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Being Yourself
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ThreeDogNight



Joined: 30 May 2003
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2003 8:36 pm    Post subject: Being Yourself Reply with quote

One of the greatest obstacles about being here is just being yourself. I know many foreigners that seem to completely change allegiance, or personalities, almost to the point of indifference toward their own race and person. Not that I care, but what about BEING WHO YOU ARE?

I find it hard to act myself sometimes, but realize that sometimes, "Hey, this is who I am" and part of my belief system. Like calling a spade a spade, or saying what you think is right, like I LOVE THE COUNTRY OF AMERICA or CANADA or even telling someone off that cuts you off in traffic?

Well, I don't mean to get out of hand, but what I'm saying is that being WHO YOU ARE is the single most difficult challenge about being in Korea. As for me, I'm a loner, of sorts. I find it hard to walk down the street without anyone by my side here, however, or eat a good meal or go to the movie theater. But "Heck," I say, "it's what we believe in the West," that it's all right to be single AND ALONE, and that Koreans will just have to accept this(which of course I know they never will.)

Which of course gets me peevish sometimes. "But it's part of my personality," I keep on telling myself. "It's part of my personal identity, my cultural beliefs. Heck, if I could speak your language I'd perhaps strike up a conversation." But of course I do strike up a conversation sometimes and feel just as lonely because you're always looked upon as an "outsider" here, to some extent, as formality is the form.

Anyway, I guess being yourself goes deeper than this. In other words, WHO ARE YOU, really? That is, as a Canadian, Australian, Kiwi or American? How about defending what you believe in, or your country's beliefs, which are always popping up in the political, socio-economic and moral arena here? What about just being yourself instead of having to kow tow to some anti-democratic belief predicated upon hierarchicalism and Confucianism, which we know in the West is considered faux pas?

Take, for instance, my last employer, and co-worker, who both didn't consider it morally disrespectful to take pictures of foreigners' graves at the UN cemetary(pictures which were just for the betterment of her hagwon, not as respect for the dead,) making me wonder about the big Brit who just stepped in non-chalantly to pose with the kids and if he'd do that at a cemetary back home. It also made me wonder about the times I refrained from taking pictures of ancient kings' tombs here for fear of disrespect.

Or how about the professor I met(an ex-cop,) who didn't consider it against his morals to accept a little gift from students around final exam time. Or what about the everyday pushing and shoving; the political Bush-bashing; the Korea Herald's unethical journalism; Governmental control of the media; the mis-information on the news; and the moral and political decadence here?

I know, it's a long bitter war no foreigner can really face up to. But then there are the foreigners I meet who just forget all that their country means CAUSE THEY'RE IN KOREA, never reflecting what their countries stand for or really what they mean to us, I suppose; because maybe we've forgotten where WE CAME FROM, in this globalized world and whether or not our beliefs and who we are amount to anything to more than just a 'job teaching English' in Korea.
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why



Joined: 03 Jul 2003
Location: seoul

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2003 5:50 am    Post subject: being aware of being Reply with quote

While i agree with many of your points about being yourself, perhaps i can lend you my experience to articulate what being yourself really means.

One of the hardest things to do is to consider your own value system and behavioral patterns. It is my experience that most people don't really evaluate their behavior. They wonder from time to time about why they did something or acted in a certain manner, but truly it would seem that people are incapable of understanding why they behave and respond to situation as they do. Even more to the point, ask yourself when was the last time you were honest enough with yourself to recognize that were aware of your behavior.

Quote:
Anyway, I guess being yourself goes deeper than this. In other words, WHO ARE YOU, really? That is, as a Canadian, Australian, Kiwi or American?


Indeed, i agree with this point. Identity is a mixture or heritage, culture, nationality, socio-economic upbringing and of course political/religious ideology. But in essense, sense of self is much more than these factors. We additionally define ourselves from "chance" factors. For lack of a better term, i suggest "experiences".

What i am saying is that i don't think that Korea limits our abilities to act like ourselves. In fact, in my experience, it inhances our ability to define who we are if we are able to recognize aspects of our behavior through our day to day experiences.

An example of this would be Korean/American/Canadian/Russian or insert nationality here..bashing. If we do this and many people do...they define who they are (and in turn act according to their nature). If they do not...(the same occurs).

