Saturday, August 7, 2010

What the ... attitude?!?!?

My brother and I were talking about living in South Korea over rum and a cigar yesterday. (Appleton Estates rum and a fine R&J No1.) He asked what it is like dealing with other foreigners in South Korea. For the most part I didn't have many problems but the attitude of some foreigners pisses me off.

I have encountered many who have this strange idea that just because we are both foreigners I HAVE to talk with them. I MUST WANT to talk with them. All I can say is get over yourself moron! In some ways this is more annoying than the Koreans who just want a free English lesson, even if their English is horrible.

They will stop you anywhere and expect you want to converse with them JUST BECAUSE you are both foreigners. I don't know where they get the idea that because we have one thing in common, being foreigners, I will want to talk with them. Or that common courtesy means you MUST talk with them. Hell, a lot of foreigners in Korea are people I would never waste my time talking to in Canada. So why would I do it in Korea? Because we are both foreigners? It is like some strange sense of entitlement the asshats feel. You MUST respond the way they want. You MUST acknowledge them. When you don't it hurts their widdle feewings.

I am not talking about someone just saying hello. Common courtesy says you respond. Whether it was with a hello, a wave, or a tip of the hat. But that is where common courtesy ends. There is no requirement to engage in a conversation with people. If you voice or show disinterest and people persist THEY are being discourteous, not you.

Here is a prime example of what I mean. A guy by the name of blaseblasphemener posted on Dave's ESL Cafe a several years ago about his encounter with another foreigner in a book store. What he posted went like this;

So I'm in the English Book store today, around 1:30. It's a pretty small little store, and I'm browsing. This guy is also looking at books and is coming towards my direction. Out of, oh, I don't know, common courtesy, and probably against my better judgment, I say, "How's it going?" There's like a 4 second pause from the guy, then, "Good" in a totally disinterested voice. "What school do you work at?" I ask, trying to recover gracefully from being dissed. Another loooong pause. "...... Esl". No return question. "Oh, uhhh, I work at ....., do you know it?" (very well-known in this city). "No." end of conversation. Me holding back from knocking arsewipe out.

So I ask, why do I even bother? Have common social graces slipped sooo far that people can't even muster up the energy to try and be nice? I feel like a wanker not saying hi to people, and then when I do, most people act like I'm a stalker or something. I just don't get it, but I think that is the last time I will say hi to a stranger. It just seems f@#4ed up to me, modern world, korea, whatever, be-damned. I'm not in Seoul by the way, so seeing a foreigner is still a pretty rare occurance.

This is the kind of whining these type of people do. They really need to learn what common courtesy means. He said hello. It was answered. Move on. He said the guy sounded disinterested yet tried to engage him in conversation. Guess who the rude asshole really was?

Idiots like this also ignore the other persons point of view. Not to make excuses but you just don't know what the guy was going through in his life. He could have had a death in the family, broke up with a girlfriend, or just been having a horrible day and didn't want to talk to anyone.

So, some asshole you don't know comes up to you and says "How are you?" while you are trying to find something on a shelf. Not hi. Not Hello. "How are you?" You answer with a terse good and keep doing what you were doing. That way you exhibit common courtesy by replying while sending the message you aren't interested in talking. The guy starts trying to hold a conversation with you based on that reply. You give more signs you aren't interested in talking. The guy persists. Who is the arsewipe again? Who needs a smack upside the head?

Then, when this type of asshole gets together with his butt buddies, usually after leaning on some liquid courage, they start whining and thumping their chest. (Or in the case of the "brave" soul in this example they wallow in their anonymity online.) "Me holding back from knocking the arsewipe out." Showing how brave they are when the object of their ire isn't around. They whine about what losers people like that are. Not them of course. They could never be losers ... in their mind.


