4 Koreanisms I Keep Confusing Americans With

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I’ve been travelling around the East Coast of the US for 2.5 weeks now and feel amazing. Even though America isn’t home, it definitely makes me feel comfortable and at ease when I’m here. I feel like me again.

People love to imitate my accent here and point out the differences in the way we say things, and it’s hilarious. I can get away with a lot by being the ‘weird foreigner’ but, much to my surprise, there are a few Koreanisms – Korean cultural mannerisms – I’ve manage to pick up that are also shining through.

1. Bowing

I keep going to bow when saying ‘thank you’ to people and then suddenly halting when I realise what I’m doing. It just ends with me hunched over and staring directly at the person in a kind of deer in headlights way.

2. Greeting everyone when I walk into a place

Last night I walked into a 7-Eleven and exclaimed “Good evening” to the two people at the checkout. One frowned and the other looked at me as if to say, “Oh great. The crazy lady’s here.”

Hellooooo, everyone! I'm heeeeeerrrre!!!

Hellooooo, everyone! I’m heeeeeerrrre!!!

3. Removing my shoes

I traipsed through Cerena’s mother’s house in my boots yesterday and it felt so wrong. I felt rude and dirty and just uggghhh.

Today my boots are also right next to the hotel room door. I had no idea this had suddenly become a thing for me.

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4. Being overly girly when flirting

So let me introduce you to me: I’m a tough ass chick who can hold her own anywhere. I don’t really change a whole lot when I flirt except to perhaps be a bit more friendlier than normal because my theory is, if you like me, you like me for who I am normally.

Then why am I suddenly turning into a dainty, bashful girly girl when I flirt these days? And everyone who’s lived in Korea knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the same overly-feminine daintiness that girls there are brainwashed into doing.

Someone ought to slap me.

Twenty Eight

mosiac1A few days ago, I celebrated the beginning of my 28th year.

In the morning I got to visit and tour around the Yankee Stadium – Something which I had to keep restraining myself from squealing over. I never thought I’d become a huge sports fan. I was raised with football in the house (living with die-hard Liverpool F.C. supporters) and in a country where rugby is everything. And while I have total respect for both games, I never really followed and enjoyed it enough to call myself a big fan.

But baseball? Oh boy.

The Kia Tigers are my local team in Korea and the Yankees are my main team in America. I was in baseball heaven.

Afterwards, I was treated to lunch at the famous Serendipity 3 restaurant on the Upper East Side. Around the holidays, the wait to get in to that place can be anything from 2-4 hours. Luckily, this time, we only had to hang around for 40 minutes and it was definitely worth it.

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Witnessing the difference in attitudes between residents of The Bronx (home of the stadium) and the UES, however, was a hell of a cultural lesson.

Watching the way the customers at Serendipity interacted with the staff and each other was like watching a film and I couldn’t quite believe that people like this actually exist. I always assumed that films were full of caricatures but the fact that they’re closer to reality than we think is a little startling.

The Bronx had a grounded, almost at-home feeling about it in that the people reminded me of Port Talbot – full of good humour, a little fire, and, most of all, a sense of normality. The Upper East Side was full of WASPS carrying around their Little, Medium or Big Brown Bags, swaddled in furs and diamonds, having the most mundane conversations imaginable.

It’s an interesting look at two very different worlds that’re so close to each other. But I guess the same could be said for a lot of cities.

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9 of my Favourite Things About New York City

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I am awake at a ridiculously early time this morning given that it’s the first Monday of my vacation and I was up late last night playing drinking games. The subway trains are chugging by outside and I can already hear neighbours leave for work.

In case you didn’t know, I’m in New York. It’s winter vacation and I came to visit a few friends in America for most of the month of January.

Being back here gives me a different feeling than last time. I’m no longer wandering around wide-eyed and in awe of everything around me. When I first came here two years ago, I was overwhelmed by the fact that everything looked just the way I imagined it would be; Just the way old films paint it. This time I knew what to expect and that’s actually pretty comforting.

So, as I’m trying to get back into blogging more regularly this year, I thought I’d very quickly attempt a list of some of my favourite things about the Big Apple:

1) Being able to order good food at any time

Right now it’s coming up to 8am and I’m about to order us breakfast. My darling bestie, Cerena, is sleeping soundly and I can only imagine how big that hangover of hers will be when she wakes up (We drank a lot last night). Rather than have to get dressed and ready for the day before we finally get some starch and caffeine in us, I’m letting the food come to us and ordering it online.

I love this. You just couldn’t do this in the UK. But here? Food available from somewhere 24/7.

And the take out here is nothing like the takeaways back home. Back home if you want food delivered, you get pizza or some substandard version of Chinese or Indian. Here you get real food. An actual restaurant will deliver real meals to your door. Heaven.

If I lived here, I’d never cook again.

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Books Read in 2014

For the first time in years, I finally got down to reading again. (Thank you, Kindle! And thank you to my mum for giving me her old one.) I haven’t read this much since 2010 and, even though I lost interest in the written word for a while there, I still managed a good amount. This year, I’m hoping to increase that number even more and make it to 40 books.

