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this is my first posting. hello! my name is sarah, and i'm half black half jewish. my mother is jewish. A friend of mine recommended a book called 'Ace of Spades' by David Matthews (you can find it here: http://tr.im/iGsu), and I love it so much. I'm half way through it and I can't believe how great this book is. It's so funny and personable. There are moments where I have to put the book down and just burst out laughing. But wow, is it well written! David Matthews is poetic with his words. Truly astounding. Here's a brief description from The New Yorker:
The son of a Zionist white mother and a Malcolm X-admiring black father, Matthews, in this memoir, is a boy without a race in a city, Baltimore, that requires him to choose one. The story of racial pinball is not entirely unfamiliar: the black kids reject him as too light-skinned, the whites as too broad-nosed. But Matthews displays improvisational verve—blacks are "burnished" and "browned butter," and whites are anything from "alabaster" to "a puffy marshmallow in Baltimore’s steaming cup of cocoa"—and narrates with the vigor of a movie script. Indeed, it is on television that, as a child, he finds the clarity he yearns for. "I was a living contradiction of elements that shouldn’t have been," he writes at one point, whereas on TV "everything was black, or white, and a lot like life."
Really, i can't recommend this book more! I love it! Have you read it?
here's the author, david matthews:


This comm is currently open to anyone, and indeed, anyone certainly does walk right in...

Of course, email or message me if you see a problem.

I didn't notice because I'm in Singapore...again. You know, demographics is what makes this city-state truly beautiful. If you can't find your type/kind/niche/whathaveyou here, then there's little hope for ya.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Some Ramblings

I apologize for letting this place get to quiet. It's not supposed to be just about me and my issues working and living abroad, but I feel obligated to provide some kind of stimulus.

If I were to simply blog about my professional/personal relationship experiences in Korea so far...wow. What a long, crazy entry that would be.

Professionally, the situation has improved.Collapse )

The second issue at play is the difficulty in getting the Koreans to understand that I'm not actually Korean. I don't have a support network here. I don't have a union. I don't have a fallback plan. I can't just move in with my mom when things go south. You don't do your part = I'm up the river. The best example of them not understanding my non-Koreaness is when I get upset that I haven't been paid on time. Most of us balk at the idea of getting paid a month late, right, but my co-workers try desperately to convince me that it's okay to have a late paycheck; you will get paid - we PROMISE. And then when we say something like "How about I don't show up to work on time. You'd call me and ask, 'Where are you?' 'Don't worry - I'll come to work.' 'When? What time?' 'Hm. Eventually. I promise.' Would that conversation do it for you, Mrs. Park (who has a husband with a well-paying job and a lineage traceable to the 14th century)?" .....they get embarrassed. "But the other Korean teachers - " "I'm black American." "...." The discomfort is compounded by this recession, in which the won has only been good for fancy toilet paper.

The point, though, is that it's hard to reconcile the foreigner's position with what the domestic system can offer. If I were Korean, yeah, I'm sure that it wouldn't be so bad to get paid a month late, or even if it was, I could sympathize with the bureaucracy of My Country and say with confidence that 'it'll all work out', but....I'm not Korean. Never will be, either. However, there's much to be said for pretending.

Teach Me....NOT!

Your community hostess is no longer wreaking havoc in Japan. She's now turning Korea upside down. This isn't a very specific post, but try to stick with me here. It's been 6 months, so lotsa instances of culture-clash are flashing before my eyes.

Korea is not like Japan in the ways I thought and hoped it would be. Sure, I've had some good times here and I'm sure to have many more, but the business culture here is just...wow. Nn.

Common conjectures by the expat community go something like "This is Japan 40 years ago" and "Come back in 20 years - maybe they'll have figured it out by then". This will sound harsh, but business is conducted in Korea like a wino who's just won the lottery: they've got all this money - or pretend that they do - and just don't know what to do with it, so either it's spent haphazardly or barely at all. Example: First day of school, I walk into my filthy classroom and see no materials, no books, no games, nothing. Did they even know I was coming?

From my experience, their society doesn't seem ready to tackle the goals their leaders claim they can. The new president, Lee Myeung-Bak, wants all children in public school to be taught science and math in English! Wow! Great! Who's gonna teach them?!?! You can only pump out so many (great) English speaking Koreans from university and even then not all of them are going to want to teach elementary school (or at all).