  1. That's an interesting post. I'm a somewhat shy person who kind of braces against social interaction. It pisses me off sometimes to have to do the whole Korean interview some times. (That is kids ambushing me on the streets saying, "Hi where are you from?") But when I went to New York last February, I noticed that people would frequently have small greetings in places like elevators and stuff. In this context I was kind of happy to reply, though my hellos were still a bit reserved due to the shyness. I guess that after being away from America for about 3 years made me forget my manners. Rather than being tight lipped with little brats who think that it is a good idea to talk to strangers - I feel sorry for Russians, that is white people who might not speak English - I guess I kind of extrapolate it out to other folks.

    That's not saying that I really want to have conversations with everybody, but there are some folks who are just really lonely. Also don't forget though, that there are a lot of folks who come to Korea who will put you in some uncomfortable conversations about whore mongering or using mail order bride websites.

  2. I don't mind anyone saying hello to me, in a polite manner. Even when I am in a bad mood I will at LEAST acknowledge they said hi. But I tend to not want to start up a conversation with strangers on the street.

    The people that miss, or rather ignore, the signs that you don't want to talk, or that you are busy, are the ones that really piss me off.

    I used to walk to work with my ipod on so I wouldn't have to pay attention to every TaeHee, Duhyun, and HoJin that felt they must blurt out hello. MP3 player visible in hand, headphones (ear buds) visibly on, focused on something. You would figure no one would bother you. Unfortunately that wasn't usually true.

    I had idiots screeching hello at the top of their lungs. To me the rules of common courtesy don't apply to idiots, because they broke them by being an idiot. I had a couple of idiots run and jump in front of me. They tended to get walked into and/or threatened.

    You are sitting at a coffee shop or in the park reading a book. some wunderkind has to come up and start yammering at you.

    I always say (and taught my students) proper time, proper place, and proper manners. If someone looks busy don't bother them. If you approach someone be polite and respectful. Odds are they will be polite and respectful back.

  3. Yeah that's a good policy to have. I don't really get that too much anymore, cept today I was riding my bike and some dude jumped out at me to say hi. I yelled at him to get out of they way, but after he delivered his message he seemed to stop paying attention. Sometimes I tell kids in Korean that they they shouldn't talk to strangers. I love going to the bar by myself and then having a Korean sausage fest look at me for about five minutes and then have the waitress ask me if I want to join them, I love how easy it is to say no.

    But as I say I don't get that too much anymore. What I do get a lot of is pushy sales people who get in the way when I am looking at stuff. I can be pretty mean to them. I was at a place a few weeks ago and had some dude just trailing me around, so I told him to leave me alone in Korean. I felt kind of bad about that later because he seemed pretty nice, but another time I got really pissed when I was looking at ties and this lady who was working there just started to get all in my way picking up some pretty gawdawful ties (Pink and purple bedazzlers) and shoving them in my face. Sorry to get off topic, I've had some Coronas.

  4. No worries ... I digress a lot myself. Wish I had some coronas right now. :)

    The hopping out stopped, for the most part, once I got my scooter. Scarily enough a couple of morons did leap out shouting hello while I was riding by. they almost became stains on the road.

    Heh ... when shopping it is either feast or famine I find. Either no salesperson wants to deal with the foreigner (usually happens when you need a salesperson) or (as you mentioned) one follows you around like a criminal and then starts thrusting any product you look at in your face.

    I never told them not to talk to strangers ... never thought of saying that. :)

  5. This post is way off. It is always Canadians that have this attitude about wanting to be special and the only "foreigner" in their little bubble. I can't make friends with these people that lack basic social ettiquette. I look at it almost as a joke now. When someone is like that, I just ask that their Canadian...

    It takes seconds to say:
    I'm sorry, I'm kind of busy.
    I'm having a bad day.
    I'm in a hurry.
    I have to get this done.

    I'm talking about other expats in Korea. If you can't muster the social graces to do this, you are rude.

