July 21 2006
-Where were you born?
I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my Korean wife Seon-mi.
-In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Donghae (formerly Tonghae), Republic of Korea.
-How long have you been living in Korea?
I've been in Donghae three years. In Korea about eight years.
-What is your age?
Well, my Chinese zodiac is the monkey, and I remember the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, so I'll let you figure it out.
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Korea?
Since I lived in Brasil until age six, and the Bahamas until age 14 or so, it was only natural to go "abroad" after 26 odd years living in the USA. Life in America was becoming too American.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
In Korea, if you have a pulse and a passport and you look anything but Asian, you can teach English (not that you will actually be qualified to teach).
-How do you make your living in Korea?
I'm an English language teacher. I teach conversation. I got the job through a recruiter advertising in the Seattle Times newspaper. The application process was quite easy and straightforward. The recruiter needed new blood, and I needed to get the hell out of Seattle, with its perennially gray skies. Once I got to Korea other possibilities opened up. I was lucky. Both the recruiter and my first boss were pretty decent. That's not always the case as can be learned by surfing the message boards at Dave's ESL Cafe.
-Do you speak Korean and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I started studying Korean before I got here, with a book and some tapes I checked out from the Seattle Public Library. My first three or four years I studied like crazy on my own and with Koreans who wished to do language exchange. Then I went to Yonsei University and studied Korean intensively for six months. I spent A LOT of money studying Korean, thousands and thousands of dollars. People who live in Korea and don't speak the language, well, I don't know what they get out of it, to be honest. Living here and not speaking the language would be like trying to eat a delicious meal with a mouth full of Novocaine!
As for customs, well, Koreans are getting to the point where they don't really expect respectful behavior from foreigners, but at one point Korea was a society with a very detailed and proscribed set of customs. It's kind of starting to unwind, now.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
This is my home. I will probably stay here. I know I won't be going back to the USA. Not to live, anyhow.
What I miss is the chance to speak English and not have to speak slowly, or explain everything a million times. I miss rich food like cheese and chocolate occasionally, although I realize the Korean diet is probably superior to that of the West. I miss good English-style understatement, and American-style sarcasm. Koreans don't have ANY sense of sarcasm whatsoever. When we are being funny, they are serious, and when they are being funny, well, they're not really being that funny--not in a true, Western sense. Their humor is just not that sophisticated, but then again we are savages in a lot of ways as well.
But that's not to say they are overly serious people. Far from it. They are always laughing and carrying on.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
My plan is to save money, buy land and hunker down and wait for the Holocaust, because I'm afraid it's gonna arrive in my generation. I'll always have a little money to skip away to Southeast Asia, where one can live quite well on peanuts.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I live in a modest apartment. It is small by American standards, but what more do I need? My employer pays for it. I pay the utilities. I hope to buy my own place soon. Unfortunately, I've done so much traveling and pissed away so much money on the drink (before I got lassoed into marriage), that I didn't have much money as recently as two years ago (and I still don't, but I have more than I DID!).
-What is the cost of living in Korea?
The cost of living in Korea is quite inexpensive. They talk about Seoul being one of the "most expensive" cities on Earth, but you can get a square meal (no tipping, no tax) for less than 5 bucks, and you can get a clean, good-sized hotel room for about 30 bucks U.S. So what is so expensive?
-What do you think about the Korean people?
Koreans are decent people. They're racist, sure, but that's because they've never been around black people or brown people. For some odd reason they seem to worship white people, which makes life easier for me. I wish they would treat the Africans a little better, but they will come around. They never hung anyone like they did in America or South Africa, though.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Korea?
The positive: Very little crime. Almost no guns. Highly educated people. Everything works. Great Internet. Pretty, super-friendly women.
The negative: It's the same everywhere you go. Absolutely. Little diversity of thought. And nothing but Korean food, unless you want to pay an arm and a leg to eat poorly-made foreign cuisine.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Korea?
Don't come here if you just want to make money. You'll be bored and miserable. If you learn Korean, they will like you much, much more, no matter who you are. You should have some personal projects you can work on in your free time, like studying the language, culture, or writing a book about Korea (not enough good stuff about Korea in English). When I first came to Korea I wrote a lot about the local mountain climbing scene for the international media. I've also pioneered surfing here on the East Sea.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Korea?
Well, my blog is called Yankabroad (http://yankabroad.blogspot.com). You can start there. Most of the expat bloggers spend a lot of their time talking politics. My site takes you on a natural history tour of the country around Donghae, where I live (when I'm NOT arguing politics).