1) I Forgot to Be Famous by Almie Rose

2) John by Cynthia Lennon

3) Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (re-read)

4) Almost French: A New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

5) Korea, Are You at Peace?: Tales of Two Women Travelers in a Troubled Land by J. A. V. Simson

6) Pink Bits by Kat George

7) I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner

8) Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed: And Other Cracked Tales by Bruce Lord & Elisabeth Richards

9) Kurt Cobain: Journals

10) I Met the Walrus by Jerry Levitan

11) Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething’s (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood by Alida Nugent

12) Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd

13) Threepenny Memoir: The Lives of a Libertine by Carl Barât

14) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

15) Unfaithfully Yours: Confessions of a Cheating Bitch by Chrystal Rose

16) Paper Towns by John Green

17) Black White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker

18) Once Upon a Star: Celebrity Kiss and Tell Stories by Peggy Trentini

19) Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby

20) The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

21) The Fault in our Stars by John Green

22) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

23) Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

24) Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

25) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

26) I Me Mine by George Harrison

27) Skywriting by Word of Mouth by John Lennon

28) Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions by Christian Launder

29) Through Gypsy Eyes by Kathy Etchingham

30) A Date with a Beatle by Judith Kristen

31) Miss O’Dell by Chris O’Dell

32) #YesAllWomen: A Collection edited by Ella Ceron

33) Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

34) Push by Sapphire

Tried & Abandoned (but will also try again in 2015)

1) Just Kids by Patti Smith

2) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Favourite Reads of 2014: 

+ Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby

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+ Miss O’Dell by Chris O’Dell

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The End of a Generically Awful Year & Some Awfully Generic Resolutions

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Well, here we are.

2014 is coming to a close and, if I’m honest, I’m happy to see the back of it. This year hasn’t been the best for me and, for the first time, I’m going to let you in on why this blog came to a bit of a standstill in the last 9 months.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I lost my writing mojo. Any idea I’d had for a piece of writing was quickly dismissed by that stupid dark cloud I let follow me around for the majority of the year.

Yup, ladies and gents. I don’t mind saying now that I may have been suffering from a touch of depression.

Crying fits; Waves of constant exhaustion; Dread at leaving my apartment; Irritableness; Complete lack of interest in anything; More crying fits.

It hasn’t been pretty.

I don’t really know what brought it all on but I do know that it can’t have been helped by a few factors: The mountain of bad personal events that happened within the first few months of my arrival; Getting physically ill for most of the summer; Gaining a lot of weight; And experiencing quite a bit of extreme culture shock.

And the worst thing was that I was scared to tell anyone the truth. I didn’t want to admit defeat and that I could feel myself spiraling back into the depressive state from 8 years ago. Not after finally growing up to become a confident, self-assured adult who was ready to take on the world.

Every foreign teacher I met here was having the time of their life; Korea was the bees’ knees for them. Friends from back home would write me about how brave I was and that they wished they could go off and do something like this.

But, for me, it was like the clichéd nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. Dramatic, eh?

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War Is Over If You Want It

glassesTears today. 34 years gone. Gun violence is still rampant in the USA.

He sang about peace just 11 years earlier but, if 2014’s taught us anything, it’s that that is something we don’t have.

I think of all my friends scared to return to their homeland. I think of all the people living in fear in the USA. I think of everyone in Mexico. And I think of those I left behind in the UK.

I hope for all my my fellow women and men, living abroad or in their homelands, facing the harsh realities of how cruel the world and those who run it can be that they’re staying safe and doing all they can to make a positive change.

2015 has to be the turning point for everyone.

War continues but we can stop it. We must stop it.

Being Gay in Korea

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Anyone from a Western country will tell you that being part of the LGBT community has its issues. While the society I grew up in is now much more tolerable and has finally legalised gay marriage, it can’t be denied that homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia is still rampant. As much as we like to think we know our loved ones well, coming out is still a huge decision that changes everything. We never know how people are going to react; We never know if being honest about ourselves is only going to sever ties to those we’re close to.

I was lucky that the people in my life held no amount of judgement towards me. But I’ve also been a victim of the biphobia that comes from the heterosexual, gay, and lesbian communities in Britain. And while the ignorance and hate is hurtful, it is avoidable.

I won’t be sentenced to prison or death if I meet a woman and get involved in a relationship with her. I can sleep safe in the knowledge that my life isn’t in any danger from those around me or the government.

Things are different here in South Korea.

The first time the subject of homosexuality came up between me and my co-teacher, her response was simply that, “That doesn’t happen here.”

That doesn’t happen.

This province is apparently free of all gay people.

Right.

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Unfortunately being gay is still a taboo subject here. I’m fairly certain most people know that there are gay people in this country but, like a lot of things, it just isn’t talked about. A lot of people are actually quite open-minded and accepting but there’s no denying that big dark shadow that blankets a lot of society’s views.

You’ve only got to look at what happens to public figures if they’re honest about their private lives. I mean, we’re talking about much-loved celebrities.

After model Ji-hoo Kim came out in 2008, his management dropped him and he lost all of his sponsorships. He later hung himself. He was only 23. When actor  Seok-cheon Hong came out in 2000, he lost all of his sponsors too. He ended up opening a restaurant to which people would warn others away from, saying they’d get AIDS if they ate there.

kimjihoo2Photo Credit.

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