My Summer in Korea, Part 1: Settling In

*The “My Summer in Korea” Series*

I had always wanted to go to Korea, but not to teach English or see my ex-boyfriend. I really wanted my trip to be about me, my chosen career, and my future.

After careful planning and convincing my mom that South Korea was different and separate from North Korea, I finally made it happen. I went to Korea in the summer of 2012. I was going to study law at Sungkyunkwan School of Law, and I was going to complete a human rights internship with NKnet. I received some scholarship money, but I paid for most of the trip with money I had saved up from working two to three jobs for a few months…

Suddenly, I was on my way!

My flight to Korea~

My flight to Korea~

My oppa’s friend picked me up from the airport, bought me my first meal in Korea, gave me some good advice about life in Korea, and took me to my hotel.

First meal~

First meal~

I stayed at Nox Boutique in Yeoksam-dong, Kangnam-gu for a few days. I booked my hotel before coming to Korea, and I made sure to find a real hotel, not a love hotel. They had great service and free breakfast!^^

My room~

My room~

I spent the first night alone, but my friend in Korea (we met online) rode the subway for three hours to see me and we finally met in person for the first time the next day, which was hard to do since I didn’t have a phone!

Where we decided to meet~

Where we decided to meet~

He stayed with me at my hotel for the next two days. We also got to date, and I was really thankful to have him with me. It was nice to have someone to talk to and eat with, especially in a place that was completely brand new to me.

At Kraze Burger~

At Kraze Burger~

Couple burgers~

Couple burgers~

Yummy~

Yummy~

On the third day I went apartment hunting, which is really fun in Korea. I went to this small, cramped office and was shown different rooms on a website. Then, my realtor drove me around to look at the rooms I had liked. I found a cute little one room apartment that fit my budget, about 450 a month. My friend also helped me move into my apartment.

The entrance~

The entrance~

My bed, my painting, and Gray, my teddy bear~

My bed, my painting, and Gray, my teddy bear~

My closet and some of the "kitchen" and "living room"~

My closet and some of the “kitchen” and “living room”~

My shoes~

My shoes~

I lived in Nonhyun-dong, a neighborhood in Kangnam. After my friend from the countryside left, I met up with a few other people I knew and friends I had who were also in Korea.

One friend took me to Hong-dae. We walked around and went to a small concert hall. Afterwards, we grabbed some food with a new friend we met at the concert who had come to Korea from China.

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

He was inspired to sell Korean-Mexican fusion food after eating some at a taco stand in Austin, TX, which is where I live and go to school! Small world~

He was inspired to sell Korean-Mexican fusion food after eating some at a taco stand in Austin, TX, which is where I live and go to school! Small world~

Hongdae~

Hongdae~

Ran into the lead singer outside at a gas station, and then saw him inside, too. He talked to me, but I didn't know he was going to sing until he went on stage~

Ran into the lead singer outside at a gas station, and then saw him inside, too. He talked to me, but I didn’t know he was going to sing until he went on stage~

Concert in Hongdae~

Concert in Hongdae~

Concert in Hongdae~

Concert in Hongdae~

Makgolli~

Makkgeolli~

Pajeon~

Pajeon~

Odaeng tang~

Odaengtang~

Afterwards, we went clubbing, but I wasn’t impressed with Hongdae clubs. Everyone was so young and wild. The clubs were also dangerously packed and pretty boring as far as music goes.

Cocoon~

Cocoon~

A few days later, my other friend took me to the downtown area of my neighborhood, which was just five minutes away! I was shocked to see what was on the other side of the street and behind those tall buildings.

DT in Nonhyun-dong~

DT in Sin-nonhyun~

DT in Nonhyun-dong~

DT in Sin-nonhyun~

Ho Bar~

Ho Bar~

Outside in the street~

Outside in the street~

Inside NB~

Inside NB~

Inside NB~

Inside NB~

At 5 or 6 am it finally closed~

At 5 or 6 am it finally closed~

My friend from Korean class was also in Korea, and a few days later I met her. She taught me how to use the subway. We also walked around and ate a lot of delicious food.

Tous les Jours! Now there is one in Austin, TX where I live, too~

Tous les Jours! Now there is one in Austin, TX where I live, too~

From the day I met my friend's girlfriend~

From the day I met my friend’s girlfriend~

They bought me yummy food~

They bought me yummy food~

I miss it!

I miss it!

We got closer when we came back to America, and now she is my best friend! We are planning another trip to Korea and many other parts of Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia) soon. In the end, my first few days in Korea were great thanks to my friends!