Quote:
Like calling a spade a spade, or saying what you think is right, like I LOVE THE COUNTRY OF AMERICA or CANADA or even telling someone off that cuts you off in traffic?


These are all aspects of our personailties which come to the for front. It doesn't mean that any of our opinions are valid, but the fact that we are differentiating between ourselves and another culture forces us to make a type of self-evaluation. It may not be positive or it may be so, but either way sense of self is an ongoing process of which we are only marginally aware.
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FierceInvalid



Joined: 16 Mar 2003

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2003 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you in a way also, but I also think that anyone who comes to a foreign country determined to stay the same person they were when they got there is missing out also. Moving to a completely different culture changes people, and it's not always a bad thing. In fact, I would say for most people it's beneficial.
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GirlFromMars



Joined: 15 May 2003
Location: Corea do Sul

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2003 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love being the person that I've become in the last 2 years since I left home

This person keeps changing and I still like her.

I've also become notably patriotic since I left home while many of my friends there are still suffering from a tall poppy vs we-are-the-arse-end-of-the-world paradox

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie
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OverLeft



Joined: 13 Jun 2003
Location: Listening to Radiohead "I might be wrong"

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2003 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know it's sometimes hard to deal with but a changing and reflective personality is a necessary and natural part of adaptive human nature. I think if you're honest with yourself and you look back, hopefully you'll find that you have continually changed a lot during your lifetime.
I know at least in my own life that I have; and I hope I always will be able to adjust myself to new truths, realizations, challenges, triumphs and defeats in whatever form they come..
In this case, adapting to a different culture means you have the opportunity to grow in ways you never could have before, you might actually find joy and fullfillment in the end if you make the effort...

Let's say you find yourself in deep water(yeah the old sink or swim cliche... Smile ), you've got two choices 1. you could get upset and complain about how much it sucks to be in the water, can't touch the ground, can't walk, can't breath etc, and refuse to adapt..... or 2. you could struggle a bit at first, learn to swim and finally you might end up having a little fun at it. Smile

Take a look at these challenges that you face in perspective, are they really that big? Are there possibly any other ways(likely quite a few) of understanding the actions of those around you maybe they're not wrong? It's quite likely with a little empathy and cultural sensitivity you might begin to see things through their eyes.... Not always, I know some peoples actions can really be absolutely wrong sometimes...However you should not make these assumptions without a lot of consideration... Maybe, is it possible they're just swimming....? Wink
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ThreeDogNight



Joined: 30 May 2003
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2003 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, thanks for the comments. But I see in some people a failure to stand up for their beliefs and kind of become renegades here in Korea, like some of these illegal feral teachers that even Koreans complain about and who I've run into now and then. They tend to absorb the lax and complacent morality that abounds here in Korea and/or take matters into the their own hands.
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danyuk



Joined: 17 Jun 2003

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a philosophy student i'v had enough of this self-analytical B.S. Just BE and people will love you for it. Wink
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why



Joined: 03 Jul 2003
Location: seoul

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:58 am    Post subject: BE yourself Reply with quote

Well, i didn't major in Philosophy, but i ask you this question: Are you really the exact same person who you were ten years ago?

Who you are changes from day to day and from year to year. We are not the same people who came to Korea however long ago. For better or worse we are ourselves. Changed but still ourselves....

How do you not be yourself? If you agree with everything that people say because you hate conflict, then is that not being who you are?
If you are arrogant and racist and you make your opinions known, is that not being who you are?

Sadly this means that we are who we are even if it means that we are weak willed snips who can't stand up for ourselves or state what we think.

As for complacency: i have to say that Canadian culture...no western culture is generally complacent when it comes to outside problems which don't directly affect the inside....eg: did you hear that they cut funding to medicare in BC...oh no thats terrible...glad they didn't here in Alberta..NIMBY....it doesn't happen just in Korea..although i think we notice it more as we have smaller communities to live in.
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crazylemongirl



Joined: 23 Mar 2003
Location: almost there...

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GirlFromMars wrote:


I've also become notably patriotic since I left home while many of my friends there are still suffering from a tall poppy vs we-are-the-arse-end-of-the-world paradox



better better by far kiwis are better by far...

it's bizzare, I was thinking about it the other day. Most koreans I meet are always korea is the greatest place, there is nothing bad here etc.