Big plans...teeny tiny effort.

Their propensity for half-baked programing creates serious culture clash among foreign English teachers, who feel like they're wasting their time trying to work with a system that's got a lot of bark, but little bite. My biggest complaint at my last school was a lack of help. I was trying to do what they wanted me to do, but no one seemed interested in helping me when I asked and making sure things went smoothly. Turnover of English teachers in Korea has got to be a world record. It's hard to keep employees happy when they're tired of not knowing what the hell's going on and being told "Do This!" and then not getting the resources to "Do That".

Yes, Korea is hardcore when it comes to wanting to speak English. Hagwons for English learning thrive - one on every corner. Parents prod their children to "say hello" to the foreigner whenever possible (and damnit, the kid better - dad's spending thousands in afterschool programs!) The process for getting a visa has recently become more difficult, but rest assured they "want" us here. But that's a glorious facade that shields the fact that many of them are very literally afraid to learn/speak/encounter English on a daily basis. For all their English learning, many still don't know how to conduct simple human conversations. Like Japan, after a certain point, they stop learning how to speak and get bogged down in grammar, but it's also an odd case of xenophobia and resentment.* The president, with his grand schemes, seems to not realize that he's left the public in his dust. Amazingly, the people who seem to get along REALLY well with foreigners, aren't afraid to approach or be approached, are the Koreans whose English suck or is non-existent. I'm not sure if this is due to the fact that they just don't expect to understand precisely so it's okay, or is it a kind of 'ignorance is bliss' (don't mean that in a negative way) outlook that lets them feel comfortable around the "noise" of foreign-speak.*

A friend of mine, 42 and an experienced teacher, feels very unwelcome for a number of reasons despite all the backward bending she feels she's done for the administration, and I sympathize because I'm facing the same difficulties. The difference between us is that I've decided to play their game if but to make sure I'm making the maximum amount of profit for the headaches their practices give me. I stick to my guns, wave my contract around but still smile and thank them for their time.

Their culture, business and education-wise, is experiencing a major shift. The old ways have a death-grip on the new ideas that are being brought to the table. Japan, comparatively, has perfected the art of mixing tradition and international business, making my memories of employment with the government seem like a dream. I'm not quite sure how long it will take Korea to take a seat on the "sound international business sense" train, but right now, she's riding the roof.

* Sometimes I wonder if they didn't put so much value on English, if the resentment would wane, too. Also, the new generation, unlike the old, isn't sure that it "likes" the foreigners occupying the land. One article (not this one) I read described American forces only as occupiers and North Koreans as "cousins".
** I use "noise" because that is often how it sometimes sounds like, even for someone who's studying the language. Some friends of mine were actually asked (rudely) to "shut up" because they were speaking English

New here

I'm not sure if anyone reads this community, it doesn't seem very active.  That is too bad because I have been searching for a place like this!  I've been in my intercultural relationship for a little over a year now..I'm from the Midwestern part of the U.S. and he is from Brazil.  We moved in together in January and are really happy together.  But, of course there are all kinds of cultural issues, ranging from small things that seem cute (he eats bananas in his soup?) to huge issues in our relationship (we have different ideas about privacy).  I think inter-cultural relationships are some of the most challenging but also the most rewarding!  Anyways, if anyone is still reading this community and wants to share stories, feel free to add me as a friend! 

a study of American culture

Hallo, I'm new to this community.
I'm a Russian who studies American culture.
I'm working on my postgrad thesis in lingvoculturology and cross-cultural studies and I'm asking you for help.

IF YOU ARE FROM THE USA AND YOU ARE A NATIVE SPEAKER, please help me (it's terribly difficult to find an American here in Russia and make him/her answer the
questions :))).

Please, give a detailed example – like a scene from a movie, a book or from life - of a situation when a person is having fun. Give your AGE, please.


