April 23, 2014, 10:13:22 PM


Author Topic: Teachers talking about you in Korean  (Read 2110 times)

Offline releitse88

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Teachers talking about you in Korean
« on: January 30, 2013, 03:01:15 PM »
Hey everyone,

Like many of us, I have encountered several cases where teachers have talked about me openly in front of my face, all in Korean. Often I have no idea what they're saying, but usually it happens a more social-like context (usually involving eating) when I can guess the context of the conversation.

It usually starts when they examine what I'm doing (eating) and then start talking about me for the next 5 minutes. I know enough Korean to understand that they're talking about me and foreigners, and sometimes they would laugh. It's really starting to bother me, especially when I hear the generalized term "waygookin" (NOT 원어민 or 카나다 사람), and I feel it is rude for them to openly talk about me.

Lately it's been particularly bad. Since winter holidays started, the teachers have been bringing their own lunches because the cafeteria is closed. In accordance to my new year's resolution, I've decided to reduce the amount of carbohydrates and eat more vegetables and lean meats in my meals. With that goal, I've been bringing my own veggie and protein-packed lunch, and while I still eat with the teachers, I haven't been eating the communal servings of white rice and kimchi eaten by everyone. Of course, this has made me stand out more, and has naturally turned me more into a conversation target.

The first time I brought my lunch and opened up the container, all the teachers just stared at my food and burst out laughing. I didn't quite know how to react- my only thought was that I shouldn't confront them as it would just make the situation more awkward. Since then, every time I bring in my lunch or refuse to eat the rice, it prompts another 5 minute long conversation involving my name (and that word - waygookin).

I do realize that eating is a very social and communal thing in Korea, and perhaps I made things a little awkward for them by eating something different. But the bottom line of my irritation is, why must they continue to laugh and talk about me right in front of my face? I almost want to confront them and tell them that it bothers me, but I'm afraid that will just worsen the situation and embarrass the teachers. I managed to explain to the principal (the only person at that table who understood English) why I was eating this way, but that didn't seem to change anything.

So I guess my question is, has anyone else dealt with a similar situation? What did you do? Am I just being too sensitive, and with that being said, should I just ignore it from now on?

How do you react when other teachers talk about you in Korean, right in front of your face?

Offline Hongsam

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2013, 03:14:20 PM »
Sorry to say it, but nothing you do is going to change the lack of social skills of your co-workers. It grinds at one, doesn't it. Every little thing you do DIFFERENTLY from them will be commented on. You're just going to have to accept it. I'm not saying it's all Koreans that do this but it's pretty common.

Offline Mark van

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2013, 03:28:56 PM »
I remember once I had a calendar on my desk and I would cross off the days. Doing this became an open discussion with 7 other teachers in my office block. My co-teacher who was there had to take the calendar off my desk to stop the other teachers from laughing. It was really embarrassing and frustrating at the same time. But I got over it and I don't care so much anymore if they talk about me.

Now if I hear my name I ask someone in the group who can speak English to translate. That quickly got people to stop saying random or insensitive things about me.

Offline Marie Brown

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2013, 03:33:01 PM »
Good luck with the lunch thing.  I don't eat seafood of any kind, and at my first public school, this was a topic of conversation every single day at lunchtime.  I know it's weird, and I can understand them asking about it the first few times, but when I've been there for a year...

At my current school I just bring my own lunch and eat in my room.  I don't care if it makes me look antisocial; I'm not going to sit there and politely smile at the same inane comments for an entire year.  Plus, it means lunchtime is actually enjoyable rather than chaotic and stressful. 

Offline iamrhart

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2013, 03:34:46 PM »
Living in Korea, i have noticed you are the guest. English is not their native language, and they will try to talk as little as possible (unless practicing). They could have been talking about you on a positive note, they could have been talking about you on a negative note, or they could have been talking about a different 'waygook'. Don't take things too personal.

1) if they REALLY wanted to compliment you, they would find the words to use.
2) if they REALLY wanted to insult you, they would do it with a rather 'indirect' quote. such as "your hair looks good after you shower. you should try using shampoo"....its a double-sided comment. they are saying your hair looks good. but they are also saying you should wash better.    its all how you perceive it. "Glass half-full" or "glass half empty".

also, you, the English Teacher are a 'limited edition'. they will stare, they will talk about you behind your back, or they will yell to you, just because they are interested. old people stare. young people stare and mutter to their parents/friends "ooooh, waygookin! Ohma (opa) Ohma (opa), Waygookin"

just smile, nod, and say "anyoung haseyo, na, waygookin. (add your country) saram". this astonishes them. and i have seen numerous older people and younger people go BEET RED because of it.

Offline releitse88

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2013, 03:34:53 PM »
I remember once I had a calendar on my desk and I would cross off the days. Doing this became an open discussion with 7 other teachers in my office block. My co-teacher who was there had to take the calendar off my desk to stop the other teachers from laughing. It was really embarrassing and frustrating at the same time. But I got over it and I don't care so much anymore if they talk about me.

