Korea Life & Reflections

Why I Don’t Always Like Living in Korea

Update: I’ve noticed that this ranty post gets a lot of eyes on it and I know that it’s not much comfort to anyone who’s having a terrible time in Korea. If you’re here because you’re not enjoying yourself, please, read this post instead. You will miss Korea when you’re gone so make the most of your time there and don’t indulge yourself in my petty moans!

I’ve wanted to write this post for quite a while now, but I always put it off. I didn’t want to be too negative. I didn’t want to put people off visiting Korea, or living here. Although I try to keep my blog as transparent as possible, I know that there are a lot of feelings that I have about Korea that I keep to myself.

However, this morning something happened that really pushed me over the edge and that I just can’t get out my mind. That incident has prompted me to address my true feelings once and for all. In my everyday life, I talk about these feelings quite a lot. But Wee Gypsy Girl keeps them on mute, focussing instead on the best bits. I want to get real and show that life here isn’t all cherry blossoms, unicorns and nice pay cheques. Of course, life here has its low points too.

What Happened

This morning I woke up and went through the same routine I follow everyday. I was in pretty high spirits by the time I left the house, probably due to the huge cafetiere of coffee that I had demolished just before leaving, and I was ready for the day ahead. I got to the bus stop a few minutes early and was just admiring the scenery- yesterday it had rained, so today the skies were completely blue and clear. I felt really content at that time. Then, this Korean guy appears out of thin air, a centimetre away from face, stares at me and just blurts out “boypurenduh isseoyo?” (Do you have a boyfriend?) He caught me off guard so I just walked away from him, gave him a firm yes and nice snide look.  I wish I had made a bit of a scene and told him to fuck off, but as it always goes, we only know the best thing to do in hindsight. The guy actually also grabbed my arm on the street a couple of weeks ago and asked me where I worked. I pushed him away and walked away from him. The worst thing about all of this is that he is a TEACHER!! He works at the girls’ middle school by my house. A man with such a low level of respect towards women should not have any influence on any young girl’s education.

Part of me feels as though I’m blowing things out of proportion. A guy asked me if I had a boyfriend. Big deal. Why am I so angry? Am I making mountains out of mole hills?

But, I know that I’m not. The reason that I’m so angry is that I know that if I was a Korean girl, he would never have acted that way. A lot of Korean men (not all, but a lot) have less respect towards foreign girls than they do towards Korean girls. There is a sentiment here that foreign girls make good girlfriends, but they’re not marriage material. Korean guys should have their fun with foreign girls while they’re young, but eventually they should marry a Korean girl. They think that we are disposable and not deserving of the same level of respect.

The man at the bus stop had no respect towards me. He didn’t care to find out my name, where I was from or where I was going. You know, the usual things you’d like to find out about someone. The sort of small talk that I have with curious locals at the bus stop almost everyday. He just wanted to know “did I have a boyfriend?” How did he think that was going to end? Did he think I was going to say “no, I’m single” then bunk off work and check into the closest love motel with him? Seriously, some folk need to take their heads out of their arses.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened either. I hear people talk about Korea like it is a huge utopia with no crime. Yeah, you might not get stabbed or shot or gang-raped. But as a FOREIGN woman, you can expect to be on the receiving end of pretty derogatory behaviour from Korean men- I’ve experienced my fair share of drunk ajosshis approach me on the street after one to many sojus to tell me that I’m beautiful and ask where I live. And at school, it’s not unusual for male teachers to comment on my appearance. That sort of thing is ok here- it’s not taboo. But it absolutely should be.

Why Korea and I aren’t always Best Pals

Now before I start this, I just want to point out that there are so many great things about living here in Korea. I have some really kind and amazing Korean friends and co-workers. I’ve lived here for 2 years, and of course I wouldn’t have stuck it out if I hated it. Korea has plenty of warts. But so does every country. Scotland definitely isn’t perfect. We have our own fair share of problems- sectarianism, alcohol problems and high rates of teenage pregnancy, to name just a few.

This isn’t a rant, and I’m not trying to insult the country or its people. This is an account of my experience living in Korea as a foreign expat. This is the most personal, and honest, post that I have ever written. I hope that my Korean friends and readers can accept what I have to say. The same way that I would accept what any expat living in Scotland would have to say about my country. So, without further ado, these are some of the reasons why I don’t always love this country.

