Being from a different country when you’re in America: can anyone really tell? America is such a diverse group of people that you can’t tell if you’re American or if you just got off the plane from Germany. No one would know.
Obviously, people knew right away in Korea that I was not Korean. Staring at [insert any noun here] is very common; if [that noun] is rare, I would stare at it as well. Nowadays, foreigners are becoming increasingly popular in South Korea. If I traveled outside of my campus’ gates, I would find at least one foreigner besides myself looking uncomfortable under the gazes and sniffs of Koreans that walked by. It was something to get used to, it was just how things were.
Most of my peers were Korean students. In most of my classes, there would be one or two foreigners besides myself, the rest were Korean. I didn’t mind so much except when I was trying to make friends.
I never even thought about it being an issue.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term of being a trophy wife. She is a wife that is there for the husband to show off and tell his friends, “I did well, didn’t I?” My roommate brought this up to me after I had met a considerable amount of Korean students. It wasn’t a large group but after hanging out with a few of them a bunch of times, my Korean-German roommate voiced her concern. She wanted to know if I was a trophy friend. (Of course, she didn’t say it like that because that term is something I just came up with-)
I took her concern seriously. A trophy friend? Ridiculous! (ahem, well not seriously at first) All my new friends are awesome and so nice to me. I mean, I think I would have been able to tell if my newfound friends were showing me off, right? (Disclaimer: my friends and all the people I met while in South Korea, they were awesome. I think what I had with a lot of them was true friendship. In this post, I’m not calling anyone out.) I’m just saying my roommate put this thought into my head and now I can’t just shake it.
I made a considerable amount of guy friends, which is unlike the introverted country girl from America. I don’t really have many guy friends in America and when I came to South Korea, I befriended at least five guys right away. My roommate was worried. I was not; we’re friends. I mean I’m not that kind of girl. You know, the kind of girl that will have boys walk all over her and whatnot. After the talk with my roommate, I began to notice small things and a small seed of distrust was planted. However, my doubt did not make us any less friends. After all, I was only there for four months.
It was a friend of a friend commenting on pictures on Facebook, asking how he could join our group. It was a friend introducing me to his other friends and everyone patting him on the back and going, “대박!”- something that reminded me strangely of “You the man!” in cliche movies. It was a friend who held my hand in a crowd of people and then refused to let go. It was a friend asking me endless questions about America and how does it feel being a foreigner. It was these types of interactions that planted my distrust. It was these types of interactions that I knew my roommate was right about some of my friends.
Every time something like this happened, questions would race through my head. I wished I hadn’t thought about it. I wished I could blissfully return to the relationship we had before my roommate voiced her opinion. But I knew she was partly right. Are we friends only because I’m foreign, because I’m American? Is it because I speak English? Why does she want English help- is that the only reason we are hanging out? Is it because I’m blonde? Because of my accent?
Truly, I will never find out. Neither do I necessarily blame them for wanting a friend who is different. In that way, I was special. Not sure if that was a good thing or not.
But still I didn’t want to be that kind of girl.