“Um…I speak English?”

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I knew there was something I forgot to do!

It’s weird when you look JUST LIKE a bunch of people, but you know very little about their culture and ZILCH about their language. Which was basically my (and my brother’s) experience in South Korea. People understandably spent all their time speaking to us in Korean, while we flailed our arms around with dazed looks on our faces. It just became a daily way of life.

Go out, get talked to in Korean, awkwardly mime a bit and say, “English, sorry!”

Repeat x 50

Get back to the hotel, go to bed.

It wasn’t annoying and it wasn’t frustrating. It just happened each day and you got used to it. Sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was a little challenging (because it was hard to communicate as with any language barrier anywhere). It kind of became a bizarre social experiment. Sometimes I’d find myself separated from the pack (i.e. my family) and instead of feeling a bit nervous or overwhelmed (as I tend to do when out of my comfort zone in a strange place – I’m lame, I know), I quite enjoyed it. I just blended in and I felt like a secret agent or some kind of cool undercover ninja…OK…not quite, but it was fun! No-one saw me as out of place or ‘different’ or ‘foreign’ or anything. I walked around with this giddy feeling on the inside. Oooooh, I’m totally getting away with this!!! No-one blow my cover!

I had half heartedly downloaded a Korean language app right before the trip and sort of learnt how to say hello and thank you, because I thought it might help a bit (Koreans don’t know a lot of English), but after a little while I abandoned it completely because a) they couldn’t tell what I was saying in my Aussie accented butchering of their language or b) it actually made it HARDER to communicate because they would assume that my rudimentary ‘hello’ in Korean meant that I knew the whole language. Ignorance of the language kind of worked for me in the end! I suppose in my situation it would probably have had to have been an all or nothing scenario. I either would have to know the language inside out and have really done some hard work on it for a while prior to visiting or, my rather lazy technique of knowing/using sweet F.A. would suffice! 😛

On another note, something I felt while we were in Korea was a distinct lack of sleazy, sexist, yellow fever infested older white guys. Oh, you have no idea. It was bliss. In fact, I didn’t realise how gross it can really get at home and how used to it I was until there was a complete absence of it. No up and down lingering glances that make you want to go home and sanitise your whole being. No “I could own you like a trophy who will do my bidding” looks or “You’re fair game because you’re Asian and you’ll want me JUST because I’m white” looks at a bar. OK, so there was one a**hole at the Singapore airport. But that was it! And no, I’m not some kind of supermodel (bahahaha as if there was any question). It just happens because…it just does. Also, let me just clarify, these horrid guys are definitely a tiny minority, but they make their presence KNOWN, so can be hard to avoid in social situations sometimes.

I felt quite free and easy in Korea (apart from the whole ‘having a celebrity child’ thing). I had initially worried that I’d get over there and have nothing to make me stand out. That I’d feel ugly or boring in comparison to all of the other Korean people my age, simply because there would be a lot of ‘us’. Not to mention I have not had eye lid surgery or any cosmetic alterations to become more like a K-pop star (I kept hearing statistics and seeing documentaries on the topic)! The reality was that I felt none of those things. I felt normal. I enjoyed feeling average. The people I saw in the cities looked unaltered and natural, with a few who’d probably had subtle eye work done. It was strange and new to me, being so ‘normal’ and it was nice! Kind of relaxing or something. I guess I knew there’d be no racists there waiting to pop out of the woodwork. Perhaps I had accidentally gotten used to keeping my guard up just a little in public, not knowing who’s going to be an issue with their ‘opinions’ of Asians. I mean, we’ve all met a partner’s a**hole bogan work colleague or some jerk on public transport (as if we haven’t seen enough videos of that lately). In Korea, I knew it wouldn’t be an issue. And? If anyone wanted to incessantly ask me for my back story (like I get a lot at home – “Why do you look different? I demand to know!”), they wouldn’t be able to ask me and I wouldn’t be able to understand them hahaha.

I would never want to live anywhere but Australia, but I must say that it was fun looking the ‘same’ on a holiday. If I’d tried to live there, it might have been a different story…my brother and I joked that we are always asked why we’re different at home and we’d probably go over there and people would be confused about why we were different there too…but it was fun for a while and I’m grateful for the experience. I hadn’t really had that before in my life!

I didn’t buy too many clothes on our trip, but I did have to stop for this purchase later in Kyoto, Japan. I could not let myself walk past it. It was just too funny and summed up the whole experience!

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Nope. Definitely not a supermodel haha.

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