Things I would say if I spoke Korean

Let’s take it to be a good thing then that I do not yet speak Korean. I secretly believe that every Korean person is out to get me.

I wish I knew what they were saying. In this way I could call them out when they discuss their secret plots to get me. In my dreams I am a mythically calm figure. I forge through the perils of reality and redefine life as I see it. In other words I’m a rapper in the middle of his own rap video. Making rain is only one of my god like powers…observe.

I day dream that I am sitting outside at a restaurant/bar establishment. An elderly man walks up to me and begins to speak. He does not know that I speak Korean and so he begins to tell me terrible things.

“You should speak Korean if you are in Korea. You foreigners do not know anything about Korea. You asshole don’t even understand that I cam calling you an idiot…blah blah blah.”

Everybody there stares at him in disbelief. How could this old man be so rude like this? This foreigner must have done something to deserve this.

I act calmly. I know exactly what he is saying but I let him finish. When he finishes I would make some intelligently calm remark. This remark would immediately disarm him and he would slowly stutter “you…you speak Korean.”

To this I would reply:

“Yes, I do. But I choose not to because it might force me to speak to a person such as your self who would be so excited that an outsider learned your language that you wouldn’t even notice when I dropped all honorifics. But seriously, what kind of culture gives its elderly a free pass to be drunken assholes.”

At this the man would slowly walk off. Everybody in the restaurant would slightly bow their heads, ashamed that they allowed this old man to act this way without repercussion. Being the grand, foreign dignitary Don Cartagena that I am I would probably say something at this moment to lighten the mood. Everybody buys me a drink, good times ensue in slow motion frames.

Sometimes I also imagine that I am walking down the street. I would pass through a crowd of college aged students. Immediately they would begin commenting on the Miguk. Someone might say something derogatory about how we can’t get jobs or women in our own country so we come to Korea.

To this, I would turn around and tell him:

“We can get jobs in our own country, but some of us like to have the opportunity to see the world. I realize that you will never have this opportunity and I’m sorry, but this does not make me a terrible person. We all make our own choices regardless of culture or country. As for your women, well, I’m not forcing them to call me handsome.”

At this, all the girls around me would instantly argue over who got to give me a back rub. The losers have soju poured on them by the other losers. Somehow my apartment becomes much nicer as well.

Lastly, I am on the subway. Again, an elderly man walks past me. He grabs my arm and moves me out of his way. I of course protest. Of course I protest in English. He tells me that as a foreigner and as someone younger than him he has the right to put me wherever he wants and that I should respect him.

I look him in the eyes and say:

“I do not need to respect you old man. Confucian law is based around the give and take of respect. If you were a person who deserved respect of course I would give it to you, but you are not.”

At that I would help an elderly woman to her seat.

Suddenly, everybody in the subway would burst into an uncontrollable applause at my wisdom regarding Confucian teachings. Mothers would drop their babies in their applause and babies would drop their candy. I would steal it.


I do not know how well my rants would translate into Korean but for the time being I am limited by my novice abilities and my imagination. I imagine that whatever I say would be so eloquent and poetic that the very nature of people’s lives would be altered. Obviously, what I wrote here does not really capture all of that.

Additionally, I know that these are all negative circumstances but for some reason these are what I think of. If I have day dreams of any positive interactions in the future I will let you know.


Filed under Narratives, The foreigner experience

2 responses to “Things I would say if I spoke Korean

  1. Katie

    I have just stumbled upon your blog! I am planning on teaching overseas in Korea (starting November 2008). I enjoy reading your posts and I think this one is probably my favourite. I used to work in a boarding house and would pretend that if I could understand the girls (moslty Korean) I would let them talk shit and come back with some intelligent, witty and cutting remark that would make them drop their phones/makeup and leave them speechless!


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