Now if I hear my name I ask someone in the group who can speak English to translate. That quickly got people to stop saying random or insensitive things about me.

Yeah, might start doing that. Today I was in a particularly irritated mood (hence the reason why I finally decided to post my rant) and stared at people blankly when they said my name, prompting them to translate.

It's really annoying that even the simplest thing can be such a spectacle.

Offline fishead

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2013, 03:40:43 PM »
 Either learn to ignore it or learn  to speak and understand Korean. It's going to happen regardless of whether they like you or not.

Offline CorbenDallas

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2013, 03:50:16 PM »
I mostly ignore it.  It happens far too often to let it bother you (you will just end up going insane or hating nearly everyone you meet).

That being said, I am in checkout mode.  FINAL STRETCH.  I know it's pretty bad, but I have taken to giving them a taste of their own medicine.  The latest example is that I have been growing a winter break beard cause it is winter break and why not.  They take about it amongst themselves and occasionally giggle.  Of course most Korean people don't like it, so they eventually ask why I would grow one.  My answer:  "(nonchalantly) It's something men do." 
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 03:56:39 PM by CorbenDallas »

Offline silkysmooth

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2013, 03:52:01 PM »
If they want to talk, let them talk. Nothing here is to be taken too seriously. Just earn, save, and evacuate.

Offline asalchert@gmail.com

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2013, 03:56:25 PM »
It's probably too late to do this, but who knows - it definitely worked for me:

My temporary co-teacher was brilliant at curbing this rude behavior. Bless her, she did something so subtle, so perfectly well that it has made my last months here ten times easier.
She told the other teachers that I knew enough Korean to understand if they were saying good or bad things (about me or about anything). Now, they are all skiddish and watch their tongues. At first I thought maybe this would be a disasterous mistake by telling them that, but now I realize she really did me a favor.
She left and I played along with the game. Occasionally I reply to something because I understand the context and a few words. Then I "pretend" I don't understand anything else. Keeps the suspicion alive. My current coteacher looks at me suspiciously and says: "I think you understand Korean." I just respond: "Mooola-yo...." LOL
But no one is postive. Everyone smiles, says hello and keeps their conversation to something else untill I leave the room. I'm sure I'm gossiped about at length, but as long as I'm not in the room, who cares?
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 04:06:47 PM by asalchert@gmail.com »

Offline taewon

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2013, 03:59:23 PM »
I remember once I had a calendar on my desk and I would cross off the days. Doing this became an open discussion with 7 other teachers in my office block. My co-teacher who was there had to take the calendar off my desk to stop the other teachers from laughing. It was really embarrassing and frustrating at the same time. But I got over it and I don't care so much anymore if they talk about me.

Now if I hear my name I ask someone in the group who can speak English to translate. That quickly got people to stop saying random or insensitive things about me.
Why did they think it was so funny?
"One year they asked me to be poster boy - for birth control."
Rodney Dangerfield

Offline teachermc

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2013, 05:08:59 PM »
If they want to talk, let them talk. Nothing here is to be taken too seriously. Just earn, save, and evacuate.

I agree with several, but this one is probably the most concise.

Korean school office chatter is just that - chatter.  When they are not passing the time they should be using to prepare for classes shopping or playing [insert random sport], they will be happy to use you as a conversation starter. 

It is pitiful how little people sometimes seem to know themselves and each other.  Part of having a strict social structure is having to represent yourself falsely so often that there doesn't seem to be space for being a person.  Believe it or not, it is easier (and possibly even more beneficial) socially for them to start/join in on a conversation about you in your presence than it would be to go up to you and try to have a conversation.

Right now, my coworkers are starting the "____ is so expensive, isn't it?" talk which follows their "Which food is the most tasty?" discussion.

Offline deanitsin

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2013, 02:27:36 PM »
I speak Korean at a conversational level, and I don't mean a taxi driver directions conversation. I started learning partially because I wanted to be closer to my coworkers. Now, I keep it to myself as much as possible, because I don't want to be drawn into the utterly pointless conversations that go on constantly. They're fine enough for Korean practice, but they are pointless. Obviously this is just like with any other work place anywhere in the world -- you have the small group of people who have anything of interest to say to you, and then there are all the others just killing time chattering about nothing. The difference is that in Korea we have the luxury of being excluded from a lot of it, if we want.

Anyway, the point is, every day I sit at lunch and hear the conversation going on around me, without my coworkers knowing to what extent I can understand. Almost every single day, if it's a group I don't regularly socialize with, there is commentary on what and how much I'm eating and how I'm eating it and how all of these things are because/in spite of the fact that I'm a foreigner. How they heard there isn't much of this kind of food in America, so that's why I must not be eating much of it. How I put an awful lot of gochujang on my rice, and how I can eat spicy food well, because I've been in Korea for so long. And so on and so on and so on and on and on. It is literally nothing. Nothing to get stressed over, one way or another. They are talking about you, but they are saying absolutely nothing. Be glad you're spared having to listen to it day in and day out.