Reverse Culture Shock

…is itself a funny phenomenon. But when mixed with alcohol and some guy you’re kinda sorta jonsing on, it’s something else.Collapse )

My reaction to Shinsuke’s non-Japanese-flirting disturbs me because I have been one of the most vocal critics of Japanese style affection – or lack thereof. There are few foreign women more fed up with toning down the Me-ness so that natives won’t run away. And to think that I actually couldn’t handle a Japanese man’s sincere/obvious physical/verbal attention – which is part and parcel in my homeland – just curdles my milk! Hell, what if I go home and get shocked every time a guy puts his arm around me or hugs me in front of his friends? It’s a comical “problem” to have, but I think I have it! I was getting increasingly embarrassed BY his behavior towards me IN PLACE OF him.

And to make matters worse, he even noticed! “Hm, you’re shy tonight!” To which I replied, “Well, one of us has to be!” ~___~

Nov. 26th, 2006

Hi! Have you ever faced the difficulties caused by differences in cultures? Was there smth that impressed you a lot when communicating with other nations?

moneh! moneh! moneh!

This is an entry about coworkers...and how it seems as if they believe that the more money you spend, the more fun you must be having...

...which is the complete opposite of how I feel when I give my money away. :b

If you're familiar with japanese working culture, you've probably heard of the enkai, or office/work party. It is as the article writer describes it, although there is always variation (I've only gone to one place where we could, if able, sit seiza). However, while the article expresses the writer's shock at a seat going for 5,000 yen ($41), I just had a party that would have cost me 7,000 ($58). Thankfully, unlike some of my young colleagues, I didn't have to pay because I was new to the school. I wanted to attend, but I was honest with them and said it was too expensive (I was going to Kyushu the next day!), and then they told me I wouldn't have to pay. I probably never would have anyways, but Japanese communication skills across cultures is for another entry...

Anyways, the emphasis on money and relations is sometimes grating. I wonder if it's an Asian thing, or perhaps it's simply the adult working world, because in Singapore, I've heard similar concerns from expats: disposable income fueling friendships and encounters to the point of expats without "expat packages" avoiding those who have one. In my situation, it's not that simple.

Enkai are for the good of the company.Collapse )

I don't know. In the meantime, I guess I'll just drink shouchu.

*Both happened to me.

the jist is that...

I have quit Sam, although he pretty much quit me first.

I've thought a lot about pin-pointing the cause, but of course people aren't toasters - there're many factors that lead to "breakups" (it's in quotes for a reason). I suppose, to make this on-topic in a community about culture and relationships, I should focus on the aspect that really did start the erosion, and that is career - his, namely.

Sure, those who are familiar with Japanese society know of the "workaholic" stereotype. Sam certainly fits into that to an extent...., but I realised through my interactions with him that he chose that lifestyle and he really allows it rule him as if he's...hm...got nothing else to offer - to society. He is an incredibly talented and intelligent man; I believe he could do ANYTHING. So I'm wondering what the true reason is behind his adherance to his job.

Let me back up a bit. He is the principal of a private college prep/cram school. I introduced myself to him on June 8th, around 5:10 at Starbucks. We hit it off...went on two really fun dates; I'd never felt chemistry like this before. He was sweet and romantic and funny, etc, etc, and it didn't take a molecular biologist to see he really dug me. But then the summer cram season came and honestly, what we had began dying the most painful ugly death ever. In August, we tried to go on a real third date, but he was called to work. His departure wasn't pleasant. He tried to do the 'I'll ignore her calls and she'll eventually get pissed and go away' technique, but I didn' fall for it. But it was too late. He'd already given up on having a relationship AND a job.

The point is, I tried -b and I guess failed? - to make him see that I was willing to put up with his shitty schedule. Many people who talk about intercultural relationships speak highly of ACCEPTANCE. I was ready and willing to do that - accept that right now, he needs this job to fulfil his desires and that he'd make time for me when he could. BUT, Sam himself wasn't ready to accept that. And it bugs the hell out of me not knowing why. I told him the last time I saw him that I think that he was serious about wanting to get to know me in the beginning, but then when work started getting serious too, he abandoned it and then tried to tell me he just originally wanted to be friends. His reply was along the lines of 'That's an interesting theory', which is coding for 'correct'. I'm sad that he allowed this ideology that a principal isn't supposed to have love (just be married to his job) to latch onto him, because he's a great man. Too bad his work turned him into an ass in the end.


"I think I'm lost"

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