I'm reading a book titled, "Talk to the Hand". I'll have to post some of the better quotes soon- I've done some pretty heavy underlining. The book really acknowledges a lot of the frustrations I'm feeling in regards to living here. I really can't stand it when people bother people me when I'm out. It's funny, because I thought I'd become more tolerant of it the longer I live here, but the opposite seems true. The author points out that when people bother us (like when people ask me grammar questions while I'm reading a book on the subway), they are invading our personal space. I'd always thought of personal space as being physical, so it's a relief to know that there's a psychological reason for why I get so upset or irritated at these encounters. She points out that reading a book on the train, or listening to one's ipod, etc., are barrier methods that are meant to keep strangers at arm's length. When someone disregards that, they are demonstrating insensitivity and ill-manners.
The thing that drives me crazy, though, is that Koreans think that they don't have to use basic manners with foreigners. This isn't true in all cases, of course, but I've noticed a marked difference in the way people treat me when I'm with my husband and when I'm alone (or with my son). For example, I was walking down the sidewalk today with my son, and some 10 year olds were shouting at us. I ignored it, but the problem with ignoring them is that they progressively get louder because they assume you can't hear them. After the 3 rd shout, I turned around and told them to be quiet. They don't do this to Korean women, and I don't like it that they think basic rules of manners don't apply to me. Furthermore, other Koreans don't correct them when they behave rudely toward me, so it's my responsibilty.
Another problem is that once I correct them, I usually get rude looks from other Koreans in the vicinity. The thing is is that if they were yelling rudely at a Korean woman, you'd be damned sure she'd turn around and tell them what's what. But if I do it, I'm wrong. This happens time and again. There is no solution, since I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't. I could go through a laundry list of examples. I'm sure I'll have more to post in the future, unfortunately.
I have some options, I suppose. The best choice is to take a taxi, since most of this happens on the street or on public transportation. That won't eliminate it altogether, but at some point we'll definitely have to get a car. I don't really want to, but it's for my sanity. Leaving Korea is an option, (well, I wish!), but the harrassment isn't quite bad enough to drive me out. It's enough to make me want to take frequent vacations out-of-country, but where else can I find a job with 5 months paid vacation and a 3 day work week? I have bad days here, and I've had bad days at home, as well. I have to remind myself to keep things in perspective. Once a guy in Chicago nearly hit me with his BMW as I was crossing the street. He was on his cell, so I told him to watch where he was going and hang up his phone. He rolled down his window, called me a cunt, and nudged me with his car. That's another thing my book points out- call people on their bad behavior and you are likely to be told to go fuck yourself. A guy in London called some teenagers on their behavior and they set him on fire.
Well, this was a fairly long post, so I guess I should go water some plants or something. TTYL