Offline ajr30

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2013, 02:40:30 PM »
I speak Korean at a conversational level, and I don't mean a taxi driver directions conversation. I started learning partially because I wanted to be closer to my coworkers. Now, I keep it to myself as much as possible, because I don't want to be drawn into the utterly pointless conversations that go on constantly. They're fine enough for Korean practice, but they are pointless. Obviously this is just like with any other work place anywhere in the world -- you have the small group of people who have anything of interest to say to you, and then there are all the others just killing time chattering about nothing. The difference is that in Korea we have the luxury of being excluded from a lot of it, if we want.

Anyway, the point is, every day I sit at lunch and hear the conversation going on around me, without my coworkers knowing to what extent I can understand. Almost every single day, if it's a group I don't regularly socialize with, there is commentary on what and how much I'm eating and how I'm eating it and how all of these things are because/in spite of the fact that I'm a foreigner. How they heard there isn't much of this kind of food in America, so that's why I must not be eating much of it. How I put an awful lot of gochujang on my rice, and how I can eat spicy food well, because I've been in Korea for so long. And so on and so on and so on and on and on. It is literally nothing. Nothing to get stressed over, one way or another. They are talking about you, but they are saying absolutely nothing. Be glad you're spared having to listen to it day in and day out.

That reminds of a friend who finally returned to the States after his contract ended. He said the one thing he really missed about Korea was not knowing what people talked about. Now when he goes out, he can hear stupid people say stupid things. But in Korea, his ignorance spared him.

Offline orangemint

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2013, 03:10:10 PM »
I don't know if it's just my perspective but I ate lunch with three other English teachers during break and it was great. I brought my homemade lunches and they were all something an American would eat. We ate together and everyone shared. I ate their food and they ate mine. Sure it was a major topic of conversation but we're all friendly.

People talk about me at school and I understand enough to know what they're talking about. I don't think that I'm at some minority school where people are friendly and they aren't at other schools. It just doesn't bother me that they talk about me. The other English teachers know that I understand a lot so maybe that would curb anything negative. They don't have a lot of reasons to talk negatively about me because I don't interact with most of them but if I were you I wouldn't worry about it. As long as you aren't being offensive, and they aren't doing something that really lessens your quality of life, why worry about it?

Offline pigeonfart

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2013, 11:11:38 AM »
If they want to talk, let them talk. Nothing here is to be taken too seriously. Just earn, save, and evacuate.
It is pitiful how little people sometimes seem to know themselves and each other.  Part of having a strict social structure is having to represent yourself falsely so often that there doesn't seem to be space for being a person.  Believe it or not, it is easier (and possibly even more beneficial) socially for them to start/join in on a conversation about you in your presence than it would be to go up to you and try to have a conversation.

Well said. Insightful too^^

Offline WillisJones

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2013, 12:55:15 PM »
That reminds of a friend who finally returned to the States after his contract ended. He said the one thing he really missed about Korea was not knowing what people talked about. Now when he goes out, he can hear stupid people say stupid things. But in Korea, his ignorance spared him.

Oh god, THIS! For my winter vacation I went back to the UK and around Europe to see some old friends. Being able to understand the utter BS spouted by people around you in bars/restaurants and trains/planes was just excruciating after not being in that situation for a while. The volume of "background english" seemed so much higher than before I left. I forgot how much sh*t my fellow English could talk. Not understanding or blocking out background conversations makes for a surprisingly peaceful life here.

I got a great bit of advice in my first week in Korea, a good psychotic stare is worth more than all the shouting you can muster when disciplining the kids. You can apply this to when you think people are talking jack about you infront of your face.
I call it my "I understand that, bitch" face

Offline Jrong

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2013, 02:01:27 PM »
If they want to talk, let them talk. Nothing here is to be taken too seriously. Just earn, save, and evacuate.

I agree with several, but this one is probably the most concise.

Korean school office chatter is just that - chatter.  When they are not passing the time they should be using to prepare for classes shopping or playing [insert random sport], they will be happy to use you as a conversation starter. 

It is pitiful how little people sometimes seem to know themselves and each other.  Part of having a strict social structure is having to represent yourself falsely so often that there doesn't seem to be space for being a person.  Believe it or not, it is easier (and possibly even more beneficial) socially for them to start/join in on a conversation about you in your presence than it would be to go up to you and try to have a conversation.

Right now, my coworkers are starting the "____ is so expensive, isn't it?" talk which follows their "Which food is the most tasty?" discussion.
:laugh:

Good stuff.
"When in doubt...ask Troglodyte" ~0mnslnd

Offline kimchitoothpaste

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Re: Teachers talking about you in Korean
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2013, 03:37:10 PM »

 

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