Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foreign or not so foreign?

Sometimes I don't understand this country. I walk down the street, and while, yes, I am surrounded by Koreans on all sides, there are plenty of foreigners about too. While transferring from line 4 to line 2 at Dongdaemun Stadium on Saturday, I decided to count the numbers of foreigners that I saw. I counted 4 in the span of about 4 or 5 mins. If you include myself in that number, that's 5 foreigners (not all white people). So, on average, that would equal one foreigner per minute while Koreans are in busy areas. So why do they stare?? It's usually the men who stare, usually over the age for 35.

I won't lie. I don't get stared at too often, or if I do, I am too oblivious to notice. I think probably because, while my hair and skin and eyes are different, by most other dimensions, I fit in with Koreans pretty well. AKA short and small in most places. Actually, I'm shorter than most Koreans. My hair is light, but not blindingly so. My eyes aren't quite Asian, but they are pretty small. See? Here is a photo to prove it! Small eyes, short, petite. I'm even willing to wear ridiculous things on my head. I'm about as Korean as a European descendant can be.

I guess I'm complaining because tonight I had two people in a row blatantly stare at me and I'm slightly peeved. I was sitting out front of the Food 2900 waiting for my friend. One man, who I'd guess was about 55, walked by, looked at me and sort of made a noise. I know that noise well, the ajossis make it all the time, but I can't quite describe it, and I'm not sure what it means. Maybe it's disgust, or maybe it's attraction. But either way, it was most definitely aimed at me and I didn't like it. So, it was dark, so I pulled up my hood and kept my head down reading the menu while I waited. I thought if they couldn't see my hair or face, they wouldn't take a second look. Another man walked by. Much younger this time, maybe only 35 years old. As he walked by he just stared. Then when he was about 6 feet or so past me he just stopped and stared. Maybe he was staring because I was reading a menu completely written in Korean. I'll tell myself that's what it was to make myself feel better. I kind of looked at him and put my hands up in a "what do you want??" position. He kept moving, stopped again then moved on. What's up with that??

At that point, I moved into the restaurant so I didn't have to sit on the stairs and get stared at incessantly. Why do they stare when they are so accustomed to seeing foreigners???

But, I must admit.... I stare at them too. I can't help it. When I see a white face my eyes are just glued. Until they see me and I pretend not to look. Maybe I'm more Korean than I realize.....

1 comment:

  1. Well, maybe they stare because you look foreign, but also look different than other foreigners. Like you said, you are short, and have small eyes, etc. So maybe they stair because you have this weird not Korean, but not typical foreigner look to you, and so they aren't quite sure what to make of you.