Even before coming to Korea, I have seen so many videos and blog posts of people saying that they are victims of racism in Korea. I am going to address this matter.
People should not confuse curiosity and naivety with racism.
The thing that I noticed during both of my times in Korea, is that people stare. People stare at white people, people stare at Indian people, people stare at Black people. This is reality. I get stared at in Hackney (London)! One of the most culturally diverse towns in the world, so of course people will stare in a country that has only recently (in the past 5-10 years) seen an increase in foreigners. I have actually received more racism from Americans than Koreans since living here (But that’ll have to be another post).
I believe that instead of the colour of your skin, it is your attitude and the way that you present yourself which depends on the type of attention you get. This could easily explain several points that people make when talking about racism in Korea.
1. Taxi drivers driving off – I actually have never experienced this in Korea. But there can be a possible reason why it could happen. If you see the light in the taxi window flashing, it is hired already. Only when the writing is a solid red colour is the taxi free.
2. Taxi drivers refusing to take you – I have seen this happen but it is because the foreigner simply jumped in the taxi or popped their head into the window and stated the place where they wanted to go. I understand the taxi driver at this point. It is common decency to say hello or excuse me to a person before talking to them. I’m pretty sure all foreigners here know how to say ‘hello’ in Korean.
3. Not respecting the countries culture – Now, this is the one point which has to be stressed the most. You are in a foreign country. I know, I always hear American and sometimes British people say ‘I’m not a foreigner’. For some reason it has become hard for some western people to accept that, we are in fact foreigners in Korea and everywhere around the world apart from our home countries! When you are in a foreign country, you must slightly adapt to the way things run.
I’m not saying be fluent in Korean before you get here or change your personality so you fit in. Just be respectful. Before moving to another country to live, you should educate yourself a little bit in understanding how respect works in that country. Otherwise you have nobody to blame but yourself. This sounds a bit harsh but you need to get off your high horse.
4. Clothing culture – Now I know this is also one that foreigners won’t understand. One way which I can explain it is, would you go to Saudi Arabia wearing a Bikini? If you answer yes, good luck. You won’t even get past immigration no matter where you are from or who you are.
In Korea, it is simple. Wear the shortest skirt you want but do not show cleavage. If you aren’t slim, then unfortunately no matter what you wear you will probably be stared at. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It is known that Koreans (especially women) have slim frames. People who stare are merely curious and maybe a little judgmental but it is not about race. Korea is known as a country which considers appearance a lot. Appearance, not race.
5. Smile!! If somebody is staring at you, don’t give them a full teeth smile, just smile a little. Chances are they will smile back at you.
6. Live your life without caring about what other people think. When I first came to Korea, I didn’t notice people staring at me but my friends would notice it. Even this time, I wouldn’t notice but people who I am with would notice. I know they are staring at me, but I don’t care so it doesn’t bother me.
So, listen to your music, talk to your friend, sit on your phone, stare in to space, read a book. Do anything to take your attention off people staring at you.
The most important thing that I want people to take out of this blog post is that YOU are making it a big deal. You are assuming that Koreans are being racist. Change your attitude and the reasons why you think people are staring at you. I am almost certain that then you will enjoy your time here more. I have received nothing but kindness from Koreans since I have been in Korea. I am sure that this is because I respect the Korean culture, I give out positive energy and I do not focus on negatives.
So, think positive people!!
If you have a different opinion to mine or if you agree with what I have said in this blog post, please let me know by commenting below ^^