Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What the ... rude hello?

Stig's comments, and 3gyupsal's in a previous thread, reminded me of something that never fails to irk me to some degree ... rude hello's. You are probably wondering what the kimchi a rude hello is.

A rude hello is when someone greets you in a rude manner. They shout it. Or shout it repeatedly. Or say something stupid instead of hello. Or do it when you are obviously busy, or talking with someone else. Or do it in passing. I think you get the idea.

Once, and this has happened many times, I was walking home from work in YongAm-dong. I was talking to a friend on the phone. I heard something behind me. It sounded like someone (middle school girls it turned out) saying "Nice to meet you. Where are you from?" Since I hadn't met anyone, and I was busy on the phone I ignored it and kept walking and talking. A few seconds later a girl starts screeching at the top of her lungs "Hello! Hello! I said hello!!!!" My friend could hear them loud and clearly on the phone. I turned around and yelled in Korea "Shut up! I am on the phone!" Then I told them they were very rude.

You will get some people (and it isn't always kids, adults do this a lot) who will shout hello out the window of a moving vehicle. Or better yet they shout "nice to meet you." We haven't met you moron. Shouting that out of a window is not meeting a person, nor is it saying hello.

Strangely enough this has ONLY happened in Korea with one exception. Once, when I was in China on vacation, a guy shouted hello from a passing van in a parking lot. Without thinking I replied back in Korean, saying hello. Then the guy started nattering on in Korean. "Oh. You speak Korean. I am from Korea!" What the kimchi?!? The only person stupid enough in China to shout hello like that ... was a Korean.

I would usually carried my Ipod with me when I walked to work. With the music turned up it was easier to ignore some of the stupidity around me. That still wouldn't stop people from screeching hello at me. Repeatedly. Or, as I mentioned elswehere, some would even jump in front of you screeching it.

Or you get Koreans who will just keep repeating a word or two at you. (Not necessarily to you but AT you.) For example I had a kid once that evidently was never taught hello. He followed me around a store saying "Wow." in a moronic way 5-6 times. Or the idiots walking down the street who, as they pass you by will look at you and say "Ok!" What the kimchi? What is ok? My clothes? You approve of my presence in your country?

Or the even stupider people who wait until they have passed you and say "hello" or worse "nice to meet you." I can't remember how many times that has happened. You know, if you have passed someone it is bye not hi. and if you never talked to them you didn't meet them.

It isn't just that they are rude. Acting like this makes the person look like a fricking moron. What else would you call a person who doesn't even know how to say hello politely?

When I teach I try to make sure my students will never act like this. I teach them that there is a proper time and place to approach someone. I also try to teach them to do it in a proper, respectful way. Now by respectful I don't mean "Hello Sir." I mean using proper manners.

I would always ask them if they would shout hello at Koreans they don't know. They would say no. Some would say "No, they might get angry." So ... why approach a foreigner like that? And why be surprised if they get angry when you do? If you wouldn't act that way with a Korean don't do it with a foreigner.

I have no problems with strangers saying hello in a polite way. I always return it and if I am in the mood will exchange pleasantries. It is the morons who approach me in a rude or disrespectful way I have no time for.


  1. I had a van load of brats shouting "daemori waegukin" so the wife and I flipped them the bird. They were besides themselves with rage. Little irate ajeosshis in the making.
    But still, despite my rattling their cage a little why was the driver not telling them to sit their arses down, why are the parents not telling them don't talk to random foreigners they will steal your organs and turn you into soup and most of all why aren't the parents and teachers telling them don't come across like a freaking retard when you're somewhere like the National Museum or someplace where you might want to have a little decorum.
    I don't know how to deal with Koreans anymore. I feel some pity for them. Kids I just say nee-hao to them or maljima. It's always the 1 kid out of 10 who gets the rough end of the stick though. Who'd have thought the simple act of greeting would show up how difficult it is to deal with an homegenously minded country who view the outside world with suspiciousness, mistrust and derision despite offering very little to the world.

  2. anonymous

    Yeah, when it is kids doing it I blame the parents, teachers, and society. No one seems to teach them proper manners. It is hard to not flip even the kids off once and a while because it happens so often.

    The adults are just a bunch of fucking mooks when they act like that.