  6. When I first came to Korea, I thought all of us foreigners were all in it together, and we should all be pals and know each other and everytHing about what we do, etC.
    I'm like 3gyupsal, though; kind of shy around strangers.
    And then the Koreans (kids and adults) started in with the "Hi!" "Hello!" "Where are you from?" and I made the connection. Just because we're foreingers we need to talk to each other? If I was walking down the street in my home town I would just walk up to random people and strike up a conversation?
    I figured no, I wouldn't do that. So I left it up to the other person. If they wanted to talk or say "Hi," okay. But if they didn't, that was also okay. Whether they're busy or having a bad day or in a hurry or have to get something done is really none of my fucking business!

  7. Stranger danger.

  8. Ah Mr. Anonymous it is hard to tell if you are a troll, deliberately dense, or just a moron.

    You seem to think that I meant most foreigners exhibited this type of behaviour when dealing with other foreigners. You couldn't be farther from the truth. MOST foreigners aren't like this. I would dare say that it is only a small percentage. A small annoying percentage. And that is what I was talking about, a type of behaviour form some foreigners that I find ... annoying.

    You ignore the example I gave. Which is a prime example of the type of behaviour I was talking about. An expat that ignores all the signs, overt and covert, that someone is busy and/or doesn't want to talk and continues pressing them.

    Did you ignore it on purpose because you had some other goal? An axe to grind? Which would make you deliberately dense and/or a troll.

    Did you ignore it because you just couldn't understand? Which would make you a bit of a moron.

    Or did you ignore it because you just want to troll and get some visceral reactions from people? Grinding an anti-Canadian axe?

    There is another possibility, you are one of these rude morons and having your type identified got your panties in a twist.

    Me, I think you are just looking to troll around. And hats off you almost roped me in.

  9. Stig and Mr. Pharmacist

    Well said.

    And we are talking about Expats here. Expats who are strangers. Most of these people with the heightened sense of entitlement wouldn't pull the same shit in their home country. Because we tend not to try and force strangers into discussions. Hell, in Western society we are taught to avoid strangers. (Yes, stranger danger.)

    It is their twisted concept of "we are both foreigners so he must want to talk" that causes the problem.

    We aren't talking about people walking up to you in bar, club, or some other place that is common to meet new people at. We aren't talking about people who are lost and need help. We are talking about people that feel that anyone who is a foreigner must want to have a conversation with them.

  10. It could be that Korea puts the zap on their heads a little. Koreans will begin a sentence with "Do you know Joe/ Sam/ fill in the blank?" who is someone they met 2 years before you or there is some other tenuous reltionship. eg he was white, you are white ergo Do you know Joe?
    After you have to go through these and similar conversations enough maybe you start to have a we are the world moment and maybe we should talk to each other?
    Can't think of any other way to explain it other than this shrunk-down , skewed picture which features more than a hint of desperation to get away from Koreans.

  11. Mr. Pharmacist

    It could be. After a while that might start rotting their brain and cause them to try and conform. :)

  12. Flint, first, calm down and respond resonably. Your example was a guy in a SMALL bookstore in a city not Seoul. The guy said seeing an expat is a rare occurance.

    I think the guy's point was about manners and etiquette, not about being a friend and having to have a real conversation.

    The thing is, the guy wanted to feel out if the other person was a douchebag after the 4 second delay of 'hi'. That's why he continued the conversation. Some people are really open and want to meet other people. It's good to see if you can make new friends.

    There's a good reason there's the joke about how you know if a girl in Toronto likes you- she looks the other way.

    Anyway, I meet all kinds of outgoing, friendly, kind Americans and South Africans. I have not met one kind, genuine (personality) Canadian in six years here.

    Last, maybe you don't notice that some people won't even make eye contact when they see you so they can try to keep pretending your not there or something. It is really weird behavior. I am just saying that it is weird behavior even in their home countries. Again, a lot of people have non-existent manners unless they are trying to get something.

    I'm just a blue collar kind of guy that wants people to be genuine and sincere.

    Why is a bookstore not a place to meet people. Not everyone goes to the bar. They might think they have similar taste in reading. Maybe you're just not a very friendly, open person outside of a club or bar. I mean, then that is your personal taste, but others should not have to follow you if they are more open.

