July 25, 2014

Why Kvetchpats Will Always Hate Korea

I believe the biggest reason why some expats will never have a good time in Korea is not due to the country itself, but the reason they came in the first place. This is the line that divides the kvetchpats from the other expats who truly want to have a great time in Korea and pretty much determines the experiences that each group will have accordingly. Kvetchpats generally come to Korea with a sense of entitlement, expecting Korea to conform to their Western expectations while differing on only a superficial level like food or dress. Because they have come from multiethnic countries, they seem to believe that somehow makes them more progressive in their outlook towards racism and social issues. They fail to recognize that being from multiethnic countries does not make one automatically progressive, but having a progressive attitude does. Then, there is the other group of expats who are truly open-minded, understanding that culture is more than just food or dress and willing to respect and understand the different ways of Korean society. They put forth the effort and they take on the responsibility to learn the language and understand the culture. They do their best to adapt to Korean society as they know that they are guests and it is up to them to make the most of their lives wherever they are.

Kvetchpats on the other other hand generally came to Korea to appease their own egos. They thought that they would get a free vacation, maybe doing a little work to earn money and have a free place to stay. They look to get what they can from Korea without taking much responsibility for how they conduct themselves or choose to create their lives there. So they will do as little work as possible at their schools, expect other Koreans to give them whatever they want, and not do anything to improve their own life situation. They will blog or comment on other blogs and forums where kvetchpats like to "blow off steam" and bash Korea. This cycle will continue until they finally get sick of living a miserable life and choose to leave Korea or change their attitude. I have seen a few kvetchpats change, but I don't know of anyone that has done a complete 360. I know that is definitely possible, but it goes to show how much work someone has to do to change deeply ingrained habits that have been present for a long time. Ultimately, it is about personal responsibility and choosing to be more aware, more self-critical about oneself. Until that choice is made, the cycle will continue. I know that many kvetchpats will insist that it is their right to be this way because Korea has made them so and so they will continue to give all their power to Korea and be its "victim". Yeah, I guess if you are a victim, there is nothing you can do and you are just stuck in Korea and your miserable life. It is astounding the lengths that some people will go to protect their "victim" status going as far as arguing vociferously for the right of expats to be homeless in Korea instead of being sent back to America where they would have more resources and a better chance to pull themselves up than in a society where they do not really understand the language and culture.

There are expats who actually make the most of their lives in Korea, starting from the same place as kvetchpats, at least in terms of working at schools and such. I know of an American woman who started out as an English teacher and then got an MBA at a Korea university, became fluent in Korean, and now has an executive position in the Korean agricultural industry. Yes, the kvetchpats will whine, but what use is Korean when only a few countries speak it? What use are your Korean girlfriends and friends and co-workers when you can't express yourself in Korean and have to get them to translate things? It is your life and if you can't see the value of being able to communicate and get what you want, I guess you're screwed and it will not be Korea's fault.

The real problem with kvetchpats is that they are completely out of touch with the reality of their situation. Instead of blaming Korea, they need to take responsibility and recognize what they need to do make their lives better. The power will always be out of their hands because they choose to make it so. You don't like Korea? Then, leave. They could save enough money to start again in their home countries, but they choose not to because they want to take the road of empty gratification, doing little work for as much gain as possible. The problem is not that Korea is such a horrible place to live. The problem is that until you take responsibility for how you live, think, and conduct yourself, including what you say and how you say it, your life isn't going to get any better.

Korea is not the problem here. The problem is that kvetchpats have given up so much responsibility that they have degraded themselves in the way they choose to live and be. They think that they can compartmentalize their misbehavior on forums and in their daily life and still present themselves as a good person the rest of the time. People don't need to have an experience to get negative vibes from you and that is what you create when you stew in the hateful, negative, and unfairly critical thinking present on those forums. It's to the point of unconsciousness and I believe that many of the kvetchpats on those forums have gotten so mired in that way of being that they cannot see what they are really doing. It's become an unconscious habit. Being hateful and bashing is just normal to them. That's just the way they are, so they can't see where they are going wrong.

I recently an example of this in the Korean media. In one case, there was a very famous kvetchpat blogger participating in a round table discussion with three other people who were Korean. This was an English language network on Korean television. I'm pretty sure that he is kind of aware that he is coming off as a bit awkward and offensive because he has toned down a bit from his earlier media appearances. Ironically, this individual is someone who could get a good job in the U.S. based on his educational credentials, but chose to come back to Korea for some reason yet continues to complain about how awful it is. During the round table discussion, you could tell that the other participants were kind of offended by this blogger because of his negative demeanor and somewhat harsh comments about Korea. At the same time, you could also tell by his facial expressions and unnaturally subdued manner that this blogger was aware of this and a bit embarrassed by it, so he toned it down a bit compared to what you would normally read on his blog, which is very emphatic and aggressively negative. This is a case of someone being a victim to their own dysfunctional thinking and not being able to do much about it in the moment because it has become such an ingrained part of him. You can't just be respectable the rest of your life while being hateful and degrading in others. Those things reverberate in ways that you may not expect or be conscious of. So it is important to be conscious and critical of one's thoughts and words otherwise you will create a life that you don't want and blame others when it really is your responsibility.

Keep blaming Korea and let's see how much better your life will get. The people who have a great life do so because they choose to take responsibility for it, not because they expect others to create it for them. Opportunity is what you make of it, not just what is presented to you.