Sunday, August 3, 2014

Things I've Heard in Korea Recently

From a co-worker at school, "Haydugh (which is how they say my name), the principal says he likes you."
Me: "Oh wow, that's good news. Do you know why?"
Co-worker: "He says you have blonde hair, which is good (which, I don't, but in comparison, I suppose it appears blonde). And you wear helmet. And you use apple box on the back of your bicycle. He says, 'She obviously doesn't care what people think about her.' "
Me: "Is that good?"
Co-worker: "Meh."

Exhibit A (on the left)

Not caring what other people think seems to be a luxury here. At least, that's according to my co-teacher who says, "If I didn't care, I couldn't survive. It is my duty as a Korean person to fit in. To be the same. You don't have to do that because you are a foreigner."

I may never fully be able to understand what she's talking about because I live in a big country with a wide variety of people and beliefs, but I also don't belong to a distinct cultural group with which people judge me other than...white. So, while my family immigrated from Germany, I don't have to look/speak/act German. A luxury I'd never considered until now.

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Co-worker: "Haydugh, sunglasses! Ooo, like movie star!" (this is a response I often get)
Me: "Do people in Korea not wear sunglasses?"
Co-worker: "No. We think people who wear sunglasses are arrogant or trying to show off."
Me: "What? Well, should I stop wearing them so people don't think that?"
Co-worker: "No, you're a foreigner. People expect that. It's okay."

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And then there was that time we had a fire drill at school and the bell scared me so much that I spilled my hot tea all over my computer keyboard. As my co-workers rushed out the door, I said, "I'll be there as soon as I can, I'm just going to wipe this off."

Three minutes later, I walk out to the field where the school has gathered. We stand. We listen to the principal say something. We all walk back inside.

At lunch, "Haydugh, during fire drill, you didn't run!"
Me: "No, I didn't. Was I supposed to?"
Co-worker: "Yes! The teachers have been talking about you. The principal could have seen you. He might've thought you weren't trying. You should have run!"
Me: "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't know we were supposed to run. Back home, we are told not to run, just to walk quickly."
Co-worker: "You don't need to run, just appear urgent."

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Co-worker: "Your muscles. So big for woman. You really don't care what people think about you."
Me: "Well, I'm starting to..."

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Co-worker: "Koreans have healthy eyes. Better eyes than you. We don't need sunglasses. You have Western eyes. You are weak."
Me: "What? You're making this up. Why are your eyes healthier than mine?"
Co-worker: "We don't need sunglasses like foreigners. Healthy eyes."
Another co-worker chimes in in Korean, she shakes her head in agreement.
Co-worker: "Not healthier, my eyes are smaller. Less space to be attacked by sun. Don't need sunglasses."

(Is this real life? Is this a thing that people have known about people who have smaller eyes, that they don't need to wear sunglasses? Or are they pulling my leg?)

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Me: "Jongmin, do you know what it means if someone says, 'Duh!'?"
Jongmin: "Wait a minute...'duh'? No, I don't know."
Me: "It means that something is obvious. It's a very informal way of saying that you already knew something."
Jongmin: "Okay, like, 'I'm putting on my shoes. Duh!' ?"
Me: "Yeah, kinda. Like, 'Jong, look we're in our apartment.' You could say, 'Duh!' ."
Jongmin: "Oh I've got it, okay, see you later." Goes to close the door and then pokes his head back in, "Duh!"


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For English summer camp, I've been teaching a Frozen-themed week. If you don't know about this Disney movie, you've escaped an existence English teachers in Korea could only dream of. However, because it was such a hit with my kiddos, I wanted to a subtle-rendition meaning that we would talk about weather, for example, because winter is such a theme in the movie. Or we're talking about mythical creatures like trolls and the abominable snowman, both of which (kind of) appear in the movie. And I would have been a happy camper to have avoided singing "Let It Go" entirely, but my co-teacher sneaked it in about a dozen times on the first day and it's been downhill since then...