    I think I used this example of the stupidity of it before but ... I was at the doctors once (in Korea). I had the flu pretty bad. Feverish, chills, sweating, coughing up a lung. Nose stuffed up. You couldn't look at me and NOT know I was sick and miserable. What do I hear? Some stupid bitch psyching her kid up to come over and say hello to me. What the kimchi?!?

  3. Not sure where you live because I don't usually follow this blog. But the worst place I've encountered in Korea for just plain ignorant,pig rudeness is Mokpo in Jeollanam.

    I was down for a stay with friends. I personally witnessed school students screaming out 'Fuck you' to female foreigners on their way to the schools they worked in. When it wasn't 'Fuck you' it was 'Fuck you' accompanied by 'Motherfucker'.

    One female foreigner told me she had been harassed in her lunch time a number of times when she went out to eat by high school boys at a neighboring school saying 'You fuck your Mother' and 'Fuck you bitch'.

    The cursing also went on around foreign males but of course true to form, the cowards did it at a distance and ran away when the foreigners went near them.

    I heard some foreigners had told their schools about the constant insults and asked them to contact the other schools to let them know what those students were saying, but for people who are obsessed by 'face', those Koreans didn't understand that this kind of behavior really makes Koreans lose face.

    Foreigners are insulted but ultimately Mokpo people look backwards by pretending that it's fine to disrespect people you invite to your country on a working visa. Of course foreigners heard the dumb excuse about hiphop music and how Korean kids 'of course' use the language they hear there.

    The fact that foreigners also listen to hiphop music and this kind of language in their countries but manage to refrain from cursing at Koreans, doesn't really make its way into the Korean consciousness of those making excuses for backwards, ill mannered behavior.

    At the same time Mokpo City and other Jeollanam Do cities as well as of course the Jeollanam Do Provincial Office are forcing their foreign teachers to attend compulsory 'culture' seminars in the teachers' free time, maybe they need to have a seminar where Koreans are taught how to be culturally sensitive to foreigners and observe norms that seem obvious to other people.

    Foreigners usually know Korean curse words after a while and often understand when such words are being directed at them. However, we manage to refrain from directing them at Koreans.

    I heard constant cursing in public in Mokpo. Apparently they are 'very proud of their culture'. If cursing like this and targeting both English and Korean cursing at foreigners is part of this culture, all the false pride in the world won't prevent non Mokpoites from rightly criticising them for their lack of manners.

    Oh and another Mokpo specialty was the 'Go home' I heard more than a few times, again directed at groups of foreign women by Korean boys and men. I guess the Mokpo pride doesn't mean behaving like a male and not picking on foreign females who can't defend themselves.

    In my own city in Korea I've only heard these kinds of things once.

  4. Actually.....when I got in a verbal fight with 3 Korean students who couldn't hold their liquor (not a physical fight, that would be expensive) I was telling them go back to Mokpo.

    Pretty crappy from the schools involved. It's a school it's not "the street". Korean teachers will permit saving face for the students-and by extension Koreans as a whole-before they will allow you as a member of staff(!!) to be permitted a face to save. Even 10 year olds will swear with you in earshot. I walk up to them and publicly embarass them in Korean. By extension I do it in the hope that other Koreans will be shamed.They never are though, they just say "oh, what's wrong with the foreigner??'

  5. The swearing in Korea, by Koreans, is pretty prolific. You can't go anywhere without hearing shepal this or gaeseki that. Aish this.

  6. I worked in Mokpo for only a year thankfully.

    The huge hole in Mokpo public manners is such that when a truly well mannered child came up and talked to me respectfully I was kind of shocked. Those type of children were rare indeed.

    Many Mokpo people who I'd never met in my life felt free to say 'Ya, waygugin!' and pester me rudely. Imagine Koreans in my country if we pestered them and screamed 'Hey foreigner!'. The pointing, laughing and 'Ya waygugin' are often done in Mokpo by school students WHO ARE WITH THEIR PARENTS.

    Only once did I hear a parent tell their kids to be quiet. The others just stared - no wonder their brats are bad mannered.

    Actually, you get better manners from those old people who don't mind foreigners (although I heard plenty of 'son of a bitch' equivalents in Korea re me and my friends from old Koreans who hate foreigners there). I found adjummas in the local markets fairly friendly, too.