Unattainable Beauty Standards

It’s absolutely no secret that this problem exists in South Korea. The country has more plastic surgery clinics per capita than anywhere else in the world. Look around you on the subway and you’ll see girls with western eyes and identical pointed “v chins.” Were they born like this? No. From a young age, girls are undertaking drastic measures to change their appearance. Last year, the middle school students who I taught told me that their parents would get them plastic surgery if they got a good result in their high school tests. That’s why they studied hard. Not because they wanted to become a doctor, a journalist, or even the president. Because they wanted to change their face. That is just so heartbreaking to me, that they feel that pressure to completely change the way they look at such a young age, and that their parents fully support them on that. They aren’t opting for surgery like rhinoplasty to fix a crooked nose that’s been causing them a lot embarrassment over the years. They want eyelid surgery so that they can disguise their ethnic features. They want jaw reconstruction so they can look like the “perfect Korean woman.” Their parents should be celebrating their beautiful faces, not giving them an incentive to change them.

With such importance placed on looks from such a young age, it’s not uncommon for students as young as 7 to notice if you are wearing less makeup than usual, or to point out that you have dark circles. It’s also not uncommon for adults to tell you that you look so tired and sick on the days that you are wearing less makeup than usual. For me, that was a huge culture shock. I have a lot of acne scars and often have Korean women trying to give me advice and recommend different dermatologists to me. It has been a bit shocking for me since back home it’s considered really rude to comment on someone’s appearance. However, since moving to Korea, I’ve honestly started to give zero fucks about what I look like when I leave the house in the morning. Ironic, eh? I know that even if I spend 30 minutes highlighting and contouring my face until I look like Kim K before I go to work, someone is probably still going to comment on my dark circles and tell me I look tired and sick. Or, worse still, tell me that I look so much better than I did the previous day and then proceed to treat me differently because of it. These days,  I go out practically make up free on school days. I save my makeup for the weekend, and wear it on my own terms- not because I feel like I need to. It saves me time in the morning, it helps my skin breathe and most importantly, it allows me to give a big huge middle finger to the system! FTS!

Racism is Normal

Now, this might sound hypocritical since I come from the UK- a country where people talk about refugees from war-torn countries like they are vermin and Islamaphobia is growing by the day. However, racism is a bit different here in Korea. I feel as though in the UK people say racist things but know that they are being racist. Someone always calls them out on it, unless they are at a UKIP party conference. But here, making prejudice remarks is normal, and no one is getting pulled up for it.

When I first started teaching, I was showing my students a video which featured some hispanic children. The children were so happy, and I thought they were really cute. But everyone started laughing as soon they came on the screen. Then one boy shouted “Oh, so ugly!” I asked the student why he said that and he told me, “Oh very dark skin and big lips. Very terrible face. Very not beautiful.” I got really angry, and explained to them that just because someone is not a K-Pop star, or doesn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes, doesn’t make them ugly. Since that day, I have noticed that everytime there is a picture of a non-Korean/ non white person in a book, or in a video, students will snigger and laugh. While I put my foot down and question them, I know for a fact that most Korean teachers wouldn’t have done the same thing. I’ve even witnessed Korean teachers joining in and egging the students on! Racist attitudes towards non-Korean cultures is the norm here, and not the exception.

As well as this, there is a huge emphasis placed on having “pure blood.” Older generations were told from a very young age that they were the master race, and to be honest, the sentiment has trickled down. Last year, I was asked by a Korean woman why I had such dark hair and dark eyes if I was from Scotland. She commented on the fact that I don’t look European and that I have a very “oriental face.” She then asked if I was an “authentic Scotland person?” I explained to her that my great grandmother is Greek, which is why I have tanned skin and Mediterranean features. While I was talking about my heritage I decided to also point out that I have some Irish heritage down the line too, which is really common on the West Coast of Scotland. I could hear her translating this to the other Korean women who were with us, and I could see how shocked they all looked. I thought I was just sharing a little bit more about myself, and teaching her a bit about European culture- I didn’t know I was adding fuel to an already huge judgmental fire. Europe is a melting pot of people from all different countries. No two people look the same in Scotland, and regardless of whether we have ginger hair or not, we’re definitely still authentic Scottish people. I was offended that someone who doesn’t know me, or anything about my culture, tried to take that away from me, just because I didn’t fit their mould.

General Assumptions about Foreigners

I know that when people look at me when I walk down the street that they think I’m American, they think that I eat hamburgers or pizza for dinner every night and I like to go out and get drunk most nights. Korean men, like the man earlier, think that I’m probably easy and promiscuous.

On more than one occasion I’ve tried to order food in a Korean restaurant and been told by the waiter that I can’t have it because it’s too spicy for me- how do they know what my spice limit is?

I’m complimented daily on my chopstick skills.

Everyone I meet asks me if I can eat kimchi and is shocked when I say yes.

My co-workers are always shocked when I tell them that pizza isn’t actually my favourite food and that I don’t like to eat fried chicken.

9 times out of the 10 times that someone approaches me in the street, they will choose to ask me if I’m American, rather than just asking where I’m from.

I was recently told by a Korean friend that she watched a story on the news about an American man who was married to a Korean woman, but was having an affair with another woman in America. Why is this NEWS? That is a domestic problem!! Plenty of Koreans also have affairs, without having the dirt aired on the national NEWS! The Korean media consistently portrays foreigners in a negative light, and unfortunately too many people believe everything that they read and tarr us all with the same brush.


