Foreigners get a bad rap sometimes from some Koreans. It doesn’t help when some of us make it so damn easy.
I wasn’t the only one Tuesday morning that audibly-groaned from my seat when, during an admittedly-seemingly-unnecessary-mandatory (say that five times fast) meeting for all Busan hagwon teachers, several foreigner-attendees shouted from their seats in the back of the room. The M.C. had mentioned that teachers in Korea since 2011 need only attend the meeting once, and a few people raised their voices as if they had just been told to clean piss-stinking bathrooms on their hands and knees with toothbrushes and act like they love it.
“We attended last year!” one shouted, “Why do we have to be here?” I believe the same one also said, paraphrased because I wasn’t taking notes.
The room was already uncomfortable. The meeting, mandatory since two years ago, seemed mostly a thinly-veiled legal obligation to advise foreigners not to touch Korea’s children while employed as a teacher.
Everything else was either information on how to get a Visa (kind of unnecessary for someone already here and working for months, or in some cases years), or propaganda promoting Busan, like the easily excited, dubiously-fluent Korean-English girl exploring Busan for the first time and having orgasms from 호떡 and “healthy, fresh food” like the city’s notfromnuclearwastelandJapan’s raw fish.
Sure, the whole thing felt like window-dressing for a government-required meeting to legally cover Korea’s ass in case a couple foreigners decided to get all grabby with the kids, but it was harmless. The M.C. seemed nice enough and what was slated to be two hours ended up only lasting one. He seemed to understand from the get-go that we weren’t going to learn much, if anything new, but we all had to be there (including one of my Korean co-teachers, the poor soul), so let’s just get through it in time to have a proper lunch.
Still, when he was going through the legal mumbo-jumbo, it came up that if a teacher had already attended the meeting, they didn’t need to attend again. That’s when those couple teachers in the back (whom I somewhat wish and am somewhat glad I did not look at, as I might know and be friends with them), indignantly shouted that they had, in fact, already attended a meeting last year. So, why should they attend another?
This went on for a few uncomfortable moments. One had been a teacher since 2011. Another, since 2008. Another, since 2002. The inconvenience dripped from their mouths. The M.C., noticeably wanting to ease the situation so we could move on, mentioned that they were right: they did not need to attend again. Ironically, a friend of mine who did look at who was shouting said the loudest of the small group chose to stay the entire time.
This is a case of what I have dubbed “FBB,” or “Foreigners Behaving Badly.” You’ve seen it before. You may have been part of it before. I have, I am embarrassed to say. Much of it is as harmless as Busan’s wankfest of a promotional video, like being drunk and slightly obnoxious in the KSU area late Saturday night. Some of it is worse, like making “jerk off” motions to people on a subway train while shitfaced (alcohol seems to play a prominent role in many of life’s most-embarrassing moments). But, all of it leaves Koreans with a less-than-favorable opinion of expats, deserved or otherwise.
In the case of Tuesday morning’s outbursts, I can understand why someone would be annoyed at being forced to a meeting for (what we originally thought would take) two hours to learn about stuff we already knew, especially if we (like myself and others) live on the other side of the city, and still have to get ready for work. We all were annoyed. We talked about it among ourselves. But, when the meeting started, we hunkered down. We all knew we just had to get through it in time to have a proper lunch (pro-tip: the Namsae vegetarian buffet in Seomyeon is great!).
But, those that argued their need to be there dragged on their protests too long and, likely, to the wrong people. Did they really think those running the event wanted to be there, either? Somewhere along the lines of communication, someone’s boss, their co-workers, themselves, who knows, got it in their head that everyone needed to be there, even if they’d already attended.
Regardless, they were already there. It was, as several people pointed out, only two hours out of their–c’mon, let’s admit it–pretty cushy lives. I had enough time afterward to eat and chat, then pick up a fancy new sweater at Uniqlo. My Korean co-worker had to rush home and clean up before heading to school.
This is not to say we, or any other minorities (a loaded word to use when associating it with my flat, white butt but, here, that’s exactly what we all are, if we’re not Korean) should just lay down and take whatever shit is thrown on us (and sometimes, that shit stinks pretty bad). But, yesterday was pretty small shit. And, fair or not, it helps reinforce some Korean’s impressions of expats as coddled, whiny, entitled brats (some of whom may or may not be kidtouchers or drug dealers, or both) who come here and expect Koreans to cater to them, rather than the other way around.
In a perfect world, neither would have to cater to either.