Many of you reading this know me as that guy who's always spamming his recycled book ads on Twitter. Others of you may know me (or will hopefully soon come to know me) as the writer of hilarious fantasy novels and short stories. I'm both of those things, and until I can convince more of you to buy my books, I'm also a guy who teaches English in South Korea.
It's been suggested a few times that I write a blog post about what it's like to live in Korea, but I've always shied away from the idea, because my life here isn't particularly interesting. I've got a wife, two kids, a dog, an apartment, and a job. That barely leaves me with enough time to write, much less have fantastic Korean-style adventures. My life here isn't really any different than I expect it would be wherever I was in the world.
I guess I eat significantly more Korean food than I would elsewhere, but if that's what you want to read about, there are far better places than here.
After thinking about it for a while, I couldn't think of much in the way of self-publishing that was specific to living in Korea. But are there any specific groups of people in Korea who deserve to be told to eat a dick?
Korea isn't typically considered one of the top tourist destinations in the world. It has no Great Walls or Great Pyramids. Its two most famous foods are cabbage and dog (For the record, Korean food is actually fantastic). It doesn't even have the draw of crazy porn that its neighbor, Japan, offers. (No defensive remark here. Korean porn is atrociously dull.)
Its own attempts at making itself look like a place a tourist might want to visit only serve to make it look sadder.
What Korea does have, however, is money and a thirst for learning English.
This combination of high supply (of English teaching jobs available) and little demand (of people whose first choice of overseas travel is Korea) makes for some low standards.
Consequently, Korea tends to attract a more... colorful sort of expat. And while you may happen upon the occasional well-adjusted, intelligent, and sane foreigner on the street, the following are more common and far more fun to write about.
1. The Expert
This person flipped through a Lonely Planet guide on the flight over, and knows everything there is to know about their host country's people and culture upon landing. The Expert will constantly seek to inform and educate you, making observations about Koreans' behaviors based on some bullshit they read somewhere.
I was in a bar once, and a heated argument broke out between two young Korean men. Without any hesitation at all, the Expert at my table (He might have been in Korea for two weeks at that point) informed us that the fight was probably caused by the younger of the two men disrespecting his elder by using the wrong honorific ending to a sentence.
While it's true that the language includes these honorifics, meant to convey different levels of respect between speaker and listener, breaches of honorific etiquette do not commonly result in violent confrontation.
None of us knew what all the shoving and shouting was about. Maybe one of those guys cornholed the other's girlfriend. I don't know. But I do know that honorific endings to sentences come at the bottom of a long list of potential catalysts for two drunk men to get into an altercation at a bar.
2. The Miserable Bastard
This person has nothing but contempt for Korea. They hate everything about it, but stubbornly refuse to leave. This is probably the most common douchebag on the list, and if you're interested in enjoying your stay here, it's best to avoid them. Conversations with a Miserable Bastard don't often stray far from complaining about how much Korea sucks. Mention something cool or interesting you saw, and the Miserable Bastard will roll his eyes and tell you about a much more impressive equivalent in his home country.
The Miserable Bastard is only interested in bringing you down to his own level of misery. Steer clear.
3. The White Savior
Much like the Miserable Bastard, the White Savior hates just about everything and everyone Korean, but he is much more obnoxious in how he expresses himself.
You can find the White Savior on message boards and Facebook groups for expats in Korea. He'll be the one boasting about how he heroically set some Korean straight, his chest-thumping bravado meant to elicit a virtual "High five, bro!" from others of his ilk. Maybe he slapped the cigarette out of a man's mouth who was smoking near a playground. Maybe he tackled a fried chicken delivery man who was riding his motorcycle through a park. Or maybe he chased down and flipped over a car with his bare Caucasian hands because it ran a red light.
And almost without exception, the Koreans who witnessed these acts of heroism applauded the White Savior, praising him for shedding light on their inferior, backward culture.
How many of these stories are exaggerated or outright fabricated? I don't know, and honestly don't care. I'm more interested in what's implied in the stories.
The White Savior isn't just here to teach Koreans English. He's here to teach them the ways of his own superior culture. He's here to save these ignorant, ungrateful cave-people from themselves.
4. The Psychopath
Little is known about this person's life before moving to Korea, though you strongly suspect it ended with a dead hooker, an abandoned car, two cans of gasoline, a match, and a hastily-purchased plane ticket.
While the mandatory criminal background check gives you some assurance that he hasn't done hard time in his own country under the name he's currently going by, you can't help but wonder how much of the DNA in the stains on his one wife-beater shirt which constitutes his entire off-work wardrobe actually belongs to him.
When he's in a good mood, you can look forward to forcing out an uncomfortable chuckle while he beguiles you with stories of his exploits over the weekend, which sound like borderline confessions of rape.
When the psychopath is in a bad mood, which can be triggered at any time by any innocuous comment or perceived slight, just make sure there are plenty of witnesses around, and you'll probably make it out alive.
5. The Political Guy
You don't need to go to Korea to find this douchebag. Go to Facebook right now, and he'll be there, spraying link-bukakke all over your feed about the evils of the political party opposing the one he supports.
On Facebook, the Political Guy is easy enough to ignore. You can unfollow him if you don't want to go all out and unfriend him. But after a long, stressful day of trying to teach English to kids who don't give a shit about learning it, you want to kick back at your favorite neighborhood bar with a cold beer and turn your brain off for a while. The last thing you need is to be bombarded with an endless stream of armchair political analysis.
There is literally nothing else that this asshole wants to talk or think about. People's faces could be melting off all around you like ark-opening Nazis, and he'd start going on about global warming. North Korea could be invading, exploding artillery shells shaking the whole bar, and he'd start in on a Cold War tirade. Some random girl could walk in the bar and repeatedly beg him for cock, but that's not the Bush he wants to blast.
Even if you agree with his politics, you'll get so sick of hearing about them that you'll just start to nod your head and fantasize about shoving the bottom end of your beer bottle in his mouth... well, that and the girl with the cock obsession.
6. The Sleazebag
This is the guy with the Asian fetish. Korea is his candy store, and he intends to dip his dong into as much of that candy as possible.
Depending on his strategy, the Sleazebag may be found hopping from bar to bar and club to club in expat-heavy areas of Seoul like Itaewon or Hongdae (where he will find himself among a higher concentration of more free-spirited Korean girls who are more likely to speak some English and be interested in meeting foreign men) or hopping from bar to bar near his home (where there will be fewer foreign men to compete with).
To his credit, the Sleazebag is probably the most fun to hang out with of all the douchebags on this list. If he's lousy at picking up girls, watching a tirelessly optimistic drunk get repeatedly shot down can be entertaining. And if, as the night winds down and the selection of available women gets slimmer and slimmer (while the available women themselves tend to go the other way), some Jabba-like beast rolls her eyes and says "Fine, let's go.", you can always laugh at him the next morning after he sobers up and comes to terms with what he woke up next to.
Ah, those were the days.