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Does this happen to you...?
« on: September 07, 2011, 05:35:49 pm »
I'm in my second year in Korea and I was just wondering how common this is.

I am a african-american female and I eat lunch with / teach little 4 year-olds at my new school. Whenever we get a new one, they freak out majorly at the sight of me. They completely go berserk, panic and switch to survival mode  ::) They scream, run away, wail, hide -- the works. I promise I don't look like a monster but they sure act like I am one! They usually get over it after 2 or 3 weeks. I've never had any foreign friends talk about something like that either.

The thing is that this never happened at my old school. Both were schools in Gyeonggi-do (I don't want to name the cities, sorry) and my current school is in a city at least twice as big as the last one, and that's what confuses me!

Anyhow, it's hard to keep from laughing because it's so strange to me and I almost want to videotape them to show my family/friends back home what I'm talking about.


Re: Does this happen to you...?
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2011, 06:15:01 pm »
I'm caucasian and worked in a very rural school in Cheoncheonamdo and taught the kinders.  Never had that reaction, though the hair on my arms got a lot of press...

I don't say this meaning to be rude and I have black freinds myself (in the UK, or at least in my social groups black is equal to white, it's just the name of a colour so there's no issue over using it if you mean no bad by it) but when I was 5 I lived in the South of england and had never seen a blackperson before EVER.  A new boy came to our school who was black and it just spun us out, we couldn't get over it.  We spent the whole day stroking his hair, touching his arms etc and asking him questions such as 'is all of your body that colour? How did you get like that...?  Why are your hands lighter...?  etc...

This was in the early 80's, thirty years after the windrush immigration from the West Indies.

Here is Korea after practically zero immigration until very recently...

Anyhow, I know you weren't making a big deal out of it, just wonderign if others get the same reaction....

I just wrote my little ancedote to sow that even in a country with immigration from Inda, China, Pakistan and the West Indies, we were all very shocked an surprised when that boy joined our school.

I also remember a troupe of Native Americans came to visit our school and just looking at them made me fearful and I cried and had to sit on my teacher's lap!  I was about 5 years old also.


Re: Does this happen to you...?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2011, 12:23:39 pm »
I'm guessing from the lack of replies that it really isn't so common after all.

Unfortunately today we got yet another new one so now I have two of them basically doing the same thing. And surprisingly enough a class of five year olds apparently learned a new word, since they came in my classroom chanting "Ugly _____ teacher!"

It's crap like that that just really makes me hate this country. I'm about six months in, and the other foreign teacher left and won't be replaced so I'll be in it for what looks like a pretty lonely six months.

DWAEDGIMORIGUKBAP, I think it's one thing to be genuinely curious, but running away screaming and crying is a whole different matter. It would also make sense if it were only one kid, but it isn't. I'm thinking that these Korean kids are taught some pretty ugly things about people from a very young age, which is very sad. It makes me wonder if the rest of Asia is the same way...



  • sha
  • Waygookin

    • 22

    • September 06, 2011, 01:04:11 pm
    • South Korea
Re: Does this happen to you...?
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2011, 12:35:37 pm »
KOREANS STARE A LOT. it is very common here. Especially if you are a foreigner. It is not something that we foreigners are  used to. And to be honest, it can be really frustrating when you stand infront of the class and teaching, and all you get back are stares. My students stare a lot, they would stare at my clothes, face and pretty much read every finer details of my face and body.
You should record "your scene" and keep it with you. It can be a funny Korean memory.


  • Utopian
  • Newgookin

    • 2

    • September 25, 2011, 09:01:22 am
    • Korea
Re: Does this happen to you...?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2011, 09:42:53 am »
Hello, Telly.

I'm sorry to hear about your experiences, and I can TOTALLY understand where you'd be like, "I hate Korea" after having that happen to you.  To answer your question, I don't think your experience is atypical.  I've taught at universities and at hagwons.  When I taught at a hagwon, I was using American textbooks, which had lots of stories with African American characters.  When the kids saw the illustration of African American kids, they would freak out over their hair, skin color, facial characteristics, etc.  I tried to use it as a "teachable moment," letting them know that the braids were "dreadlocks," and saying it was very pretty, etc.  I don't know if it did a lot, but I tried.  On the plus side, now that Obama is in office, the kids have a tendency to equate every black male they see with Obama.  "Look!", they say, "Obama!" And, as a heads up, whenever the kids looked at the pictures of the white characters in their stories, the most general consensus was that they were "fat" and "ugly." 

If dealing with that kind of response gets tiring, maybe you can try moving onto a university setting.  It's a more productive atmosphere, since the older teens/twenty-year-olds are generally more aware of issues revolving around race, and they enjoy particular aspects of African or African American culture, like rap movies, jazz, fashion, etc.  I remember I was teaching a class when "Wonder Girls" was popular, and I got lots of movie reviews focusing on the "horrible" history America has regarding race.  Though the essays were written in a hypocritical tone, which suggested Korea has never had to grapple with it's own issues of racism, it was nevertheless refreshing to see the sentiments expressed.

Good luck to you.