Anti-Japanese Sentiment

Japan did some pretty horrendous things to Korea during their occupation- they banned Korean language from being spoken, forced people to adopt Japanese names and, worse of all, used a lot of Korean women as “comfort women” to Japanese soldiers. There are a lot of hard feelings towards Japan and it is understandable. What I have a problem with is that it’s being instilled in children from a young age. My students often tell me that Japan is dirty and that they hate Japan and Japanese people. The saddest thing about this is that they are learning it from their teachers. There is a huge amount of nationalism here, and being anti-Japanese seems to be the mark of being a “true Korean.”

I was even told by an older Korean man that he hopes that even in 100 years, no Korean will ever forgive or befriend a Japanese person. He told me that he hopes that his daughters will never speak to a Japanese person. Most disturbingly of all, he told me how glad he is that America dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that all Japanese people deserved that level of horror and destruction. Even young children.

What the fuck!!!????

I can never make peace with a country where this is kind of thinking is normal. This isn’t just the feelings of one extremist. Sadly, many Korean people share these feelings, including young children, and educated young adults with the means to make up their own minds about things.

On a More Positive Note

There are of course days when Korea and I are pals. Days when I can look past all of its flaws. It’s the country where I taught for the first time, where I lived alone for the first time, where I travelled alone for the first time, where I managed to get by despite rarely being able to communicate in English. I’ve grown up a lot since I moved to Korea over 2 years ago, and I’m so thankful for all the experiences it has given me.

If you are interested in reading more about the positive side of Korea, check out my posts about some of my favourite places here, and why I think you should consider teaching English abroad. There’s 2 sides to every story, and this is just one side of mine.




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  • Reply
    22nd April 2016 at 7:18 pm

    I know it can be hard to share negative feelings and experiences when you are a guest in another country, but I appreciate your insights. I’ve only been here a short time, but I’ve already had some scary experiences with the Korean men.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      22nd April 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment 🙂 I’m so sorry to hear that you have also had a bad experience with Korean men 🙁 I totally know how you feel and it can be scary. I hope it doesn’t ruin your experience here and you still manage to enjoy the country ♡♡♡

  • Reply
    Abdalla Mohamed
    22nd April 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Unfortunately, All what you stated here are true and I have witnessed some of these myself or heard about other things from other foreigner friends in different areas all over Korea. However, I must say that most of these bad behavior from Korean men towards foreigner women are happening in Seoul and more specifically in three areas including Itawoen, Hongdae and Gangnam area. This might because these areas are full with foreigners or may be because of the amount of night clubs and drinking areas that make men leave drunk and they do behave like that.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      24th April 2016 at 8:00 am

      Hey Abdalla. Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately that type of behavuour isn’t just restricted to those areas. I live in Gyeongsangnam-Do and that type of behaviour is rife down here. Though I think it’s probably much worse in those 3 areas in Seoul.

    • Reply
      Graeme Port
      24th April 2016 at 4:34 pm

      I live in Jeollanam-do and can attest that the bad behaviour from Korean men also happens on a far too regular basis here as well.

  • Reply
    22nd April 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Very interesting and enlightening post! I would never have thought Koreans would be as racist and condescending towards foreigners as you state. I have been considering moving to Korea to teach English, due to the money you can earn, but I thought I would struggle to adapt to the culture. This article has semi-confirmed this to me, I wouldn’t tolerate any of this behaviour towards me! Maybe staying in Europe is a good idea!
    Tom recently posted…100 great reasons to visit Australia now!My Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      24th April 2016 at 7:43 am

      Hey Tom! Thanks for your comment. Living in Korea is definitely a great opportunity to save money, but there are a lot of challenges living here. I wouldn’t let what I’ve written put you off though. I’ve stayed here for 2 years because there have been so many positive aspects of life here so do take this post with a pinch of salt 🙂

  • Reply
    Megan Indoe
    23rd April 2016 at 4:42 am

    I think you did a great job discussing some of the flaws in the Korean culture living here as a foreigner. I feel like you’ve nailed them all. I get so frustrated with students when you try to shed another opinion or light on a situation and they refuse to try and think another way because what has been drilled in their minds at a young age, especially Japan. I do feel generally safe in Korea, but like you said, being a female you still can get creeped on. I was chased by a drunk ajasshi one night when I was walking home alone and that scared the hell out of me. Another thing I really don’t appreciate about living in Korea is when people will dramatically look, point, draw attention to you by saying loudly, WHAAAA WAYGOOK! WTF is that? And some of the silly questions that we get asked on a daily basis didn’t bother me until after living in Korea two years, like do you know kimchi? Anyways thanks for the relatable and personal read! Sometimes just being able to talk or read someone else’s experiences are comforting in knowing that you’re not alone experiencing or observing this!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      24th April 2016 at 7:38 am