    In the example, I really don't think the guy was forcing him into the conversation, the "victim" here could have just turned around and said excuse me to leave. I mean, it's not the elevator.

  13. Well you can always have fun with the other person.

    Do you know Joe?

    Yes he's in Jail.

    Oh surprise.

    No surprise here I figured someone would finally nab him on an indecency charge. How do you know him?

    He my teacher.

    Well he kept to himself mostly. I don't think he ever made his students dress up like koala bears and then take pictures of them in suggestive poses.

    You lie. He teach me today:

    Well with this game you just try to keep the conversation going on long enough until the other person gets creeped out and gives up.

  14. 3gyupsal

    Heh ... I used to do that when I lived in the US.

    "Your from Canada. Do you know Bob in Toronto?"

    "Bob died last year. Syphillis complications."


    "Yeah. Sad, eh?"

  15. Mr A

    When you post with an axe to grind, and take an obvious poke at someone's nationality, don't be surprised if you look like a troll and get treated accordingly.

    Your subsequent posts can be sweetness and light but you set the tone for any response with your initial comments.

    As for the example and the guy who didn't want to talk. Once again, there is no obligation for anyone to explain themselves to a stranger when they are looking at books. Yes, he could have said something..and if he had it might have stopped the op. Then again it might not have. The op, going by what he wrote, saw all the signs that they guy wasn't interested in talking and persisted. THAT is rude.

    I have been in the situation of being in the bookstore and seeing another foreigner several times, and not in Seoul. IF we were looking in the same direction I might say hi. If they said hi I would reply.

    However, if someone is looking at the book rack, whether standing or walking, I wouldn't bother them.

    "Last, maybe you don't notice that some people won't even make eye contact when they see you so they can try to keep pretending your not there or something."

    Ever been in a city in the US? In many places eye contact, lingering, is seen as aggressive.

    Regardless ... if someone doesn't want to talk who cares? It is their right. They are under no obligation to talk with people or even acknowledge them.

    I really don't understand this sense of entitlement people have that you must converse. It seems more like some kind of insecurity. "The person won't talk to me ... oh my god why???? What's wrong with me? something must be wrong with them."

  16. Well, I can see that we have very different attitudes about this, so I'm dropping it. I agree with the Dave's guy, you think the opposite. I think the eye contact thing in the US is a little overstated, but I'm talking about pretending not to see someone versus your lingering eye contact.

    Last, it's not "what's wrong with me?" it's the "where are their manners?"

    However, I can't believe you agreed with "stranger, danger" ...LULZ

  17. Anonymous

    Well, I think we both agree that people DO need to use manners ... we just disagree on where you (meaning people in general) cross the line.

    I strongly believe that ifs someone says hi you should acknowledge it. Whether it is a hi back, wave, tip of the hat, or nod of the head. Not to do so is rude. For me that is where the obligation ends.

    I would REALLY have to dislike someone not to acknowledge a hi from them. Which means I they wouldn't be a stranger and I would be deliberately rude because I didn't like them.

    I agree to a point about letting someone know you don't want to talk or are busy. It a polite thing to do, I don't deny that. It is what I do. But I don't think people are obligated to do it. Especially when people don't pick up on the obvious signs that you are busy or don't want to talk.

    Stranger danger ... oh how that was beat into our heads as children. Personally, I don't subscribe to it per se. (I don't fear strangers ... but I am a wary about people I don't know.) But I do think it colours the views of a lot of Westerners.

    I do think we have become too paranoid in the West about strangers. While it is good to be wary and cautious some people do take it to extremes. We terrify our kids about strangers.

  18. Anonymous

    You sent a comment through earlier (would have been your second reply) that I approved but for some reason it still isn't here.

  19. Here is the missing post (it was still in my email box.)

    Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "What the ... attitude?!?!?":

    In addition, you may want to find out where the expat community in your area is if you moved. It's nice to have some contacts and with people working different hours, you may only run into someone by chance. Thus you may want to approach someone to talk.

    Just don't be an ass people.