Life in Japan has been a repeat of Korea in some ways. In other ways, not so much.
I’ve always said that you need to make your time in Korea or any other country yours. As I said in my eBook on teaching English in Korea, you need to “own your ESL adventure”. Or travel adventure, depending on how you’re getting out and about.
My experience has been unique for a lot of reasons. Many of those reasons are due to me choosing what things to do and where to spend my time. So, of course it’s going to unique to me!
But I also noticed early on in my time in Korea that my situation would be markedly different than other foreigners. I remember walking around with my friend from South Africa (he’s of Irish descent) in the shopping areas or at restaurants.
People just stared at him. No shame in their glares either. Just, “BOOM”! Hardcore, blatant stare.
It was always strange to me because I would spend my days in Korea completely under the radar, if you will. Well, let me re-qualify that statement. I wasn’t really “under” much in Korea as I’m 6’3″ (188-190 cm for the rest of the world!).The top of my head can testify to that.
Getting back on the path, it was always just me walking around generally unnoticed in Busan, Korea. That is, until I opened my mouth. Then it was pandemonium. Maybe pandemonium is a bit strong, but the looks on people’s faces when they see I speak English and NOT A WORD of Korea. Mercy me.
Life in Japan has proven much the same. In fact, I can assume that if I was in China, the situation would be much the same as well. Though I haven’t been in Japan for a long time, I see that my experience in Asia will always be different in some ways compared to other foreigners.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it can be good to be stared at. They may be good stares. Some are definitely bad, some are neutral fascination, and others are just good looks! Also, some people really like to get stared at. Others hate it. But if someone is from a place where they look just like everyone else around them and they aren’t unique in any way and just fit in, well, stares can be good.
Many Koreans and Japanese know they have to have a foreign teacher in their classrooms at some point during their educations. But the classroom is very different than the outside world. So for them, seeing someone with fair, white skin, blonde hair, light eyes; it can be a paparazzi event to them. Same if you’re black. Same if you’re a freakazoid looking 6’3″ amazonian Korean dude like myself!
In this recent vlog, I tell some tales from the crypt of my recent experiences in Japan and how they aren’t too different than Korea. One of the stories has always stuck with me and makes me laugh sometimes. It’s just all part of this one man’s experience living life in Japan.