Monday, March 1, 2010

The Difficulty of Inter-cultural Dialog: The Case of Korean Blogs.

Since starting this blog a few months ago I have tried to acquaint myself with the other expat run Korean blogs out there. I like many of them. See my Blog roll for a small selection. Some of these blogs feature lively arguments, usually between expats who are critical of some aspect of Korean culture and others, often of Korean descent, who choose to defend it. These discussions can be informative and interesting. However often they follow an unfortunately formulaic and unproductive trajectory.

1. An expat will say something negative about Korean culture.
2. Another person will defend that aspect of Korean culture.
3. The expat will restate his criticism as if it were incontrovertible fact.
4. The defender will state or imply that the expat is racist.
5. The expat will deny the charge and may throw it back at the defender.
6. Potty mouth ensues.
7. More potty mouth.
8. More potty mouth.

Often emotions on both sides fuel this kind of bickering. For expats living in a foreign country and adapting to a foreign culture can be a frustrating experience, especially when one's job depends upon acting in accordance with it. On the other hand, Koreans, or those of Korean descent, easily tire of hearing complaints about their country from those whom they consider guests.

Venting can be feel therapeutic. Voicing legitimate criticisms can seem constructive And defending one's country against perceived bigotry can feel honorable.

However true inter-cultural dialog is more important and, thankfully, more enjoyable.
Two suggestions, one for each group.
Expats in Korea have a tendency to express only their negative reactions to Korean culture. Instead try to pair every negative comment with a positive one.
Koreans, or those of Korean descent, often tend to reflexively defend their culture, responding more to who is making the statement than to what is actually being said. Instead, if a criticism has any truth to it all, try to acknowledge that, and then respond substantively to that which you disagree.



  1. 9. Comments turned off.

    In my case when I have those kinds of fights, it's not always between foreigners and Koreans, but between long-time readers and first-timers. That's what unfolded on those skating threads. And, yes, most first-time visitors tend to be Koreans. I attribute the disagreements to not only a language barrier but perhaps an unfamiliarity with how blogs work and how I happen to run things. My site isn't a place where you can just come, throw your crap into the mix, and leave. That just gets people worked up. People who choose to stay and read some more---recent commenter "joy" is an example---tend to aggravate people less.