      Hey Megan, thanks so much for your comment 🙂 I’m so glad that you could take some comfort in it, that’s so lovely 🙂 I agree that being treated like an alien also sucks. I have had people refuse to sit down beside on me on packed up bus before or who have dared their friends to say hello to me then ran away laughing. It kind of adds to the feeling that a lot of people here don’t see us as being on the same human level. Thanks again for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply
    23rd April 2016 at 6:56 pm

    A very honest post I must say. Living in Korea can be a challenge to all foreigners.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      24th April 2016 at 7:33 am

      Hey Lance, thanks for your comment. It definitely can be challenging at times 🙂

  • Reply
    23rd April 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I hate the assumptions that some Korean men have about foreign women. I’m ethnically Korean but there was a man (a married one, I might add, who was well aware I have a boyfriend) who seemed to think it was okay to creep on me, saying weird things like he wanted to be my boyfriend and that he liked me but “couldn’t marry me.” He definitely seemed to have the opinion that foreigners were just loose and wouldn’t mind being the mistress on the side.

    Thankfully the majority of people I meet here are pleasant and the creep is in the minority, but I have friends here who look more foreign and have more frequent problems with Korean men like you’ve mentioned. It’s ridiculous. Like why do some people think like that?

    Same creep also was amazed that I knew how to use chopsticks and would insist on telling me what basic Korean foods were even though I repeatedly told him I grew up using chopsticks and eating Korean food. So aggravating!! He also harbors ill will toward Japan. Thankfully most of the Koreans I’ve met are not like him but UGH I feel ya!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      28th April 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Urgh, that man sounds revolting! I hear too many tales of infedility here, it really makes me sick.

  • Reply
    24th April 2016 at 1:02 am

    I think you’ve called attention to several observations here that are going to resonate with many expats living in Korea, myself included. However, one thing you are very, very wrong about (and is a huge pet peeve of mine every time I see it) it the idea that Korean girls have a desire to look or be Western.

    KOREAN WOMEN DO NOT WANT TO LOOK WESTERN, and it is so incredibly conceited of (typically white) foreigners to think this. Korean women want to look like the ideal KOREAN beauty standard. They don’t want to look like you, or me, or any other foreign woman
    They do not want western eyes. They want epicanthic folds in their KOREAN eyes.
    They do not want big western noses, they want an altered (raised bridge) KOREAN nose.
    They do not want some western jawline, and they certainly don’t want western cheekbones. They want a slimmer KOREAN jawline on a KOREAN face.

    Have you ever seen a foreigner who has gotten a nose job in Korea? It doesn’t look western. There’s something slightly “off” about it, and it’s because the standards of beauty and beauty trends in the cosmetic, aesthetic, and surgical industries are are NOT western–they’re still uniquely Korean. I really agree with several of the other points/issues you’ve brought attention to in this post, and it’s very well written. I totally agree that the beauty standards (regardless of their origin/end goal) are forced upon Korean women with an unsettling intensity, and at very young ages. But I think your multiple mentionings of the idea that they are “trying to look western” is way off-base.

    I highly recommend you edit this in your post, and it’s an inaccurate portrayal of Korean culture and its beauty standards. It detracts from your blog post by taking away some of your credibility as a source who truly understands Korean culture–which, in all other aspects, it does seem that you have a fairly balanced understanding of it. Instead, keep the focus on the issue of the standards themselves and the impact they have on Korean youth. Other than that, I thought this was a good read and I could really relate to the issues you brought up.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      24th April 2016 at 7:32 am

      Hey Nomadic Madda. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and can relate to a lot of the points. Regarding my use of the word, western, I actually have a quite a few Korean friends and whenever I have asked them about cosmetic surgery, they have also referred to eyes with a double crease as being western eyes. I’m well aware that they have absolutely no desire to look like myself, or other western girls. They want to fit the image of the perfect Korean. There is absolutely no denying that a lot of the highly surgically enchanced KPop singers have masked their ethnic Korean features. Thanks so much for pointing that out to me though, definitely food for thought, and something that I will speak to my Korean friends about the next time we hang out ♡

  • Reply
    Graeme Port
    24th April 2016 at 4:50 pm

    A really wonderful blog post that summed up how a great deal of non-Koreans feel about living in Korea.

    I’d agree with the comment about Korean’s not wanting to look white, but rather as the commenter mentioned a particular way that includes having light skin.

    With every other point you’ve hit the nail bang on the head.

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences in Korea. It was a really interesting read and it was great to see many negative things that I also feel about Korea so eloquently put into words.

