At the same time, in Austin’s Koreatown, a group of Koreans rushed into Austin Karaoke. The karaoke bar is owned by a Korean, and it is not difficult to find the Korean liquor soju there.
“There are few foreigner customers, most customers are Korean directly from Korea,” said Josh Lee, working at the karaoke bar.
We've had this conversation before:
August 11, 2009: "So were they American or Armenian?"
January 28, 2009: "Us versus them: More about 외국인."
It could be just a case of not knowing how to handle the word "외국인" in English, but then again Koreans do refer to non-Koreans as 외국인 in their native countries. This letter was written by a Korean studying at the University of Texas at Austin, and talks about the differences between American and Korean drinking culture. Being a student adds another layer to this, because I don't think it's uncommon to hear of Korean students hanging out exclusively with other Koreans when studying abroad.
There are several big differences between Koreans and Americans in terms of drinking. First, Korean culture is more closed than American. In other words Koreans usually hang out with only Koreans.
Here's a quotation from a student in Wisconsin:
“When we hang out with people from other countries, they don’t really speak formally, even in English, therefore I can hardly accept their different attitude from a Korean perspective."
I can appreciate how hard it is to make friends with people in a foreign country, though the difficulties are increased---whether as a foreign English teacher in Korea, or as a Korean student in the United States---when you hang out in segregated crowds. But when you've studied English for a decade and are still complaining about how English-speakers relate to each other, or when you have the opportunity to study at one of the better public universities in the nation and talk about "I can hardly accept," it's clear where the hang-up lies. I fully grant, though, that like in any article in an English-language publication in Korea, the quotations here could be fabricated, poorly translated, or partially remembered, but that doesn't change that they've appeared in print.
On that topic I recall a dissertation written by a Korean student at my old university that I wrote about in a February post. Titled Extra consciousness : role of anxiety in the self-concepts of South Korean students in the U.S. from a cultural perspective, it included quotations from other Korean students about their experiences in the US:
After some meetings she cried at the native speaker students' unfavorable attitude to her because
"In Malay, they are Asian, but in here, there are Whites, Blacks...I am just shrinking. In small community, Asian is not many, so Americans watch me, which makes me feeling bad. I wonder why they are watching me. I am daunted of myself."
. . .
As another unique point she tried to understand her 'unkind' native speaking American people. She made an effort to find similarity between their negative attitudes toward her and her experience in South Korea about other foreigners: "I looked at foreigners in Korea, too... There must be some parts that I misunderstood... I find that first; I must participate in their communication by myself. At first, I wanted them approaching to me. I thought they hesitated in approaching to me because of me, Asian. But I find that Americans are unnatural to meet new person. So, I think that I need to start talking and approach to them first."
. . .
If I go back to Korea, I might not come back again to America. America is like a fantastic amusement park, which seems interesting when seeing that from outside, but actually, entering inside of that, finally I found that there are few things that I can enjoy. Outside is pretty, inside is nothing, different from my expectation."
. . .
There is a limitation in relationships with American classmates. They have no Heart...I don't have any expectations of my American classmates. I prefer Internationals from the same Asian cultural background...It's not comfortable to Be around with Americans. They are too proud, and arrogant. Their smile and Kindness to strangers is good, but theirs are superficial.
Well, not surprising that they had a shitty time in rural Pennsylvania with such attitudes. I noticed in that dissertation and in many other sources I read that Koreans' anxiety abroad is often examined vis-a-vis English, and that the people they meet are looked at as simply native speakers, rather than complete people. I'm not going to base my whole thesis on a few people I've bumped into, but I recall reading a student's application for a study abroad program to Ohio, and his whole reason for going, and for getting an opportunity to spend a year in an American high school, was to improve his English, and he said so in just about every open-ended question on the application. It seems politically incorrect to suggest there are cultural factors that make it harder for a group to adapt to a new country or to a new language, and indeed the stuff I read in preparation for coming to Korea years ago didn't touch on that, but I think it's certainly worth exploring how Koreans' views on quote-unquote foreigners condition their experiences abroad.
On a different note, I'll close with this quotation from that student's letter:
“This is our way to drink and have fun at this party. Let’s chug!” said Kevin Schlosser, a 21-year-old sophomore, totally intoxicated.
That quotation has to be fabricated, and if that's how Korean students are learning how to speak at parties in Texas, it's no wonder they're hanging out by themselves.