    But I scratch my head over why the Mokpo students who are learning English at school/hagwons think zoo animal behavior when they see a foreigner is normal.

    It goes beyond immaturity. There's been no real shift in attitudes to foreigners although the lifestyle South Koreans enjoy from technology down to their pop/hiphop music comes from outside Korea.

    Mokpo seemed different from other places I went to in Korea although xenophobia and aggressive nationalism is a Korean characteristic.

    I'd say Mokpo students hear adults trash talking foreigners a lot. Undermining and attacking English teachers DOES have a big effect on how young people and children behave.

    Mokpo is a dead-end for English services.No English speakers in the Labor or Pension Office,no English speaking lawyers, no English speakers in Immigration (a sentence or two isn't communication in English), no facilities - yet we pay tax too.

    The Education Depts in Mokpo and the Jeollanam Provincial Office have done their best to make life even tougher for English teachers.

    Jeollanam Provincial Office's contempt for English teachers is well known. I strongly advise teachers to boycott Jeollanam Do.

    When they forced English teachers to cancel their contractually guaranteed vacation and lose money in the process,they showed what they think of us. Same as the cutting of contractually guaranteed vacation and instead forcing many English teachers to come in to school all day or do camps when the contract says differently.

    The clowns in Jeollanam Provincial office and their flunkies at the schools who follow the orders and in many cases enjoy exercising power over foreigners just look completely unprofessional and unfit to even think of having programs that utilise foreigners.

    Their 'training seminars' are a joke and just an excuse for them to make themselves important. They and most of the Koreans 'working' with English teachers in some capacity need intercultural awareness and sensitivity training.

    They need cultural awareness training of other cultures instead of inflicting useless training sessions designed to make Koreans feel comfortable in their supposed superiority.

    If they don't want to do this - then close down the English programs. They can't say they want to be part of the world and insist on encouraging backwards attitudes to non Koreans.

    My advice to foreigners - speed up the process by refusing to work down there.

  7. Damn. I was going to there once for a road trip getaway. Glad it didn't pan out.

  8. Cheesesteak,

    What you are saying is roughly applicable to Seoul and to me the gist of the problem is that English isn't a real subject. So why the fuck have native speakers here? English as a TEST SUBJECT is done well but it's largely meaningless outside Korea. Korea knows this at heart and so they sabotage their efforts. Why else would they figure so poorly in English proficiency.
    If English were to be regarded as a real subject there would be a curriculum driven by measurable expectations and regularly reviewed. WTF is English in Korea? Why do they bother? Really-what is it? It's nothing short of meet the monkey time. What a national disgrace..as if they care. It would pop the nationalistic bubble.
    "The Bubble People".

  9. Reading here about the bullshit artists in Mokpo and Jeollanam Do Education offices etc, reminds me of something this blogger wrote about how supposedly contracts can be broken and aren't considered law in South Korea but are there to twist and bend.

    Recruiters say this, both foreign and Korean. Your school's headkickers will say it to you if you point out that your contract is being broken.
    If your school is pissed that they gave you a good contract they will often behave like snakes and say all sorts of deceitful things to make you change it when it suits them.

    But it is ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT! No offense to this blogger. Yes the assclowns running the Englishee show in Jeollanam Do and the other provinces that have fucked over English teachers have been lying about this for a few years now.

    This is the real deal - South Korea might not be too concerned about the rule of law generally but it is not a 3rd World country re employment and other contracts.

    You can agree to alter contract conditions if your employer asks you to. YOU ARE ALSO FREE TO SAY NO and refuse to go back on conditions you signed for. That's what a few foreign English teachers have done when confronted with the lying employers who tell them they 'can't' refuse to get fucked over on their contract conditions.

    Under Korean law you are free as an English teacher to have special conditions in your contract if you and your employer agreed and signed on it. This is absolutely legal.

    If you signed the kind of crappy contract that EPIK, GEPIK etc offered you, then yes you have to put up with that shit.

    If foreign English teachers had understood they are adults and can say no, I'm not agreeing to change the conditions in my contract in Jeollanam and elsewhere, the exploitative public and private schools (not hagwons) would now be a lot more careful about how they deal with their foreign teachers.

