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Their eyes — the men’s and the women’s — were fixated on the “provocative” sight before them, their expressions frozen in shock.I wanted to tell Jess that wearing low-cut shirts is not exactly appropriate in Korea, without coming across as prude, condescending, or a “know-it-all” for having lived in Korea longer than her.My roommate Dahae, who had a boyfriend and had lived in France, voiced that it wasn’t quite so shocking, but she was not comfortable with the situation either.
’ you’ll say, ‘Yes, please,’ and after we repeat this a couple times, you’ll stuff your shirt with balloons. ” “It would be so funny,” he assured me, “and it would make the students more interested in the lesson.” I sighed.You might want to cover up a little more.” She laughed. Koreans are so scared of boobs.” Like Jess, when I first arrived in Korea in 2009, I spent my exchange semester unaware of the stereotypes that applied to Western females.I too would wear North American-style, sleeveless, low-cut tank tops.Because of our extroverted natures, Kevin and I were able to chat freely, but as an older man in an ageist society, he could also be quite stubborn and controlling. When we embarked on a staff hiking trip, he had me pose next to a sign that said “Danger! , by Alan Brennert, a fictional account of a Korean picture bride’s life in Hawaii in the early 1900s. I was surprised; I thought the woman looked both beautiful and classy. Lots of women wear shirts like that in Western countries.” He asked me what the book was about, and I explained how it was based on historical accounts of Korean immigrants and picture brides in Hawaii, but there was also a love story tied into the narrative. Kevin’s conservative views and perceptions of Westerners, especially Western women, were on par with many Koreans’ who I’d encountered.On Thanksgiving, we argued for 15 minutes in front of the class after he thought my explanation of American Thanksgiving was wrong. Kevin noticed the image of the Korean woman on the front cover, wearing an off-the-shoulder top and bowing her head in sorrow. The Korean woman was initially set up with an abusive sugarcane farmer, but eventually was able to get a divorce and marry another Korean immigrant she had fallen in love with. The book cover situation reminded me of riding the subway last spring with two English teachers, Mary and Jess, sitting on plush blue seats on our way to an international food festival in downtown Seoul.