I teach a range of ages at the after school academy where I work. The youngest that I teach is 8 in Korean age which is like 7 for the Western World, the oldest in my regular classes are 14. As with most children in that age range, they tend to say some really “off the mark” comments.
Being a foreigner in this country means that I get a lot of comments about my person. Sometimes from people that I know, sometimes from complete strangers. From adults, the theme tends to be do I have a boyfriend (no), am I married (no), why aren’t I married, how old am I, are my parents ok with me not being married. It’s a struggle.
But with the kids, sometimes it’s more of a struggle to keep my own comments to myself. I get comments all the time from students (in Korean of course because heaven forbid they actually speak in English), about my appearance. Most of it is centered around my weight. And most of the time I don’t really care. I have come to love and embrace my body and I can’t really be bothered with what other people think about it.
I was teaching one of my older classes yesterday, grade 5 students I think. And the one girl points to my shorts and then to my ankle, then to my hip, then to my ankle. Now, aside from teaching this girl for the last 9 months, and having at least 3 different lessons on what to call clothing, she still couldn’t articulate to me what she was talking about. After a few minutes we finally figured it out: on Wednesday (the next time I teach her), she wants me to wear long pants.
Now there could be a few reasons for that.
1) It’s not so hot and humid anymore and maybe she is concerned for my health from wearing shorter pants. I don’t wear shorts, mainly because I’m not comfortable in them. I wear knee length capris. The ones that I have this summer are all jeanish material. Not really jeans, but not really not jeans.
2) She just wants me to cover up my legs.
This is probably the most likely.
But I have had many other comments made aside from my weight:
- I should get lazer treatments on my eyes so I don’t have to wear glasses, because glasses are ugly and I look so much better without them
- I should lazer off my freckles (as a part Scottish, full ginger, getting all of them might be impossible)
- I should change my hair colour – this was more when I had my natural hair to the world during my first contract. My natural hair colour is a nice strawberry blonde, but that’s not a “pretty colour” here
- I shouldn’t wear nail polish
- I should get more manicures
- I should get the mole on my cheek zapped off
- I should get braces (for literally one tooth which creates like half a mm gap)
- I should keep my skin as white as possible (I have been offered facial masks to whiten my face. Because apparently I’m not reflective enough already? The freckles get in the way I think)
- I should get the hair on my body removed (some of this is just natural hair like on my arms, and others is from the PCOS which bothers me too but I’ve come to accept it)
I’ve had other non-Koreans tell me stories about how they have been instructed to change. Elective surgeries are very popular here.
But yesterday it was about my clothes. This student made it clear that she wanted me to wear pants -I’m not exactly sure why she thinks she had the right to dictate what I wear. I said I would think about wearing a maxi skirt. I had actually planned on wearing one this week anyways, but now I feel like I am morally obligated to wear shorts again on Wednesday….and I probably will! Even though it’s suppose to rain all day.