A Korean man who I met, is writing a book on foreigners and Korea, who was looking for inputs from foreigners. He sent me some questions and I replied. He then asked for more details so I gave them to him. Keep in mind that, while they are pretty sharp criticisms, that does NOT mean I don’t like Korea nor do I not like being here. These replies are just the ones focused on certain areas and if you haven’t understood how much I do enjoy things here, then you haven’t really read my blog.
> Would you answer some more, marked ***
> ***What made you come to Korea.
I came to Korea because of the lack of work on my own Country. Specifically, the IT industry was dying down and my wife (who was teaching English to foreigners in Canada) was having an even worse time. So, since my wife had already been in Korea before for a year, she wanted to come back. I agreed and off we went.
> How long have you been here?
I have been in Korea 3 years and 7 months
> How long will you stay here?
I am not sure. It will depend on how long my wife would like to teach here as my visa depends on hers.
> 2 Korea wants to be part of the world but does not want the world to be part of it.
> They only teach English language but not the culture behind it. Language is intimately tied into culture.
> ***What kind of the culture do you mean? for example?
When I say culture, I mean about the country behind out. My wife, who is East Indian, was asked if she felt “left out” in Canada. The implication was that she is not Caucasian. The very question shows a compete ignorance of the culture of Canada and really points to Korea’s inability to accept those who think differently. Example: Korea is pretty well-known to being one of the most racist countries in the world. So when they see a non-Caucasian, they don’t think that it is possible for non-Caucasians to live together with Caucasians. This is a ridiculous concept because Canada has one of the biggest mixed races groupings in the world.
Should I even branch off into how “gays” are not accepted?
This all stems from the same issue and a phrase I developed which describes it perfectly. “Korea wants to be part of the world but does not want the world to be part of it.”
> 3 Koreans believe they are too busy. This leads to being rude to everyone.
> Not letting people cross the street, not helping lost foreigners get to where they want to be.
> ***Some foreigners say Koreans are very kind. What is your opinion about that?
I will say this. There is a general attitude that the closer you get to big cities, the less kind Koreans generally are. I have found that, in general, if a Korean does not know you, they don’t care about you. Example, bumping into you and not apologizing. Cutting in line ahead of you when you have been there first and waited respectively like you are supposed to.
Now, when you get to be friends with a Korean, that completely changes. I have Korean friends that have done way more for me than anyone else in my life. I am really surprised at the level of kindness I have been shown and will forever be grateful. Keep in mind that out of the 1000s of Koreans I have interacted with in my time here, the number of ones who have helped and befriended me can be counted on one hand.
I don’t expect every Korean to help me with the same level of help but when the vast majority do nearly the opposite, its not hard to make these observations.
> 4 lack of respect.
> This might sound odd but to spit in the path where someone walks is not only disgusting but also insulting.
> Throwing trash on the ground/in rivers is way too common.
> ***What about that in your country?
There are some significant differences. Yes people do toss trash on the ground but I have never seen anyone spit on the path I was walking WHILE I was walking on it. The other thing had to do with concentration. Because there are so many people in one place, there are more people doing it.
Lets say 1 in 100 people spit in front of you. (this is just a made up number to illustrate the idea and is NOT a direct representation.) In Toronto I might see 5000 people in a day. That means 50 people would spit would spot in front of me. In Seoul, the number of people I would see in a day would be 4 times that many due to population density. That means 200 people would spit in front of me.
Now do you see the problem?
Let also address a contributing factor that seems to be ignored. Parenting. I have nothing against being a good parent but in Korea, this goes to the point of crippling kids ability to function outside of their home. Specifically because the mothers do everything for them, they are utterly dependant on them for anything. A simple example is when we needed to figure out how to work the heating system, we asked a Korean co-teacher but she had absolutely no idea because her parents took care of it. She was in her late 20s.
This ‘doing everything’ gets extended to ‘cleaning up after’ the kids. Since the kids are essentially taught that they don’t have to clean up, they just leave their garbage anywhere and everywhere, including the street.
Compound that idea with the population density problem and you now see why many foreigners are rather disgusted with the amount of trash just lying around (it would help if Korea has more garbage cans in public places) as well as the ‘mountains of trash’ that seem to get accumulated on various side streets. Not only does it look bad, it is a prime source for bugs and infections.
These are pretty basic things from nearly every other country that has either more laws(i.e. Singapore and their zero-gum/spitting rules) or simply more maturing of kids in their teens by not having parents do every single thing for them.
What is interesting is to hear about Koreans, who have left Korea and lived abroad for many years, come back and comment on how rude Koreans are in general. So my particular view is hardly unique to either myself, other foreigners or Koreans who have lived outside of their home country.
I hope this help with your book :)