Good piece on how expats in Japan rank each other in the unspoken pecking orders. The author’s observations apply quite well for waeguk-in in Korea, too, except for the fact that there are effectively no jobs at all for a foreigner here who isn’t either an english teacher, working in the local branch office of a foreign corporation, or an exploited migrant factory worker.
It’s always a quandary – what to do on those rare occasions that you do see a foreign (read ‘caucasian’) face. Being the big friendly galoot that I am (provided I’m not having a Grumpy Day), I generally nod and smile conspiratorially. Due either to some deficiency in my powers of charm, or the fact that most foreigners here spend a great deal of their time having their very own Grumpy Days, at least 60% of the time my friendly mugging is met with a blank stare. That’s OK by me, as it helps me to realize that it’s not the majority of Korean people that I dislike, it’s the majority of people in general. It’s important to keep your misanthropy honed to a keen edge.
‘On being a gaijin’, from the same writer, hits very close to home as well.
At the moment, all the TV networks are running a pre-World Cup ad campaign whose basic message is : “If you’re approached by a foreigner, don’t squeal and run away, or shoo them off like a great dairy-product-reeking beast, be nice to them! If they come up to you, babbling incoherently in their long-tongued, incomprehensible gutterspeak, brandishing a map, try to help them! Strange as they look and outlandishly as they may behave, they won’t bite, usually.”
The fact that the government finds it necessary to run these ads on heavy rotation speaks volumes about this place. Not for nothing was Korea once called the ‘Hermit Nation’.