And, be sure to check out My Summer in Korea, Part 2: Working and Going to School and My Summer in Korea, Part 3: Dating!

Finally, if you ever need any help while you are in Korea, just leave me a comment or email me at westerngirlxeasternboy@gmail.com! I know some good people and can give you tons of advice about having fun AND staying safe.

^^

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Korean Boys (and Me)

*Diary*

Me and my husband So Ji Sub~

Me and my husband So Ji Sub~

I ended up getting married to So Ji Sub, I mean taking a picture with a cardboard cutout of So Ji Sub last year, but who would have thought that I would ever end up “marrying” someone from a country that I had never even heard of until 2008?!

In 2008, my best friend at university, H-, introduced to me Korean Karaoke and Korean food. He also introduced me to his Korean friends, which got me even more interested in Korean culture. He would even speak Korean to me, which helped me learn Korean quickly.

I still remember the first time H- and I went to a death metal concert together. That night, he became my first love. I grew up in a conservative family, so at that time I didn’t know anything about boys and girls, or about dating and relationships…

>.<

He was definitely interested in me, but not as his girlfriend. I decided to wait for someone who would also love me back. Even though I really loved him and wanted to be with him, I know I made the right decision!

Because of my first love, I became used to talking to and being with Korean boys, and I met another Korean boy through a friend: T-.

After meeting T-, who tried to take advantage of me, I SWORE that I would never date a Korean boy. It seemed like all the horror stories about Korean boys on the internet were true. However, the next day, I met my first boyfriend, J-, who was very– VERY, Korean, but more than that he was just… mine.

He was someone I loved, and someone who loved me…

The time I spent with my first boyfriend taught me a lot about life, love, and consideration. But, when J- went back to Korea that summer, I chose not to follow him even though I still loved him, because I knew that we weren’t meant for each other. We broke-up after trying to be in a long-distance relationship for a few months, but we talked again over the phone for the first time a year later when I finally went to Korea.

It was then that I realized how much I had missed him– his voice, his laugh, and I realized how much of a mess I had been without him– my tears, my scars.

While in Korea, I found what had been missing for a long time after he left: Myself. When I came back to America, I was finally able to get rid of the 18K gold ring he gave me the night he left.

I was finally able to let him go, or was I?!

>.<

Anyway, I’ve dated other Korean boys since my ex-boyfriend, both while in America and while in Korea. There is a difference between Korean boys and Korean-American boys, and I have yet to date any dated some Korean-American boys. I think they feel even more pressure to date Korean girls, but I’m not sure.

(I live in Texas, so it might be different in New York or L.A.)

As for Korean boys, they USUALLY make great dates. They know how to be fun, caring, and romantic.

But, if Korean girls are not going after a Korean boy, then you might not want to either.

Korean girls know Korean boys best, so watch and learn from them, because its really easy to get taken advantage of by the wrong Korean boy.

People will tell you that Korean boys are like any other boy, but I DON’T think that’s true. They have their own unique culture which shapes the way they live their life and the decisions they make– especially when it comes to relationships. Family is really important, and so is their relationship with elders and becoming a namja, or man.

For awhile, I had to fight with my ex-boyfriend’s hyung, or older “brother,” for my ex-boyfriend’s time, because he would always demand my ex-boyfriend’s time AND attention, and my ex-boyfriend just HAD to respect him and do as he said. This was new to me, and I put my foot down. Thankfully, my ex-boyfriend was always on my side.

(Looking back, I was so young and so selfish…)

Other than that, being Nigerian-American, I grew up with similar values that placed emphasis on family, respect for your elders, and education, so Korean boys always felt familiar and comfortable to me, especially when compared to American ones (who I still don’t understand).

I don’t know who I would be had I not met these boys and men, but I’m thankful for (most of) them.

After all, I wouldn’t have gotten to learn a new language, make new friends, and explore a new culture and country without them!

^^

Korean Boys and Black Girls, Part 1: Three Questions That Need To Be Answered

*Black Girls in Korea: Relationships, Beauty Tips, &More*

These days, boys from South Korea are really popular, but back in 2008 they were just boys at my university to me, and the horror stories on the internet that almost scared me away from them haven’t changed.

(But, I wasn’t scared away, because in the end who could have resisted THIS).

Jaejoong in 2008 when DBSK was still together~

Jaejoong in 2008 when DBSK was still together~

Back then, I had Statistics with a Korean boy– the third Korean boy I had ever met in my entire life, and no, he didn’t look like Jaejoong, but we happened to go to the same party. I went and said hi to him first, and we ended up drinking and dancing together. We became Facebook friends and talked often, but later, somehow I was deleted from his Facebook. I thought it was him, but he apologized and explained what happened as soon as he found out that his friends had done it as a joke.

