Inspire me and I'll inspire you
Out of all my post that I’ve made the one that gets the most hits is my post that I talk about being an Asian American (non-Korean) living in Korean. (check it out here) First let me make a disclaimer, this is just my experience and it doesn’t speak for any one else. I did write the first blog back my first year living in Korea so I wanted to give a little update on that post.
So here we go, quick background of me. I’m Thai American. Both my parent are from Thailand and I was born and raised in America. My mom immigrated to America in her teens, while my dad immigrated to America in his late 20’s. They actually met in LA and got married in LA. Unlike many of my aunts and uncles, and cousins, they didn’t meet in Thailand or marry in Thailand. I always assumed growing up that my parents were US citizens, it was until I took an Asian American Immigration class in college that I realized my parents weren’t always US citizens and it was until I was in elementary school that they became naturalized citizens.
Traveling has allowed me to meet other people from different parts of the world. But there’s just a thing when you meet another American while aboard, you have an automatic bond, but in reality you may never had been friends with this person in the first place. But you bond with that person and you share stories of your experiences both from home and from aboard. So here’s an update of being an Asian (Thai) American living in Korea.
The start of this school year I moved to a new city that I was living for the past 3 years, kind of a big switch for me. I went from to my country side military town to my new university town city. My community that I interact with now is different from when I first started living in Korea. My everyday interaction (minus my school life) with Koreans now is a younger age group, I live right next a college campus and two environments are completely different.
So heres what’s changed for me. My Korean has improved greatly for one. I took Korean classes at the local YMCA for about a year. It still takes some time for me to read and write in Korean but it has improved a great deal. I want to say that I understand about 80-90% of a full Korean conversation. My pronuncation in Korean isn’t half bad too. Most Koreans are pretty surprised. That’s when they ask me when I’m from. The conversation goes the same way every time:
Korean person : “Oh, your Korean is very good! Where are you from”
Me: “I’m from America” (In Korean)
Korean person : *looks at me with a confused looked “But really where are you from?”
Me: “I’m from America. But my parents are from Thailand” (in Korean)
Korean person: “ahh”
For most Koreans, the only exposure they get to Westerners/American people is though the media (TV, Movies, Music, etc.) I don’t fix the typical ideal of an American person: tall, blue eyes, and blond hair. I’m Asian American, I have the physical features of an Asian person. More recently, while on dates with my boyfriend (who is Korean) we will get asked if he is Korean. When he replies yes I’m Korean, why do you ask? The answer for the most part is “oh because you speak Korean very well with your girlfriend, I wasn’t sure.” He answers well my girlfriend is from American she isn’ Korean.” My boyfriend and I speak a mix of English and Korean when we talk to one another it’s very natural for us to change between the two languages. Even thought I have the physical features of an Asian women, those features are not of a Korean women. I have tan skin, curly hair, and a curvey body. Just dating my Korean boyfriend I get questioned of my ethnic background.
Just yesterday, as I walked into my 5th period class (3rd graders) and I as prepared for class (getting my powerpoints ready, writing the key expressions on the the board) my students asked me in Korean “Teacher, you’re American right?” When I told they were correct a roar came over the classroom of “see I told you she’s from America” and “Teacher really your from America.” Once again, I had to tell my students that my parents are from Thailand. The next question is “then Teacher are you from Thailand?” No, guys I’m still from America. My parents are the ones from Thailand. So that makes me Thai American.
In reality, it doesn’t matter if it my elementary students or a stranger on the streets I’m going to get ask about my ethnic background and people are going to question it.
Okay rant has gone on much longer than it should.
So much more next time