Expat Blogs?

Anytime I spend too long reading expat blogs I normally end up wondering if there’s a bunch of Korean expats in the States writing the same presumptive and condescending crap about America. I suspect there is.

Shit happens, but I’m not going to spend the time writing a diatribe only to realize weeks or months later it’s based on my own shallow assumptions, the fact that I didn’t have all the information, or simply the fact that being offended is the natural consequence of leaving my house. Shit is shit, and Bad Habits isn’t going to be an endless investigation of the South Korean brand of shit. This might not make it much fun to read, but if you want that start your own blog and call it International House of Shit. I’d likely read it.

So yeah, there you go — not much of an expat blogger, except for the fact that I am by default as long as I live in Korea and blog.

(And in case you’re wondering, I read two expat blogs regularly: Gord Sellar’s blog and Burndog’s Burnblog. Between them, Facebook, and waygook.org I feel like I’ve got things covered.)

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10 responses to “Expat Blogs?”

  1. asakiyume says :

    I read Gord Sellar’s blog too! (But on LJ… and on an occasional basis)

  2. gordsellar says :

    Ha, though I don’t quite consider my blog a Kexpat blog. There was a time when I did, and kind of got into the scene a bit. Then, well… I had better things to do.

    I don’t find my current blogging habits all that likely to interest others, except fellow brewers… thinking of sequestering the brewing stuff to a separate subsection for those interested, and making a slight effort to write more about other stuff, especially books and stories and stuff.

    Another blog by someone who happens to live in Korea, but doesn’t “blog about Korea” or “expat blog” is Liminality; Charles is a friend of mine, and very consciously is an simultaneously an expat and a blogger but doesn’t write an “expat blog.”

    http://www.liminality.org/

    I’m so done with the expat blogger scene now it’s not even funny. I look around sometimes, but even that I do less and less often. 🙂 Even my desire to post about social issues that Westerners are in total ignorance of mostly just peters out now… they mostly either don’t care, or use it as evidence that Korea sucks.

    Not that I don’t feel it as often as not these days, but…

    As for the ton of Koreans who talk shit about America and Americans — of course there is. More of them are here than there, I’m guessing, but I have hjad students obsessed with talking shit about America. Bring up sexism in Korea, and they bring up pre-Civil War slavery in America; bring up freedom of speech and they start ranting about American orientalism.

    Korea has more bitter expats who stay here for longer than they should because of simple economics. Most of the Koreans I know who end up moving to the West are people who actually prefer a lot of the things there. and tend to see the downside as worth the price of admission, because in fact it’s relatively harder to emigrate that way; any yokel with a BA can emigrate to Korea, at least in the short term. Plus most of the expats here don’t really see themselves as emigrating, or find the downside is made up for in any way but economically.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not really sure my quality of life is lower in Korea than it might be in, say, Canada. But it feels like it, comparatively, because the different brand of shit is so in-your face.

    But then, I live in one of the slummier slums in the greater Seoul-Incheon area. Not the worst, but surely in the top ten. It colors how one sees things.

    • Justin says :

      I do wonder if there’s a metric to guage one’s involvement in the expat blogging scene based on length of time in Korea. Likely since there seems to be a high turnover rate of expats here.

      “Korea has more bitter expats who stay here for longer than they should because of simple economics. Most of the Koreans I know who end up moving to the West are people who actually prefer a lot of the things there. and tend to see the downside as worth the price of admission, because in fact it’s relatively harder to emigrate that way; any yokel with a BA can emigrate to Korea, at least in the short term. Plus most of the expats here don’t really see themselves as emigrating, or find the downside is made up for in any way but economically. ”

      Yeah. This. Not to mention the whole expat/emigration divide, which seems more like a notion designed to maintain one’s idea of economic privilege. I do feel weird because I’m likely to want to stay here a while, and that puts me in a different head space than the folks having an adventure for a year or two. I’m also at a point where I am actively seeking to prevent my reactions from ossifying into opinions, and I’ll keep encountering blogs that read like catalogs of reactions and assumptions with a dose of exoticism, and shit, I’m guilty of the same, but even with my dislike of expat blogs I’ll realize it’s still a reaction ossifying into an opinion and I’ll remind myself not to hold on too tightly to the notion. Besides, no one’s coming into my house and forcing me to read their damn blogs.

      Thanks for the link to Liminality. I’ve put him in my reader. I like how your blog reflects all your interests, and I’d hate to see you filter it.

