re rich look from my cousins. The thing is that wasn’t true. I’m more comfortable with English than I am with Spanish. Growing up with 2 different cultures makes you feel like you don’t completely belong to either side. Although it may have been difficult at times, I am still grateful to have grown up bilingual.

      5 years ago
      • Yay There are more like me! lol Yeah Chantel even after all of this i am happy and grateful.

        5 years ago
  34. Martina, you were in Croatia?!Wow!Where?

    5 years ago
  35. 10 yrs ago when I visited Seoul, an american gyopo told me how he got scolded for not being korean enough. After that, every time I met someone, I would quickly explain, I’m not Korean. I’m from Canada – Chinese Canadian. I don’t speak Korean well. I’ve never been ‘judged”. Even if my korean now is elementary school level, people are polite & welcoming even now when I visit. It’s the fact that I attempt to utter the language. I always get mistaken as Korean or Japanese by Korean people. I must not look Chinese at all?? My gyopo gfriend worked in an english speaking environment in Seoul. During one visit, i didn’t hear her utter a single word of korean. But she translated an entire movie for me while we were watching it in the theatre. Sometimes i think it’s a choice of how you want to assimilate.

    5 years ago
  36. It’s so recognizable!

    I’m a half-dutch half-indonesian guy born and raised in the Netherlands, but we used to go back to Indonesia quite often for lengthy periods of time so I understand the culture very well and I speak Indonesian fluently. My accent, in fact, is such that Indonesians think I’ve lived in Jakarta for a long time.

    However, since I was primarily raised in Europe, my mannerisms and the way I wear my clothes is completely different from what people over there are used to, so I stand out a huge amount. I also feel the added pressure of looking like an Indonesian and people assuming I know every little cultural detail (etiquette etc.), but luckily I have my family most of the time who can tell me what to do, or why people responded the way they did.

    What is also interesting is how my actual behavior is different in Asia compared to when I’m in Europe. To the point where my accent changes. For example, my accent when I speak English while I’m in Indonesia is that of an Indonesian speaking English, whereas I have a Dutch accent when I’m in Holland, and interestingly an American accent when I’m in English speaking countries. But more generally I automatically bow when thanking people in Asia (or Asian settings, such as at an Indonesian family’s home) and I sit differently and all that kind of stuff.

    5 years ago
  37. I feel like the idea of a cultural identity, as moving throughout the world becomes more common, has – and will continue to – become more and more diluted. My parents immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S., and neither I nor my two siblings fluently speak their language(s) or fully understand the customs of their culture. I identify as Filipino, but weakly – most of my ties are in little things, like the food, random words, and taking off my shoes when I go in my house. In a similar way that a lot of white Americans only identify with their ethnic origins by lineage, not retention of culture, I think future generations of Asians raised outside of Asia (who usually always identify by their parents/grandparents/etc.’s country of origin) will as well. In places of great diversity like the U.S. and Canada, it’s almost inevitable. On the other hand, places that are much more homogeneous like South Korea, being a foreign-born/raised makes it difficult to fit in, no matter how in touch with the culture you are. Balancing and/or immersing yourself in your “original” culture and the one of any place you might find yourself in can be difficult. At the very least, you guys are awesome in that you immersed yourselves in another culture, and have taken the time to respectably understand it; honestly, I feel like the only reason you guys can’t call yourselves Korean-Canadians is because of its homogeneity, you know? In the same way you two are Canadians from culturally European families, if you guys had a kid who was born and raised in Korea, I think it would be fair to identify that child as Korean, too. Thanks for sharing this awesome thought-provoking video! :D

    5 years ago
  38. Ohh, I can totally relate. I was born in Russia, but moved to Germany when I was 3. I speak Russian a bit, but definitely not fluently. I have a German pass, speak German perfectly, but EVERY German tells me that I’m a foreigner. I visited family in Russia a few times – and you know what, I was just some German for them. My parents even forbid me and my brother from talking in Russian in public, because everybody would immediately know that we are not actually Russian. Even my father, who was born in Kazakhstan and lived in Russia for many years, had a hard time “concealing” the fact that he was living in Germany now, because some Russian vendor picked up on his weird accent that he developed while only speaking to Russian-Germans for so many years. (Concealing that we’re German was necessary because the city we visited is known as one of the most xenophobic cities in Russia and there’s the danger of getting ripped off and things like that.)
    I don’t really feel like I’m German. I grew up here, talk the language, but I still feel like an outsider. My cultural background is just really vastly different to “normal” Germans, but at the same time, I’m not Russian either. Either way, I’m the “foreigner” in both countries.
    It doesn’t really bother me, though. I’ve since moved in with a “real” German and there are a lot of moments where our cultural expectations and experiences clash and there has to be some explaining to do, but I think it’s more interesting that way. I definitely wouldn’t want to trade my experiences. I like that I have my Russian background, though I wouldn’t want to live in Russia and don’t plan to visit it anytime soon.

