Being confined in my hotel room has done wonders for my thinking capacity. It also gives me time to catch up blogs that I haven't read in a long while and even inspires a post of my own. Today's subject is one I gathered from Ask A Korean!'s website. It's about race...particularly Afr-Americans and Koreans. Now to make this clear I am only one person(duh Kristen). One Afr-American woman to be exact. So I can't speak for anyone other than me, myself and the other personalities that I seem to have. All I can do is comment on my own experiences and maybe answer some questions that I still get from Afr-Americans who are considering coming to Korea for one reason or another.
So I have been asked a few questions(some by my own family and friends) so i will answer a few and selfishly think back to my own experiences to better understand them...
1) Why can't you go to a country where they speak English?
Well...because that would be too easy and there would be no use for me. For the most part I will say that the Koreans I meet outside of work and Itaewon don't have a stellar command of the English language. Combine that with my own limited command of Korean and you have a situation. Though honestly things haven't been that difficult for me here. I learned a few key phrases right off the bat(namely how to get home in a taxi or say no I don't want to go to a love hotel). Actually I kind of enjoy not being hassled by street vendors or salesmen(though there are still Jehovah's Witness that I must hide from). On the whole I actually get annoyed by the fact that I don't speak as much Korean as I think i should.
2) Do they have fried chicken in Korea?
That is a resounding HELL YES! Seriously, Koreans and Afr-Americans have the fried chicken in common. If you want to try something even better put kimchi on your velveeta and cheese. Gauranteed goodness.
3) Do you get stared at a lot?
Yes...yes and um...YES. Does it bother me? Hmmm, at times. But mostly I just stare back and people stop. I do actually enjoy the little kids though. One boy at Baskin Robbins even gave me one of those little ice cream ball things and said goodbye. Too cute for words. Being stared at is something that you either get over or don't. I will say that the longer you stay in one neighborhood the more it goes away. I think people just get over the initial shock value and get on with their lives.
4) Do Korean guys want to date you?
Well first of all it doesn't matter because I am happily taken. I have made friends with one Korean guy in particular who never even hit on me once. We did language exchange and hung out a bit. I even gave him some advice about black women. He is now happily living it up in Australia. Because I am taken I've never really thought about what Korean men want. I think Ask A Korean put it best. Korean men are MEN. What do all men want? A woman that can cook, doesn't nag and strokes his...ego. Now when it moves beyond mere dating and eases into a relationship I have no idea. With any interracial dating it is about how much the person wants to be with you. My boyfriend being Vietnamese, AND the oldest son means I will have to deal with the Asian family in time(especially since we are way past the 1year mark now). If he thinks you are attractive, likes your personality I'll say yes he will. But on a sour note I have gotten more bids for a hotel room than for dinner and a movie...though usually only after the soju has been flowing.
5) Are Koreans racist?
Yes. But so is every other ethnicity at some point in time. I will say though that I have heard more ignorant things from other expats than from the Koreans I have met. In fact my problem is that some Koreans I have met are so in awe of me that they don't tell me when I am doing something wrong...it makes it hard to build relationships. You will meet a few Koreans who probably aren't thrilled at your prescence in their country. I even had an experience in the subway of my friend getting hit repeatedly and then punched in the face when she confronted the guy. But in the same experience another Korean man and a few women stepped in and confronted the guy, physically when necessary. Honestly being from the south where some people still see blacks as belonging in the fields and not in the White House, I haven't dealt with anything in Korea that I couldn't handle.
6) Where do you get your hair done?
In Itaewon. Take the brown line up to Itaewon. Get off at Exit 1 and walk straight down the street. You will pass a Burger King on your right and go up the hill. You will see Family Hairshop on your right. Go on in. The women there all speak English for the most part and are super friendly. If you are lucky you might even see me there.