      • gordsellar says :

        Ha… you know, some expats also would argue that the not-letting-reactions-ossify-into-opinions thing is a stage. I might be one of them, sometimes. Part of that is the fact that a lot of Koreans I meet go out of their way to make me feel as if I have no right to an opinion about anything in Korea. Sometimes that’s understandable — it must be tiring to hear people constantly bitching about your country and saying some insanely nasty stuff along the way — and sometimes it’s ridiculous. (Like when one’s Korean interlocutor simply isn’t informed, or is whining about Westerners’ racism right after a string of insanely racist comments.)

        After ten years, after the amount of time and energy I’ve invested into try to understand, but also into the relationships I’ve had with various people and groups of people here, I’m at the point where anyone who tells me I haven’t earned the right to an opinion gets a righteous verbal smackdown. But I also try to remind myself not to generalize, and so on. Like I said, living in a slum colors things.

        As for expat blogs, I dunno… I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “natural” but I do seem to have noticed a lot of expats lose interest in that scene over time. Then again, some seem to stay interested (in varying degrees) for a longer time than I’ve even been here. But one interesting thing is they do almost all tend to diversify, or talk about other stuff than they started. Rob Koehler got out of news stories somewhat, and has a photoblog about Korean travels. Michael Hurt started several other blogs. My blog is mostly about brewing. Charles’ isn’t a Korea blog, but it never was. Maybe he was ahead of the curve. That probably just reflects the diversification of interests necessary for people to remain sane while living in such a different place. Those who do keep writing about Korea tend to try mix it up, or do more research (like Gusts of Popular Feeling, probably my favorite Korea-related expat blog). I think if you just write a ranting/whining Korea-blog for a decade, it will not be good for your head…

        As for the brewing — would you be put out if I were to just have brewing posts display as a link-headline and image, rather than full text in the main page/RSS? I’m thinking about retooling my blog anyway, to make it more of a “site” type thing. and thinking about how categorization might be useful to some readers.

    • Justin says :

      Well, my stance on opinions isn’t just limited to Korea. With a lot of things I’m finding it better to form an opinion slowly as opposed to simply letting reactions ossify.

      But one situation that came up here was the teacher before the one I replaced pulled a runner and broke her contract halfway through. At first I had the opinion she was young and inexperienced and likely wanted an easy ride, later I found a bunch of work she did, and it made me realize she was more experienced and professional than I had thought — however I also learned she was Vietnamese-American and I can’t imagine what her experience teaching in South Korea must have been like. So my opinion required rejiggering and I felt bad for thinking poorly of her. Granted I still don’t know what happened, but I’m not going to be so quick to say she was inexperienced or lazy.

      • gordsellar says :

        Ah, yeah, that makes sense. I kind of had to learn to do that with music. For various reasons, I always had VERY strong reactions to new music, and often quite opposite reactions to what my opinion would eventually be — hating things I’d eventually love, loving stuff I’d soon not care for — but these days, it’s more like how I approach essays: ready & willing to be impressed, but knowing it’s unlikely to happen.

        That’s an interesting story, about the teacher who came before you… it brings to mind a guy I knew in a similar position, and for whom I kind of wanted to feel sympathy, except… well, I flip-flopped like you did a few times, but two things for in the way of real sympathy: his personality was unbearable, and the students I know who took his classes cringed once at the very mention of him. 🙂 Still, when I was told he’d left his office open on departure for others to take what they wanted, and went over to see if he’d left anything good (extension cord! score!), I saw only the leavings of that guy I didn’t like very much. I wonder what people who knew him less well saw there…

  3. R. H. Kanakia says :

    Wait, what, seriously? There’s a messageboard about teaching English in Korea whose name is waygook? Really?

  4. R. H. Kanakia says :

    Okay. I did more googling and found out what waygook means. Now it sounds less odd.

    • Justin says :

      Yeah. While it can be used pejoratively, “waygook” simply means “foreigner” as “gook” in Korean means “country”. It doesn’t have the same meaning as “gweilo”. “Gook” as an American slur doesn’t share etymology with the Korean word, and the slur was already in use with US soldiers decades before the Korean War.

      • gordsellar says :

        Ha, I thought R.H.’s reaction was the presence of the word “gook” in “waygook” — I know I was a bit taken aback by it. I was like, “I can’t say ‘gook,’ that’s a racist slur against Asians!” But soon enough, I partitioned the English slur in my head from the Korean word.

        Which reminds me of that old folk-etymology for the word having originated in Korea. (Very dubious, especially given the history of the slur, but not uncommonly believed among Westerners here.)

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