    Take solace in the fact that you can always return home to Scotland… the greatest country in the world 😉

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      28th April 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks Graeme, so glad that you could relate to what I had to stay. And thanks, it’s always nice knowing I can go back to such a lovely country!

  • Reply
    27th April 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Hey! I taught in Seoul for one year and I’ve been back in the States a few months now. I totally get where you are coming from with a lot of these feelings. I had similar ones too when I was there. Although I never heard anyone say anything bad about the Japanese, I can definitely see older Koreans doing that. The memories are still fresh in their mind about what life was like after the war. I have to say there is a lot about Korea I found frustrating (people making fun of my weight, children asking rude questions, old people elbowing me, etc.) But I would say Korea is still a developing country. It’s made huge progress since the 90’s and has grown impressively. Foreigners are still a new and exciting “concept” to many people. My boyfriend (oh, I date a Korean ^^) used to giggle at the strangest things simply because I was a “foreign” girl. It’s such a strange concept to them. Luckily this wore off quickly and he realized foreigners are similar to Koreans, have feelings, can get hurt. He traveled through America with me and saw a bigger world. I feel like it was my duty when I lived there to explain these things to my students and the Korean friends I made. It can get really frustrating, but take heart… there are just some days (or weeks…) that are like that. But there are so many things you’ll miss, too, when you eventually leave!!

  • Reply
    28th April 2016 at 10:48 am

    Interesting. It’s always kind of a slap in the face when we find out how the rest of the world sees us (although I’m American and it’s usually the worst for us I feel like). In Spain, they didn’t stereotype Americans as easy or promiscuous, but they did criticize our government and police because the global news is so biased. Racism is a difficult concept here too, but as a country we’re working hard to eliminate it…it’s a shame Korea doesn’t have that attitude. Everyone is beautiful in their own way! If anything, it sounds like the attitude in Korea is very narcissistic with the plastic surgery, although I guess it’s too popular everywhere. As far as the guy asking if you have a boyfriend, would it be different if you politely told him “no, but it’s nice to meet you?” It’s funny, all of the Korean expats in America are so hardworking, polite, nice, friendly, and helpful…it’s so strange to see the other side of it!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      28th April 2016 at 1:34 pm

      Hey Lissie, thanks for your comment 🙂 I definitely think that the media has a lot of say in how people portray us- the news in Korea is full of stories about “dirty foreigners” (really!) and people are so influenced by it. I hope you are having a great time in Spain, it’s an amazing country 🙂

  • Reply
    Rosi C.
    28th April 2016 at 11:41 am

    Good to be.authentic..I wrote about not liking Hong Kong. Of course people had their remarks but end of the day it’s your viewpoint.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      28th April 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Hey Rosie! Shame you didn’t like Hong Kong. But you’re right, it’s important to be honest and authentic. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

  • Reply
    28th April 2016 at 11:58 am

    It can so hard to say anything negative about a country and I first want to applaud you for being so gutsy. I’ve never been to Korea so I can’t say, but in India, I know there is this ideology that fair skin is better than brown skin (which to me is completely strange since the entire country is full of people with brown skin mostly) as people try to be more Western and kids have this idea ingrained even in elementary school. I was watching television in India once and even noticed a commercial for skin lightening creams telling people if they had dark skin they wouldn’t get a job or be successful in life. WTF? So I think ,similarly to your opinion on Korea, there are days when India and I won’t be friends and there are days when I can look past it’s flaws as well because like you said, for every negative, there are some positives 🙂 Great post btw!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      28th April 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks you so much for your comment Anshula! That is terrible that there was a commercial like that. Why can’t we have commercials telling people to celebrate their own skin and be happy with themselves! Maybe people would be much happier that way. 🙂

  • Reply
    Luda Berdnyk
    28th April 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Wow, I had no idea about some of these aspects of Korean culture! Thank you for enlightening me with this post.
    I think the most shocking thing was when you mentioned your classroom – “The middle school students who I taught told me that their parents would get them plastic surgery if they got a good result in their high school tests.” Middle school students!? Woah!
    Have you seen “The Cost of Beauty” btw? It’s a documentary that focuses on Korean beauty standards and cosmetic surgery, and mentions some of the things that you talked about. Great post 🙂

  • Reply
    28th April 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Very brave of you to share your feelings – good on you! Whilst I haven’t been to Korea, I have been to other countries and have had similar treatment. It sucks and can be very disheartening.

  • Reply
    Meagan at A Friend Afar
    28th April 2016 at 11:11 pm

    I lived in Thailand for a while and experienced a lot of the same things, so my heart hurts for you today. Stay strong! You’ll forget about the negative experiences over time and be so glad that you had such wonderful ones! Thank you for being brave and sharing your feelings and the struggles of living abroad!

