Of The Bitter Expat: Just Add Tofu

This is How the Bitter Expat Feels on a Good Day
This is How the Bitter Expat Feels on a Good Day

Now, let me make it clear from the beginning that I’m not calling David tz the Bitter Expat. I just think it’s funny that in Korean culture you’re supposed to bring white tofu to people who’ve just gotten out of jail and a recent post that David wrote touches on a lot of stuff that makes the mythical Bitter Expat so damn bitter.

The Bitter Expat is like the Wandering Jew — more of an idea than a real person.

I say all of this because there have been points when *I* was the Bitter Expat. There have been times when I hated Korea so much that even I didn’t know why I stayed.  Being the Bitter Expat is not fun.  Your hatred for Korea seeps into your soul and it becomes a rage. It’s like Scanners, man.

Now, of course, all I want to do is return to Korea, find a cute Korean girl and settle down there forever. I love Korea and miss it dearly. What changed? I just needed some time away. I needed perspective.

I got so bitter that I even started a column in Zine Magazine (one of several magazines I’ve started over the years) where I just vented about how angry and bitter I was about being in Korea. The thing I hated a lot about living in Korea was how people would slam into you on the subway without saying “excuse me” or anything. When I first came to Korea I had a Korean girlfriend and I asked her about this.

“We’re saying ‘excuse me’ in our heart,” she said.

I first noticed the phenomena of the Bitter Expat soon after I arrived in Korea.   I met a guy who had Been There Too Long and we found ourselves walking around Incheon looking for an ATM machine in English. Something about the fact that ATMs had only recently started to be in English really got to this particular Bitter Expat.

It got so bad that whenever I met an expat who’d been in Korea over, let’s say, three years, I would think to myself: Ok, how are YOU crazy. It was spooky how inevitably, given enough time, their Bitter Expat crazy train trait would pop out and I’d think to myself, “Ok, that’s it.”

Anyway, back to David:

I’m often asked “If you hate Korea so much, why don’t you just leave?” My answer is actually a couple reasons. First off, I’m white in Asia. I’m practically a god here. I just have to show up to an interview and I have the job. I could be wearing a dirty t-shirt and jeans, stinking of gin, incoherently drunk, and still get the job. Simply because I’m white, have blue eyes and speak English.


Now, before you get all defensive and bombard me with comments, hear me out. I didn’t create this environment. The Korean government did. Parents crazy about education did this. They have created such a situation in their craziness, they have had to hire foreign workers to actually do all the work that needs doing, to run the country. Their children are too precious to work in a factory or clean up the garbage they themselves have thrown all over the street because of a lack of garbage cans. And then they complain about the bad quality of foreigners that again, THEY have let into the country. So, if you are a Korean and are reading this, stop blaming the foreigner. You did this to yourself by refusing to do 3D jobs, and getting so crazy about education that children are no longer allowed to be children and they study 16 hours a day learning shit they will use and spending a fortune on it. As long as you’re willing to pay me money, I’m going to take it. Thank you very much, now fuck off.

These are all valid points that I can’t really argue with. Maybe I wouldn’t put it so bluntly, but I can see where he’s coming from. Image from here.


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Migukin has been in the newspaper business off and on for about 15 years. He lived in South Korea for about 5 years total. He co-founded ROKon Magazine in Seoul, South Korea several years ago. He currently is a freelance writer and photographer living in the Richmond, Virginia area. You can read his personal Website at migukin.wordpress.com.


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