Suddenly, I was aware of our differences, and I had to ask myself these three questions:

“Are Koreans racist?”

“Do Korean boys like black girls?”

“Can I meet and date a nice Korean boy?”

Since then, I have found the answers to the questions I had; and, I want to share my answers with you, because they just might give you the courage you need to follow your heart.

Koreans are Probably Not as Racist as You Think They Are

Koreans are still very xenophobic, which is characterized by an irrational fear of that which is perceived as foreign or strange. Meaning, they’re just not used to seeing and might not like foreigners, especially black foreigners.

For example, Koreans often stare at black foreigners.

When I went to Korea, I literally got goosebumps because I realized everyone around was watching me as I walked down a street in Apgujeong with my friend.

The Korean Stare~

The Korean Stare~

But, don’t take the Korean stare the wrong way. Sometimes, they are staring out of genuine curiosity. If you smile, they might even smile back. Even if they do say or do something rude or disrespectful to you, be polite and respectful to them. Not everyone will be willing to accept you for who you are, but you should be willing to try to change their minds by making a good first and last impression.

Tip: If you speak a little or a lot of Korean and show that you are familiar with their culture, Koreans tend be very warm and welcoming.

Korean Boys Like (Some) Black Girls

Koreans tend to have one standard of beauty for both men and women.

Their ideal women tend to be pale and thin, with big eyes, a small nose, and an oval, or “V” shaped jaw line. They also idealize long, straight hair, although the ocean wave is also a hot trend in Korea.

Lee Da Hae~

Lee Da Hae~

Koreans find pale skin tones cute and innocent and tanned skin tones sexy.

So, Beyonce is the perfect example of a black woman who is popular with Korean men, because she is tanned and has a “glamorous,” curvy body. Many idols like Hyosung, Hyomin, and Ailee are known as “The Korean Beyonce.”

Beyonce~

Beyonce~

However, Naomi Campbell is also very popular in Korea, and they call her Victoria Secret’s “Shining Black Pearl.”

Naomi Campbell~

Naomi Campbell~

Korean boys and men also appreciate stylish women, as well as women of all sizes; although, there does seem to be a general preference for smaller, skinnier girls and women.

American girls and women can sometimes fall behind the rest of the world when it comes to fashion, so I suggest looking your absolute best at least– no matter what size you are, which will definitely turn heads and land smiles. You might even get a few compliments, which is always a great way to start a conversation.

(This might seem shallow, but Koreans are very concerned with first impressions and image.)

Tip: Special K can help you drop inches off your waist and thighs within weeks. Circle lenses are also a fun beauty trick that make your eyes look bigger.

Meeting and Dating a Nice Korean Boy: Don’t Break The Three Golden Rules!

The Three Golden Rules:

1. Learn to speak Korean– even a little.

2. Don’t meet Korean boys or men in clubs.

(But, I did meet my ex-boyfriend at a club in America. However, he was definitely the ONE exception to this rule– for the most part, Korean boys and men that you meet in clubs want ONE thing: Sex!)

3. Never sleep with a Korean boy or man that you just met.

A "Love" Motel~

A “Love” Motel~

(Especially if you met him at a club!)

Most girls ignore the importance of the first rule and break the second and third rule.

Korean boys or men might try to sleep with you very quickly because they think foreign girls and women, especially American girls and women, are open about having sex. However, they will probably lose interest in you if you sleep with them too soon, especially if you don’t actually speak the same language and don’t or either can’t find out whether or not you actually have anything in common.

So, you should either talk about what you want from each other upfront or just wait until you get to know each other before having sex.

(I think this goes for any relationship with anyone, though!)

Tip: When you meet Korean boys or men, they probably won’t know anything about you except for what they have seen on TV. So, work hard to help them get to know you and be patient with their questions about your skin or hair.

These answers aren’t good or bad, and you might have different ones based on your own experiences.

However, keep an open mind and an open heart, and someone special– Korean or not, will feel your sincerity and genuinely welcome you, help you, and grow to understand and even love you.

Finally, be sure to check out Korean Boys (and Me) and Korean Boys and Black Girls, Part 2: Its Not That Complicated (Or Is It?). In the first post, I’ll talk more about my relationships with Korean boys, including my best friend from college and my ex-boyfriend. In the second post, I’ll talk more about my relationship with my ex-boyfriend and offer some advice on how to overcome the language, cultural, and even physical barriers that come with being in an interracial relationship.

^^