    5 years ago
  39. I really enjoy these types of blog posts, that get you thinking. I have always enjoyed the topic of identity it was a big topic we discussed in one of my classes this semester and though the subject of identity can be very complex, somebody in the comment section below said it best, that at the end of the day you are human. This blog post also made me think about Malcolm X’s words “We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day…” and one quote from MLK’s I Have A Dream Speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Society is just so focused on “identity” of the outside such as race and nationality that they miss the most important part the “content” of peoples character, their ideals, personality, and beliefs the things on the inside.I believe what is on the inside really makes up ones identity, but the world unfortunately doesn’t think like that they are just so consumed with outward appearances.

    5 years ago
  40. Okay, here goes:
    I myself am an extremely rare species of half-Koreans who actually grew up in Seoul with a Korean nationality. I never lived outside of Korea until I turned 21, but, because I take after my dad, who is German (but gave up his German citizenship so he could be Korean and live there forever), I have always been treated as a foreigner in my own home country. I remember wishing, as a child, that I had my dad’s lovely grey-green eyes instead of my mom’s dark ones, because then I could fit in in Germany, at least. I felt like I was this weird mixture of incompatible elements who didn’t belong anywhere, and it didn’t help that I stood out wherever I went (and not just because I’m 5’11”. Imagine how many stares I get in the subway.).

    Anyway, up until a few years ago, I had this sort of love-hate relationship with Korea and Koreans in general because, while I was never openly bullied for my appearance (probably because I attended a German elementary school and then an international secondary school), at some point in my childhood I realized that I would never be accepted in this society with its amazing food and unique sense of humor and would forever have to explain my ‘origin story’ (ha) to every single new person I meet. I’ve been studying abroad for 4 years now, and even in Europe I get confused looks whenever I introduce myself as being Korean.
    And yet, I grew up in Korea, and have lived in Korea longer than many of my ‘pure Korean’ friends who had lived in the States for many years- this is why I get a bit miffed whenever ‘gyopos’ are accepted as being Korean (albeit ‘Americanized Koreans’) just because they look Korean (sans makeup) while I don’t. Aren’t I technically ‘more Korean’? I’m jealous. They have a Koreanness about them that I can never have (not that it bothers me as much now as it did years ago), and what irks me the most is if and when they dismiss their Korean heritage as being either shameful or completely irrelevant- how can that be, if your parents are Korean?? EVERY cultural experience, as indirect as it might be, – your current nationality, your home country, countries you’ve lived in- they all shape who you are now, so why deny or dismiss any of it? And it’s high time for Korea to realize that one’s physical appearance no longer correlates to his or her nationality.

    Ahem. I could write a book about the melancholy of a half-Korean growing up in Korea, but my main point is this- while I still shake my head at all the inadvertent (as well as deliberate) racism, the part of me that hated Korea and couldn’t wait to get the heck outta there is now GONE.

    And most of that is thanks to your videos, Simon in Martina! You’ve taught me how to love my country, shortcomings and all. Ever since I started watching your videos back in late 2010 or so, you’ve taught me things I never knew about Korea. You have tried more Korean food than I have (which must be rectified as soon as I move back to Korea in a few months), and you’re not afraid to poke fun at any and all the weirdness that happens over there, AND you manage to do it without being condescending. So yes, Jen was right, you two have definitely acquired some Koreanness and IT’S TOO LATE TO TURN BACK YOU’RE ONE OF US NOW BAHAHA

    Thank you so much, you two. You have cured me of my life-long cultural identity crisis. I think you deserve some sort of medal for that. Thank you for ‘showing me the way’! What does it matter ‘how Korean’ anyone is? There are two groups of people- those who love Korea, and those who don’t love it yet. AMIRIGHT? ;)

    5 years ago
    • Thank you for sharing your story. This is really interesting to me because I’m Australian and my husband is Korean. We do often wonder what the experience will be for our children and what difficulties they will have. We aim to be bi-cultural and have lived together in Australia and right now are living in Korea. Like you said, I really hope Korea starts to realise that one’s cultural identity isn’t all about looks. It is completely unfair that just because someone looks more Korean than you, that they are seen as more Korean even if you’re the one who grew up in Korea and they didn’t.