    Especially foreigners who work in such a backwater like Mokpo in particular and Jeollanam in general. Why the hell would you agree to fucked over on the relatively minor benefits of a good contract when you're living in a place with no access to services/networks/entertainment etc like Seoul?

    Stop being desperate people!

  10. Lawguy

    No offense taken ... BUT when the Korean Government has a seminar held in which you are TOLD that contracts are a starting point and not binding ... well it is pretty clear what they think of how legally binding contracts are. It sets the bar for what you should expect when you run into contract difficulties.

  11. I try to explain the shit I sometimes go through to my wife. When I am with her, nobody comes up and says anything or does anything. If she walks at a distance from me, she can then see what happens. She always ends up shocked and upset like how could this happen?

  12. And to think that there are floods of graduates from North America and South Africa who will put up with this shit for 1.8 million won to 2.0 million won.

    This crappy figure comes from Epik's own website. Oh you get more for a rural area? How much more? I'd work in a shitty province like Jeollanam Do for 3 million plus after tax.

    Come on people - you don't have to take jobs for that money and in those kinds of provinces. You don't have to take a job anywhere in Korea including Seoul for that kind of money. Just say no to the shit jobs and keep it that way.

    Korean salaries will go back up for foreigners if people have the backbone to boycott the craphole jobs and provinces. Stop ruining it for yourselves and everybody else, you desperados.

  13. Personally I think people who sign contracts for 1.8 - anything below 2.3 million won to be stuck inside a school for nearly 9 hours a day in Mokpo or anywhere in Jeollanam Do only have themselves to blame for the consequences.

    Especially when your 'co teacher' is absent for all the classes throughout the year except when the morons who call themselves Education Dept staff in Jeollanam Do call around to watch you teaching your English class. Of course then the co teacher's name is on the lesson plan YOU make and they hang around at the back of the classroom. Once a year.

    As for Mokpo - sadly so many people there behave like assholes to foreigners. They've got a giant sized chip on their collective shoulders about the past.

    My answer to that is I could give a gnat's piss about how you were slaves under your wonderful Korean rulers and then again under the Japanese. Same shit, just the Japanese are blamed more because they are foreigners.

    Just grow up and stop blaming waygugin English teachers walking down the street minding their own business as they go to spend money in your shops etc and help your economy.

    Here's some typical Mokpo class in customer service for foreigners and table occupancy - I was at the new Dunkin Donuts at the Mokpo train station. I was selecting my donuts with the tongs and one slipped slightly down the display case in the front. It didn't go on the floor.

    I told the girls in Korean and like in normal places I thought they would just say 'Don't worry' like when you spill your drink in normal shops in normal countries or drop something small like a single consumable.

    Instead they charged me for two donuts although I didn't want to eat the one that had slipped down. That's customer service Mokpo style. I then wanted to eat my donut and drink crappy, sweet liquid that they call coffee in Korea and charge more for than the true Italian coffee I can get back home.

    But I couldn't sit at one of the few tables because the usual Mokpo person who doesn't buy shit but pushes their way onto seats in eating places was all over the vacant table. I asked in my good Korean for the Dunkin Donuts' staff to tell him nicely to go but they just stared and laughed.

    Even if I hadn't been speaking and just gesturing,they could see that a non customer was stopping a customer from sitting down.

    Oh well, just like every hacking up, pushy, rude Korean man and woman who hangs around Mokpo Train Station watching tv while customers with tickets stand around with no seat. They can't go on the platform but they also can't sit down although they're paying for the transportation.

    It happens many places in Korea but in Mokpo the locals act as though it's their absolute rights to be parasitical assholes who never pay but use up the facilities. At the same time they say Korea wants more tourists. Sad, just sad.

  14. Damn. It sounds more like Mookpo than Mokpo.

  15. From the sounds of it, folks in Mokpo seem to go out of their way to be rude. That is kind of comforting when it seems that people in other places are completely rude but don't seem to have to slightest clue as to what they are doing. Like the people who park on corners or who don't watch where the fuck they are going in crowded places, there is no consciousness to their actions. While if someone is going out of their way to be rude, at least they are paying attention to what they are doing. Kind of a breath of fresh air if you ask me.