While kiwis and aussies are always 'damn australia/nz sucks we're in the middle of nowhere and there's nothing there etc.' but after a while you start realising damn the south pacific isn't such a bad place after all.

CLG
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sparkx



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: thekimchipot.com

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I've also become notably patriotic since I left home while many of my friends there are still suffering from a tall poppy vs we-are-the-arse-end-of-the-world paradox


I've gone in the complete opposite direction. I left home thinking my country was the be-all-and-end-all and now feel sick when I see overt acts of patriotism.

Similarily, I feel that Korea has made me recede into my shell more and cemented my personality in stone. I came here open-minded and fresh and will leave here slightly bitter but still myself. I can only imagine the monster that emerges from the person who finds korea a "growing experience."
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crazylemongirl



Joined: 23 Mar 2003
Location: almost there...

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sparkx wrote:
I left home thinking my country was the be-all-and-end-all and now feel sick when I see overt acts of patriotism.



Sparkx where are you from?

Most of the kiwis and aussies I've talked to on the topic seem to be home isn't so bad after all.

While others particularly from north america tend to go the other way.

Ok, my experience isn't the be all and all but it's just an observation.

CLG
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TheUrbanMyth



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Location: It's not a superiority complex when you really are superior

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="sparkx"]
Quote:

Similarily, I feel that Korea has made me recede into my shell more and cemented my personality in stone. I came here open-minded and fresh and will leave here slightly bitter but still myself. I can only imagine the monster that emerges from the person who finds korea a "growing experience."



Korea is a growing experience in that you learn to adjust and live in a different culture. Not that you ACCEPT the negative parts or the values of said culture, but you can adjust while keeping your own values. I would say that a monster is far more likely to emerge from someone who can ONLY live in his own culture and considers it superior.
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sparkx



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: thekimchipot.com

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crazylemongirl wrote:

Quote:
Sparkx where are you from?


The Great White North - Canada. If I've said it once I've said it a million times, the only real issues I've had with foreigners here is with fellow Canadians. I have met some great people from many countries but the vast majority of Canadians I have met have been arrogant blowholes that think their sh*t don't stink and they make it their passtime to uncover the problems with America and Americans -- lame.

Urbanmyth wrote:

Quote:
I would say that a monster is far more likely to emerge from someone who can ONLY live in his own culture and considers it superior.


I agree but from a personal perspective I feel as though I want to preserve the experiences of my other adventures and travels that truly were "growing experiences". I strangly feel that Korea has the ability to clear my hard drive and punt these experiences clear into the cosmos.
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ThreeDogNight



Joined: 30 May 2003
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My real objective here is to see if any of you have accepted the deeper aspects of your cultural legacies, the ideals of freedom of expression, equality, justice etc., in light of some of the perturberances inherent in Korean culture itself, like the lack of all of the above?

I mean I meet a lot of Westerners who seem to be in la la land and side with the Koreans but don't realize the reasons we ARE here or that our countries are based on democratic principles some people had to fight for?

Take, for instance, the discrimmination against blacks in Korea. How can I, as an American, just accept this? Wouldn't I be denying part of my identity if I were to side with the Koreans on this issue? Or how about being fat, or ugly? Yet I could've sworn that not long ago when I applied for a job here they asked me these very same questions: Are you white, fat, good looking? I should've hung up then and there.

But this is just the surface of things. On a deeper level I've had to struggle with my Americanism; Do I believe in George Bush, in the Iraqi War, in intervention in North Korea, in my own sense of justice, which are daily being downtrodden by the feet of the masses and the mass-minded here in Korea?

In other words, you have to kind of go it alone here and take an outside perspective on things, unless you believe what they do and are just apt to skip along chanting 'Tae-hae Han Min-guk' like those during the World Cup.
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sparkx



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: thekimchipot.com

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I would say that a monster is far more likely to emerge from someone who can ONLY live in his own culture and considers it superior.


I also think that an equally baneful monster is one that is incapable of being content and finding peace in a non-nomadic lifestyle. Years ago I would be impressed when someone would list the number of countries they've lived in. Now when I have those encounters and realize that the person is simply glorifying what is in fact an escapist personality I feel pity him/her.
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