  • Reply
    28th April 2016 at 11:40 pm

    I loved reading this post– I mean, it’s really awful that the children are being brought up with a disgust of other cultures– but I just had no idea these things went on. It’s great to read from someone on the inside, especially as you’ve been there for a few years now so it’s not like someone moaning about a place who have only been there for a week.

    I hope that the majority of the time you feel welcomed and valued! 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      9th May 2016 at 10:40 am

      Hey Sarah, thanks so much for your comment. I was really shocked by it as well, especially the way the teachers react to such blatant racism. Of course, the good outweighs the bad and there are so many days that I am absolutely overwhelmed by the kindness of the people around me 🙂

  • Reply
    29th April 2016 at 12:33 am

    Interesting read.
    Well I don’t know, people are asking a whole range of questions when I travel. I try some things not to take so serious.
    I think is awesome that you expressed how you feel. I have Koreea on my wishlist but I am not sure wither I will like it or not. I will just take it as it comes.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      9th May 2016 at 9:43 am

      Hey Simona, I hope you get a chance to visit some day. It’s an amazing country- you just need to take some things with a pinch of salt I guess 🙂

  • Reply
    Brooke Herron
    29th April 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Amen sister- this is so true of many many countries that have largely homogoneous populations. They act shocked when an ‘american’ is asian or black even though our country is made up of EVERY RACE AND BACKGROUND and pepper us with questions about why do we eat so much ‘ethnic’ food if we are American. People like to dump on the u.k and u.s because we are big and we are targets. But it’s the countries who historically have NOT have the biggest immigrant populations that are truly still racist as a NORM. No shaming people in public when they are racist. No surprise when people say super racist stuff. this is true in Poland (the gay comments are unbelievable-sort of like 20 years in the past mentality) and it’s true in many areas of Italy and I’m sure many more places. Coming from California where half of everyone comes from an Asian or Latin or African American descent I was shocked at what passes for ‘acceptable’ socially as well after my first few years in Europe.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      9th May 2016 at 9:42 am

      You hit the nail on the head there. Racism exists everywhere… it exists in places like the UK and US too, but at least we recognise the racist people as being the exception and not the rule. It must be a huge culture shock for you moving to Europe and dealing with these attitudes but I hope that you are having an amazing time apart from that!

  • Reply
    Stella @ Travelerette
    1st May 2016 at 6:16 am

    Thank you for being so honest. I think every culture has things about it that are shocking and upsetting to an outsider, and perhaps for good reason. I have lots of friends from France living in the US, and I know that some aspects of life in America are difficult for them, from the lack of affordable healthcare to the quality of bread and produce. For my part, no matter how much I love French culture, when I am in France I always find the fat-shaming, especially of women, disturbing. I prefer that people feel free to openly discuss these kinds of issues, like you did, as long as its coming from a place of respect and not chauvinism.
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    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      9th May 2016 at 9:38 am

      Hey, thanks so much for your comment. I think I would also find the fat shaming of women in France disturbing, every country has it’s flaws, right.

  • Reply
    19th May 2016 at 7:13 am

    I love Korea so much and I definitely agree with you on the anti Japanese sentiments. I used to live in Japan and I hate the hatred. It makes me so sad. As for everything else, don’t let it get to you too much. What they do to their faces is their deal and it makes sense why they want to do it. If you’re not beautiful, you don’t get jobs. 🙁 It’s a sad reality but you can only stay you! So keep being beautiful and happy!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      23rd May 2016 at 8:59 am

      I can only imagine the questions you get asked when you tell your co-workers that you used to live in Japan!Yeah, I agree with you completely on that- it’s so sad that that’s actually their reality 🙁 but there’s nothing we can do to change it in our short time here. Thanks love, take care!

  • Reply
    Sometimes Plans are Made to be Broken - Wee Gypsy Girl
    25th May 2016 at 11:44 am

    […] March 2017, which will probably come as a bit of a surprise to anyone who read my last post about the reasons why I don’t really like living in Korea. However, I won’t be here for the whole time. Because, in September I’M GOING BACK TO […]

  • Reply
    Kourtney Hunter
    22nd July 2016 at 12:28 am

    This makes sense as to why I have not been hired as a black American. I have a wide nose and full lips. This makes me so sad everywhere people hate black people.

    • Reply
      lottie howell
      2nd August 2016 at 12:01 pm

      that’s really annoying to try and work against. I remember telling a girl in my Japanese classes I wanted to go live and work there ( I was working for a business degree), she said, “No, you want to work for an American or European company over there.” ? She proceeded to enlighten me about the attitude toward women in the workplace; very much like ours before the glass ceiling was at least raised if not broken. She had spent a year there as an exchange working in the host fathers Dr. clinic. While race discrimination is not the exact same problem I find it easy to relate to because I neither can nor want to change being me just to accommodate others.

