I just ordered a pizza online. No biggie, I do that at least once a month. Only this time, I wanted to try out a new place and ended up being super annoyed when I finally placed the order. First of all, I had to scroll really far down the menu to find anything that did not involve fruit or potatoes as the main pizza topping. Second, my size options were “Medium, Large, and Big Large”. Seriously, Korea?! What happened to S, M, and L? What really offended me, though, was that the website suggested the pineapple pizza to me with this wording “The creamy cheese mixed with sweet pineapple is a preferred choice among women”. Oh, thank you. So just because I’m a girl you think I’d like a fruity pizza? No thanks. Needless to say, I ordered something entirely different.

I’ve noticed recently that my patience with such matters seems to be tested again and again. There is no doubt that Korea is an extremely sexist country. Men rule everything and women should preferably just be quiet, pretty and accommodating. I knew that when I moved here, but I recently feel increasingly appalled and frustrated whenever someone tries to mansplain things to me or comments on me being a woman. Just the other day, I was leaving work around 6 pm when I ran into two of my older male colleagues in the elevator. In an effort to make small talk, one of them asked if I was still living at my current place together with my husband. When I said yes, he retorted in a joking manner partly to me, and partly to the other professor in the elevator: “Oh, so maybe your husband even cooks you dinner, hahaha.” I refused to take this as a joke and calmly replied that, in fact, he always cooks dinner and also does the dishes too. This left the two gentlemen speechless until we reached the ground floor.

This may seem innocuous, but like I wrote in my previous post A Korean promise, it actually seems to become harder rather than easier to come to terms with these cultural differences. I’ve been struggling to try to figure out why it seems harder now than it did in the beginning. Surely, no one experiences a culture shock with so much delay. Maybe not, but in my effort to diagnose my lack of patience with Korean culture, I have come across the term cultural fatigue. Apparently, this can happen when you suddenly realize that what used to be funny, quirky, or even exotic encounters has turned into a daily nuisance. This quote sums it up quite nicely:

Cultural fatigue often happens when you get to a point in a culture where you can still see the riddles, but realize that you will never be able to answer them, yet obsessively continue trying anyway.

Well, I guess that may be just what I’m feeling these days. Anyone with similar experiences? Do share!

6 Comments »

  1. Living in a different country with an entirely different culture is exhausting. You’ll always have that feeling I think. My Korean partner who lives with me in Belgium and has lived in Belgium for 5 years now still experiences the same feelings you expressed here. Sometimes it is hard for me to understand why these little things bug him so much even now. Of course, the issues he gets annoyed over are very different than the issues you get annoyed over in Korea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t lived in another country, but this reminds me of something that the instructor of the Cultures class that I took for my ESOL endorsement said. He explained that people who move to an area with a different culture cycle through the stages of adjustment (almost like the stages of grief) again and again. We fall down, we get up, over and over, and yep, that must be exhausting! 힘!

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  3. I don’t think it is ever possible to get used to sexism of any kind, especially if you grew up in a western society. And I would refuse to accept it as a part of culture as well. Because the society is slowly changing and the change is much needed. The problem of sexist male colleagues get’s addressed in K-Dramas a lot..Oh how I loved how one of the female characters finally punched a co-worker in a recent drama.
    I know about cultural fatigue from my own experience of being an immigrant, some things you will never ajust to, no matter how long you live somewhere. Somethings keep annoying or irking me and I refuse to accept them. Some other cultural differences I just learn to live with, some differences I even adopted over time.

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    • Thanks for reading along, and thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with this. And yes, women should punch men way more in K-dramas, haha. I’m still shocked at how often you see scenes in Korean tv shows, where men are violent toward women. I’m thinking about pulling hard at their wrist or slapping them. Since it appears so often on tv it must be a symptom of the culture, which I’m not really a fan of.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The best part is, when something like this is romanticized. If the main character is forcefully kissing the girl and after some struggle she submits, what do the young people, who watch it, learn from it? If you are interested in girl power in Korean TV shows, you should watch “Age of Youth” 1 and 2. It addresses so many problems in the Korean society. Btw, thank you for following!

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