Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Lost in Translation #1: Rae

{My first guest blogger is Rae from My Life in Korea. We met back in Seoul, we lived in the same neighborhood, shopped for groceries together at E-Mart, and complained over cheesecake and expensive lattes at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. I fell in love with her blog while in Korea- she would always write about things I was too afraid to mention, and in the most hilarious manner. Here is Rae, and her uncensored thoughts about Korea!}

So, I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger by the fabulous Vivian on Lost in Translation. Vivian tells me she finds it delightful that I use endearing terms such as “mofo” to describe my colleagues. What I can say? If the shoe fit….

I usually blog when life goes awry, people piss me off, or whenever I get my panties in a bunch. Life’s been pretty easy going and chilled thus far, so the material has been lacking in substance. So, I had to look back on my 2 years of being an expatriate in Korea to think of something worth mentioning. The thing that worries me most will be my transitioning back home. I have subconscious adopted certain “Korean” etiquettes. So for this post, I will count the ways in which I am Korean…

1. Konglish
Konglish is the mix of Korean and English or the outright and improper use of English. Even though I work in Seoul, all 4 of my coteachers all have different English levels. One coteacher has impeccable English. I’m a very sarcastic person by nature. I often make very sarcastic comments and usually no one but her understands them. One lived in England, but her speaking ability is pretty sub-par. The other two is really sub-par. Sometimes I have to use the language of mimes or pictionary to communicate with them. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
Over the course of time, this affects me greatly. I begin to forget my mother tongue and subconscious speak on their levels. My friends (other English teachers) often bust my chops when I use Konglish. Here are some examples:

me: It’s so nice today!
friend: What is?
me: the outside!
friend: …………the outside?.......THE OUTSIDE?

friend: I’m tired.
me: take a rest
friend: ……………….take a rest?

friend: Where do you want to eat?
me: hmm, I don’t know….OH! Let’s go to here!
friend: …..let’s go TO here???!!!

friend: Lately, there’s a lot of suicides in Korea.
me: Yea, my coteacher said it’s because of depression.
me: So if you’re depressed, don’t suicide.
friend: ….don’t suicide?
me: yea! I know you are a bit down lately.
friend : aren’t you missing a verb? Suicide is a noun, not a verb….
me: …………………..anyway….

I also use the phrases “so-so” and “same same” quite frequently. As you can see, I’ve completely butchered the English language. My friends back home aren’t as nice and understanding. I’m Asian-American and my friends used to call me a FOB (fresh of the boat). I’m afraid I’m fobbier now more than ever.

2. Rude, Inconsiderate Behaviors
One thing I CANNOT stand in Korea is certain rude, inconsiderate behaviors. People will bump into you, push you out of the way, run you down, cough/sneeze on you without covering their mouths, or spit right before your feet without blinking. Think I’m kidding again, don’t you? I’m not. Anyone who’s ever lived in Korea knows what I’m talking about. Each morning, I get pushed and shoved while trying to get on the bus. Then some inconsiderate jackal has to cough on me without covering his mouth and not even apologize. And everywhere I go, I hear the sound of a guy trying to hack up a huge loogey.

It’s scary to think I’ve picked up such nasty etiquettes. Unfortunately, I have and did so without even realizing it. One day on the way to school, my neighbor and I were waiting to board the bus. I saw this ajumma (old lady) trying to make a beeline for it. I quickly cut in front of her and went in first. My neighbor had a field day. She said you just cut her off…that was hilarious! Yes, I’ve subconscious started cutting. It’s not that bad, but damn inconsiderate. And I did it subconsciously….even scarier!

3. Other Korean Etiquettes
Koreans like to smile when they’re embarrassed. The women in particular also cover their mouths when they laugh. My friend and I were dining one day and she told a funny story. I laughed heartily with my hand over my mouth. She suddenly stopped and asked “what the hell are you doing?” I actually hadn’t even realized what I was doing…

Only in Korea where the women can get away with wearing hello kitty hair pins or something equally cute and childish. Seriously. I saw this one woman with a headband. It was just a regular black head band…with a GIANT diamond crusted heart. The heart was almost as big as her head. No, I do NOT wear such things on my head. However, my clothes sometimes look like they came from baby Gap. I wear fru-fru clothing that’s fit for an 8 year old.

Koreans tend to make this sound when you ask them something and they don’t know. I don’t know how to quite describe it. It sounds like the sound of sucking teeth. Basically, you smile and suck in and you make this weird sound. One day my friend asked me a question and I didn’t know. I smiled and sucked in and said “oh I don’t know.” She quickly pointed out that I was quite Korean since only Koreans do that weird teeth sucking thing I had just did.

Bowing. Koreans bow to each other, especially to their elders. I know I’m a foreigner and not really required to bow, but it’s something I’ve been exposed to for the past 2 years. I do it to show respect. When I went back home last August, I bowed to the 7-11 clerk. Needless to say it was returned with a “wtf” expression.

These are only some of the ways in which I have Koreanized. It’s just astonishing what you can pick up subconsciously sometimes. All I know is I need to de-Koreanized myself real quick. I’m afraid I might cut in front of some big burly guy and get punched in the face for it!


Kelly said...

What a great idea, Vivian! I love it. Rae seems hilarious and a great person to be friends with. Cute!

Anonymous said...

This is so interesting! It's amazing how you pick up certain traits (even if you don't want to). Swedes are very reserved with strangers and not so friendly and polite, which is often really off-putting. I found that I picked that up as well, and when I come home to the States I always feel awkward when strangers talk to me or smile. I'll be heading over to you blog, I love reading about other's international travel experiences.
Vivian have you checked out this blog:

ANDY said...

How´ve you been???

For me, well, it prety much SUCKS having to go back to Holland.
I really dont like living there at all, not at all :(

But oh well, maybe Ill get to move out soon and it might be Mtl again!!!!


Vivian said...

Rae- thank you so much for contributing, i had such a good laugh when reading your observations... so many memories! i am guilty myself of the Hello Kitty accessories. one of my dreams is to own the Hello Kitty toaster!

Kelly- yes, Rae was so much fun to be around, i miss grocery shopping with her!! and if you want to share any traveling stories, go ahead and give me a shout!

Vanessa- I can't wait to read more about Sweden and the cultural differences. I'll check out the link!

Andy- I understand how it feels... but you don't have to stay anywhere that doesn't make you happy :)

Emz said...

haha This was funny to read! But, I think Japanese people get away with even crazier stuff than Koreans do- Have you seen those Lolita like people?????

Coffee_c said...

I laughed so hard reading this that I almost wet my pants! And everyone was staring at me with a wtf expression in the guesthouse (i'm in Bangkok now) when I exploded with laughter reading the bowing at 7-11!!!

Great great post...
I think I'm going to start reading Rae's blog from the beginning!

Anonymous said...

great to see this...
thanks for sharing....

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