      Do you think growing up with others in your position would have helped you feel more accepted? Did you know many other people with one parent who was not Korean? I’m wondering because we are friends with a bunch of other couples who are all Korean man and Australian woman couples. When we all have kids, they are likely to know each other and grow up together. I’m hoping that even if our kids have difficulty in either culture that at least they’ll know many others like them. In the past 5 years or so we’ve seen quite a big jump in couples like us and I’m hoping that the more common this becomes the more accepting people will be.

      5 years ago
      • Hi Nic! I just visited your blog the other day and thought it was lovely! I’m really happy to see more and more bi-cultural couples in Korea these days.

        See, I make it sound all angsty, but it really wasn’t THAT bad- especially since I never attended a Korean school and was therefore never really singled out in my immediate social circle. My childhood friend and neighbor was half-Korean, too, but you can imagine that half-Koreans (who lived in Korea) were quite rare back in the late 90s. I actually didn’t identify with my Korean side at all until I was 14 or so (when I first became friends with Korean Americans) because I had lived in that little bubble of Germans and half-Germans until then and only ever spoke Korean with my mother. As a child, I was a bit grumpy about but mostly fine with being treated like a foreigner since I didn’t really WANT to be Korean at that point, and couldn’t wait to grow up so I could move to Germany (ironically, NOW I can’t wait to move back to Korea!).

        But I’m really thankful that my parents somehow managed to expose me to both my German and my Korean side, even though my appreciation for my Korean side didn’t really blossom until I became an adult. My advice to all multi-cultural families out there would be exactly that- allow your children as much access to their cultures as you can. I keep seeing families- even when they don’t have mixed backgrounds- who ignore one of their cultures in favor of another, and that’s just sad. But I’m sure that won’t be a problem with you two!

        Really, the only ‘bad’ thing about being a mixed Korean is the constant staring (which I’ve gotten so used to now that it just makes me laugh). It’s really not nice being stared at as an awkward teenager and having people talk about your appearance to each other within hearing range, convinced that you couldn’t POSSIBLY understand Korean. Not nice at all. And I’ve noticed that Korean people stare at me even now, but it’s really not as bad as back in the 90s. What with Korean-speaking foreigners appearing more and more on Korean TV these days, the commenting-about-me-in-Korean has also died down. It’s a slow change, but a change nevertheless, which gives me hope for a much more openly multi-cultural future in Korea.

        Long story short: with loving parents and supportive friends, this sort of cultural dilemma is really not that big of a deal. Please make lots of babies and release them into Korean society to make that change in cultural perception happen!

        5 years ago
    • Wow yours is a great story. I understand your feelings about korean americans dismissing their korean heritage. That would be like me dismissing my Mexican heritage because i was born and raised in America. I am proud of who i am and were i come from. I love my tanned skin even though I am not super tanned like my mexican cousins. I live in Korea and now i just get to be labeled a foreigner. lol Even then Koreans think i’m from the Philippines or another South east asian country. I don’t actually mind, i think it’s hard for them to accept i’m american but mexican too.

      5 years ago
      • You’re right, the whole ‘nationality does not equal ethnicity’ concept is still pretty foreign to Korea. And yes, foreigners of a certain skin tone look pretty much indistinguishable to people who have lived in a country full of mostly ‘pure-Koreans’ all of their lives. Because I grew up in that society and hadn’t been exposed to very many foreigners at all (besides Germans), even I would probably have NO idea where you were from just by looking at you. I suppose that Koreans have seen a lot more Filipinos than Mexicans, which sort of explains their assumptions. Haha, I almost feel like I have to apologize for their ignorance! I hope your experience in Korea hasn’t just been filled with that kind of prejudice!

        5 years ago