It's not easy to fit in in Korea. Actually, I, with my blue eyes, light hair and freckles, stick out like the sorest thumb that one could imagine. In Spain I could at least try to dress Spanish, and pretend that I was at least from another European country, and I could understand if people were laughing at me behind my back. Here however, is quite the different story. I could dress like a Korean, learn to speak the language fluently, and use chopsticks like a pro, but I would still be most obviously, without a doubt, a foreigner.
This is not a bad thing however. Foreigners here, at least in my city, are treated very well. A lot of the time people don't talk to you because of the communication barrier (sp?), but those that do are pretty darn polite and willing to help if you appear lost. I appreciate it. In Spain I would get offended if people would respond to me in English when I would speak to them in Spanish. Here, I do not want to offend people by assuming they speak English, so I will point and make lots of silly gestures to try to ask questions, and I am most grateful when they use whatever English language skills they have to help me out!
To live here, and enjoy living here, as a foreigner you bascially have to learn to laugh at your mistakes. There is such a huge cultural diffence between my country and this one. My co-teacher and I were talking about this just today. Respect for elders, or those with more authority that you, is a huge deal here. Learning how to accept a drink from someone, and how to pour someone else's drink, is also important. (I offended my boss the first time he poured a drink for me, as I did not hold my glass with two hands as is expected here for someone accepting a drink from a person of higher authority). I am trying hard to learn how to not offend people here by doing things that we back home would consider normal. It will take a lot of learning, but I am willing to do it! I hate to make others uncomfortable, or to be disrespectful, so I want to learn as much as possible!
The busses here are quite a laugh too. I decided today, since it is cold, that I would take the bus to the gym instead of the 20 minute walk. I flagged down the 66-4, and was able to jump into the open door on the still moving bus before the driver shut the door. Yes, it barely came to a stop before it got going again! I had just enough time to swipe my card before he slammed on the gas. Luckily, I was holding onto a handle at this point, so it wasn't until a few seconds later, as I was trying to make my way towards the middle of the bus, that he swerved a bit and I went flying through the air, swung around a pole, and shouted out "holy crap!" all in one swift move. (This is where the laughing at yourself comes in handy). I'm laughing now, actually, as I re-live the moment. The one good thing about this is that I will probably never see those people again in my life, at least if I do I will not recognize them, because so many of the people here look very similar to me right now. I'm sure though, that they will recognize me again in a second if we ever cross paths, thinking to themselves "hey! theres that pole dancing girl from the bus!" Needless to say, I walked home from the gym.
Just some random thoughts of the day. New Year's is coming soon! I am excited to go out and celebrate. The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the country, and that does not take place until February-ish, but I'm sure this one will be fun as well.
That's all for now!!