Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eyes on you!

One thing we have been unable to get used to in Korea is is being stared at. Sure, I have had some stares back home, but as soon as that person realised they have been caught staring they stop looking!! That is not the case in Korea!

Nope, you will catch someone staring...almost to the point that you are staring back at them...but they are unwavering and stare with an impressive amount of dedication.
At first we realised that we must look pretty odd, our features are very different and Korea is a very homogeneous society so being different is reason enough to stare!
Children do it all the time...just yesterday we went to the grocery store and a little girl (who could not have been older than 2) stared at us and followed our every move...so much so that I was left impressed by her concentration capabilities!
But it is not just children that stare! EVERYONE stares, in a way that is so blatant it is difficult to ignore. Here are a couple of our staring moments so far:
  • We were leaving our apartment building when a man inside his apartment noticed us walk by, after we had gone past his window he proceeded to stick his head out of the window and follow us for a good 5 minutes before we were out of sight. Yes we turned back and looked at him a couple of times, but this did not deter him, we were far too fascinating!

  • Oliver and I were in the back of a taxi at a traffic light when a fellow motorist noticed us. He drove up next to the taxi so that he was in line with us. He sat for a couple of minutes (traffic lights take forever here) just staring at us! He then plucked up enough courage to ask where we are from and give us his card!

  • On more that one occassion Oliver has scared women and young girls...not intentionally...it's just that his height appears to honestly frighten them. How do we know this...well, first they gasp and flinch, then they giggle, and then they stare, and stare, and stare just a little bit more.

These are just some of the many moments we have been stared at. The only place where we attracted very few gazes was in Seoul, but I guess you can expect a certain amount of multiculturalism in any big city!!!

The only thing that seems to break the unwavering gaze of people staring at us is if we greet them! Just a light bow of the head! However, sometimes not even this works.

So if ever you have wanted people to stop, stare ( and I mean really stare) and take notice of you when you walk into a shop, go grocery shopping or walk down the street...Korea is the place for you! You don't even need to get dressed up, you are special as you are.

Just remember, the people mean no harm and it should not be read as a sign of rudeness...rather they are curious! You are different and they are curious!!! Embrace it....

Post by Claudia


Anonymous said...

In Daegu waygukins are rarely starred at. Since EPIK introduced western teachers into almost every school our numbers have gone through the roof. One reflection of this for example, is in menus, you rarely see a menu without English under the Korean. Not too long ago you would only have found an English menu in MacDonalds-type fast food joint. I remember when Pohang bus terminal had no display information in English.

The area I live in probably has 30 waygukins living in it but in 2000 there were only four of us.Westerners then were much friendlier because there were so few, unless you lived near a military base, and you could go for weeks without seeing one. When you did you usually chatted. Now, I pass waygukins every day who will usually try their hardest not to notice you because you spoil their little image of being unique and exotic.

And at one time I was probably one of the fattest and tallest people in Daegu but with all them burger bars, fried, chicken and pizzas,I now see Koreans proportionately as fat as I on a daily basis.

The only way I can get a second glance now is to visit the bathhouse and then it's because the only naked waygukins they've seen are in pornfilms and they're all expecting me to be as equally endowed...

Interesting blog and great pics - I visit here regularly!

Claudia and Oliver said...

Hi there,

Thank you soi much for the wonderful comment!

There are quite a few foreigners in Wonju but we do get stared at a lot...Heehe! I guess things are differemt in different parts of the country.

When we were ion Gyeongju we hardly got looked at, but that is because the place was literally swarming with tourists. We did however, still get a good few loks when we were in Busan (a lot less than in Wonju though). So you are right, the more desensitized people are to how we look, the less they look!

Happy you enjoy the blog!!!!! It really is wonderful to get feedback from time to time!!!

Have a great day!

Claudia and Oliver said...
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