Sunday, 25 July 2010

Accidental Ambassadors

As the sun came up on Sunday morning, I realised that, even when it bugs the crap out of me, Korea doesn't bother me much anymore. I guess this is the beginning of the end of culture shock.

I've heard plenty of claims here about people who never experienced culture shock, and I can't honestly be anything but envious of that. For all that this is the fourth (or fifth if you count Scotland *^^* ) country I've lived in, and I should be used to it by now, Korea was, and still is, a shock to the system. The daily frustrations and irritations don't go away, and neither does the feeling of being an outsider. Even my rudimentary Korean skills will continue to surprise Koreans, and I will go on unconciously breaking rules I had no idea existed. But I find it a lot easier to shrug it off now.

I think the hardest thing is something I only just realised last week. Being a foreigner in Korea, a land with such recent exposure to the rest of the world, brings a feeling of responsibility for the public image of all foreigners. Getting off the subway one day last week, I bashed into the back of a little girl and immediately felt terrible. People are unfailingly pushy on subways here, but obviously no one wants to shove into an 8 year old. My first thought was 'Oh no, her mother will think foreigners are such clumsy oafs.' I doubt that she even thought anything of it, but it doesn't stop the initial anxiety: the feeling that one is about to offend and damage a Korean's view of all foreigners.

Without intending to be anything of the sort, I think we all end up being ambassadors. We are still among the early wave of foreigners here, and our behavior does affect how people think of us. I think my feeling that things are easier to deal with is because I feel more at peace about that role. That doesn't mean I never ignore rules of etiquette in public, frankly that would be too hard, but I accept that it is what it is. Some people will think badly of me because I'm a foreigner, and some won't. As my mom always used to say, “You can't change what other people will think.” Even if that movie says you can :)

1 comment:

  1. This is Paul!! Christina's b/f!! I friend requested you on facebook!! I need your help with something. I am making a video, and I want to record you because you are female and you have a cool accent.

    I hear you on the ambassador thing. I worked at a hagwon yesterday, (7 classes in a row with no break = WHAT!?!) And the head teacher guy asked me my opinion of various Korean things, and I think my answers were resonating deep within him. I think that he is going to tell his Korean friends what I said. (I hope that my answers were satisfactory.) It was fun. I said good things about Korean people.

    Please call me if you are interested. ASAP is fine.

    010 6754 4936