Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red Riding Hood

I've been in South Korea for over a month now and there are some things that I'm getting accustomed to and certain things that are taking a bit more time. Lately I've felt like a more attractive version of The Big Bad Wolf dressed as Grandmother, except instead of Little Red remarking on my large eyes, nose, eyebrows, beard, face (yeah I heard that one too), or other appendages (keep it PG, I'm not that promiscuous)- it's every Korean that you talk to or meet for the first time.
I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong... in fact I'm very flattered by what they all have to say as I've always thought of myself as an interesting looking average joe sort of guy. But in the story The Wolf tries to kill and eat Little Red; maybe if Koreans were a more meaty people I might have similar thoughts, instead I always feel like I should compliment them back. Maybe it's just me, but I get a little uncomfortable and dare I say sheepish when complimented. A huge part of me feels like if I return the compliment then they'll think I'm hitting on them so I try to compliment something that I think of as neutral territory:
"Your earrings are really nice."
"Where I come from, small noses are pleasant."
"I like the embroidery around your jacket."
"You have really nice pants."

Although, the best solution I've found is to simply smile and say thanks- and change the subject.

The flip-side of being told you're handsome all the time is that when you get close to certain Koreans then they will let you know when you're not looking so great. However, I don't suggest replying to a criticism with a criticism, that is probably a faux pas here. Of course most Koreans will withhold their criticisms of foreigners- at least to their faces. Your principal might let your coteacher know that he thinks you're smelly and then leave it up to the coteacher to inform you that you should bathe more frequently. Appearance means a lot here, the cover is important even if you don't think it is, just be aware.
That being said, I haven't changed who I am or the way I dress, or even the fact that I sometimes wear the same undershirt two days in a row... shhhhhh. But I have found myself trimming my beard more often, and actually looking in the mirror before I leave for work- which rarely happened in the States. I think it's been occurring on a mostly subconscious level and has only now come to light.

1 comment:

  1. Haha I get this all the time too! My students keep touching my hair and saying "what big nose you have!...then saying something in korean and 'Pinocchio' then bursting out laughing!