In 2007, I first left school to come to Korea. I had no idea what to expect before coming. I’m not sure I cared really. I just wanted out of the stress I was feeling at school.
I spent my first month in Korea with other foreigners (외국인). I spent it with them because it was the easiest way to not be alone. We would go to bars and pubs in big packs, 20 or 30 sometimes. We would take over, not giving a fuck about the other patrons or staff. We would yell, shout, say the worst kind of things thinking no one understood us.
After a month or so of this I started to realize how fucking stupid we all were. We would complain about the “racist” owners and patrons who would ask us to move or be quiet. We would yell more to make a point.
I decided on one night, I can’t remember which, to leave this shit behind. Korea couldn’t be about this. I had started to feel myself joining the pack mentality and it wouldn’t do. No chance.
Through a Korean co-teacher I started to make a solid group of Korean friends. I realized quickly that Korean people were some of the warmest and most loyal friends you could have.
If you let them in.
Barriers toward foreigners started long before English teachers started coming here. Deeply routed in a society that has long dealt with oppression from other nations proving my sincerity to join in became important to me. I started to learn the culture and the language. I started to spend as much of my time as possible with Korean people. It is the right way.
I learned quickly that no matter what I did, I would always be a 외국인. People will always stare with a look that might seem cold. I’m okay with that now as I understand why. The look only remains cold until you smile.
Seoul, South Korea.