  • Reply
    5 Reasons to Visit Nami Island - Wee Gypsy Girl
    5th August 2016 at 6:53 pm

    […] is a complex issue that I won’t talk about in too much detail here. (See here instead.) The people of Korea are extremely proud of their country, and they have good reason to be, too. […]

  • Reply
    10th February 2017 at 12:14 am

    Korea is a sick and sad society. I was born in Korea and grew up in the States since I was 3 so I consider myself an American. I stopped hanging out with Koreans in high school because they tend to be superficial, racist, ignorant and arrogant. Now I was offered a once in a lifetime job opportunity so I took it and I highly regret it. It is such an eye opening experience to really know my own people and unfortunately I am terribly embarrassed to even say I am Korean. What happened to this society? Koreans have become so vain, superficial, ill-mannered, and just plain stupid. They tell me the saying “…when in Rome, do what the Romans do” to follow Korean society but yet these Koreans talk crap about Americans and foreigners but the very ones who travel to foreign countries and behave like they are in Korea, not following their motto. Because they are the superior race right? Such hypocrites!!! I just can’t stand their superficial mentality as well! I don’t know if this society can change for the better but how I see it is that they are hopeless. What an embarrassment and not proud to say I am Korean myself. It gives those who aren’t like the majority a bad name and image. I even heard from Koreans in Korea tell me, if they act stupid in other countries to say they are Japanese or Chinese. That is just purely disgusting. Everything in Korea is either about plastic surgery or the money hungry superficial mentality. It makes me sick. Embarrassing!!! I don’t disagree with any of the things you pointed out and I definitely could add more to your list. I just can’t wait to get the hell out of this hellhole!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      13th February 2017 at 11:39 am

      Thanks for sharing your opinion, Jaime! It’s really interesting to hear your thoughts on this. I’m sure that your experience in Korea, although similar to mine, is very different as well! I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had such a disappointing experience here and can understand you wanting to leave soon. Hopefully you can find something positive from the experience and appreciate the time that you spent here when you look back in hindsight. If anything, it will give you a new appreciation for The USA and make you a much more resilient person!

  • Reply
    10th February 2017 at 12:15 am

    Korea is a sick and sad society. I was born in Korea and grew up in the States since I was 3 so I consider myself an American. I stopped hanging out with Koreans in high school because they tend to be superficial, racist, ignorant and arrogant. Now I was offered a once in a lifetime job opportunity so I took it and I highly regret it. It is such an eye opening experience to really know my own people and unfortunately I am terribly embarrassed to even say I am Korean. What happened to this society? Koreans have become so vain, superficial, ill-mannered, and just plain stupid. They tell me the saying “…when in Rome, do what the Romans do” to follow Korean society but yet these Koreans talk crap about Americans and foreigners but the very ones who travel to foreign countries and behave like they are in Korea, not following their motto. Because they are the superior race right? Such hypocrites!!! I just can’t stand their superficial mentality as well! I don’t know if this society can change for the better but how I see it is that they are hopeless. What an embarrassment and not proud to say I am Korean myself. It gives those who aren’t like the majority a bad name and image. I even heard from Koreans in Korea tell me, if they act stupid in other countries to say they are Japanese or Chinese. That is just purely disgusting. Everything in Korea is either about plastic surgery or the money hungry superficial mentality. It makes me sick. Embarrassing!!! I don’t disagree with any of the things you pointed out and I definitely could add more to your list. I just can’t wait to get the hell out of this hellhole!

  • Reply
    27th June 2017 at 4:56 am

    Wow, dealing with that for 2 years! I’m absolutely amazed.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      5th July 2017 at 7:12 pm


  • Reply
    9th October 2017 at 1:45 am

    Hi Nicole,

    I had a great time reading your story. It’s very informative for a frequent SK traveller like myself. I do understand how you felt. I have thus far been reading and hearing a lot of similar stories from others about SK and its culture and norms. My first trip to Seoul I was shouted at with rude words, since I can understand them, by a drunk ajusshi very early in the morning while I was walking and taking photos and enjoying the city view. That is my first ever solo trip so I didn’t bother myself with it because I have had enough headaches en route to my trip, so I just put him at the back of my mind. The rest of the trip went smoothly and I was happy for a kind assistance from a lady who left me when I initially asked for direction but came back, grabbed my hand and brought me right in front of the City bus doorstep (place I was trying to be), no question asked. I believe language was an issue, nevertheless I was really grateful. And at the same time I made a new Korean friend through another friend, and she is really great. Before beginning my postgrad study in Glasgow, I went for my 3rd visit and it was my most memorable trip as I was able to visit many other places outside from Seoul, cue DMZ (;P). Thus far, my solo travels around the world, I was lucky to not have a really bad experience. What I love most is that I am able to grow out from our country’s custom way of thinking and restricted cultural expectations, and began to understand and appreciate other people despite their cultural backgrounds. Perhaps the same applies to people from many other countries when they spend most of their time in their country and only relying on the media to develop their own opinion towards others. It happens in my country as well. Like you said nothing is perfect. I am taking the approach of “agree to disagree” to remain sane in any particular country I went or intend to go. 🙂 Oh and by the way, love all your posts thus far and of course I love Scotland, and no, it is definitely not England ;P … There is a promise I made to come back for Orkney, we’ll see. ^-^

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      12th October 2017 at 1:15 pm

      Hi Era,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I have been thinking lately that I hate how much traffic this post about me not liking Korea gets because, since I’ve left, I only remember the good things! There are so many amazing things about Korea and the people are so kind as well. How cool that you studied in Glasgow! Did you go to Glasgow Uni? I also studied there. Hehe Orkney is so far away but it looks amazing. Shetland and the Outer Hebrides are on the top of my wishlist! xx

      • Reply
        14th December 2017 at 2:47 pm

        hi Nicole!

        Hope you are doing fine. I just got back from my longest trip to Daejeon>Mungyeong>Buyeo>Gwangmyeong>Busan>Seoul. I fell in love with Daejeon and the nearby hiking locations. Gyejeoksan was a challenge for a beginner like me..huhuhu… Next is coastal road trip from Taean to Geoje ^^… On your question, no, I studied at Strathclyde Uni but I went to Glasgow uni to watched the eclipse in 2015! 🙂

  • Reply
    29th November 2017 at 11:17 am

    Hi Nicole,
    I can relate to your post on so many levels. I used to study in Busan for 3 years a few years ago and I remember all the experience like it was yesterday.
    I came with good intentions of getting an education and although I’ve made some amazing Korean friends, whom I still speak to until today; the bad experiences I received has kind of stuck by me.
    I am, by right, a foreigner despite being Asian (half Chinese and half Polynesian) I am still treated as a fat Korean mainly because I am fair skinned. Sigh. I used to teach English in Korean Elementary Schools and I used to get my students asking me why I’m so fat ALL the time. FYI: I used to be a size 14-16.
    Living in Korea made me realised that not only was I supposed to look like them; I succumbed to their idea of beauty. In fact, I ended up falling into depression and self-harm; I ended up seeing a therapist when I went back.

    Although I agree there are some beautiful things in Korea, in the long run, I probably don’t think I would want my children to live and grow up there. I may not be perfect but I appreciate everyone for their differences and all their flaws because that’s what makes them… well them. Just sharing my two cents.

    I love your blog by the way. 🙂
    – Anna

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      30th November 2017 at 8:21 am

      Hi Anna,

      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your story about Korea. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how difficult that must have been for you. I’ve heard from a lot of people that Korea can be so much harder for people who are adopted Koreans, have Korean heritage or are non-Korean Asian heritage.

      The focus on looks is a huge deal and when you see posters saying that you should only weigh 46kgs if you’re 170 cm, you feel pretty bad about yourself. There is a huge pressure that we’re definitely not used to in Scotland.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment!
      Nicole x

  • Reply
    5th January 2018 at 4:46 am

    Hi, I’ve been reading through some TEFL Korea stories as I’m finishing up my certification and your blog has been very helpful. While I knew racism and sexism were a heavy thing in Korea (and pretty much everywhere) I do have some questions as it was the main country I wanted to teach in.

    I’m Filipino American with brown skin and big lips. Did you ever see or meet other foreign teachers who didn’t have white skin? A theme I’m seeing in the stories I’ve read have only been from white people which makes me wonder if they even hire nonwhite English-speaking people. My back-up plan is Japan as there has been greater diversity in the sense of having teachers but also more horror stories on teachers being mistreated and contracts being breached.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      5th January 2018 at 11:22 am

      Hi Elisa, Thanks for getting in touch and congratulations on finishing up your TEFL! My boyfriend also taught in Korea and he’s mixed race, from South Africa. These days, there are a lot of non-white teachers in South Korea. Especially on the public school programmes. A lot of private schools still discriminate based on looks as they think they can sell more classes if they have a blonde haired, blue eyed, 22 year old American girl teaching their classes. But public school programmes like EPIK, SMOE and GOE diverse a broad range of teachers from different race groups and ethnicities. Hope this puts your mind at ease!

  • Reply
    6th February 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Probably because of k-pop, most of Korean guys got to think they are getting popular among western women. So most of them are so confident and some of them are too confident to be Korean even though their appearance is FAKE by plastic surgery. They should approach women without any plastic surgery and making up then they would not get the same consequences. Ive met lots of Korean guys who’ve never got any plastic surgery on their face and all of them look TOTALLY different from k-pop stars, I’m sorry to say this. Also, it’s interesting if you think that North Korean people can have same appearance as Korean people’s with plastic surgery, making up and hair style since they used to be a same ethnic and have same blood. Their envying western beauty made them so crazy.

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