Under 30s version

Mike. British. Pusan. South Korea. Married Korean. Not teaching. F-2. Old. Wordy.

Over 30s version

Thank you for visiting 'Busan Mike', a 25 year study into the development of serious personality disorders within the expat community in Korea. This is year 3.

A team of foreign scientists has determined that the most frightening word in the Korean language is '우리', which approximately translates as 'we', 'our', 'not you' and 'you will never be one of us'. The longer I live in Korea, the more this word scares me.

As you might be able to tell from the way I write, I'm not an English teacher, although I am actually English, so any perceived misspellings are probably down to the differences between the Real English I speak and American Genuine Advantage English. Generally of course, Korea prefers Americans to native English native English teachers, but I don't teach because I work for myself as a financial trader, although after seven years I'm now thoroughly bored with it. Seven years is a long time to do anything - just ask your spouse.

I met my wife in England so I don't need one of those cover stories that some foreigners use to avoid telling the real version of how they met their spouse in Korea, which might otherwise involve words like 'bargirl' and 'student'. It also means I had no particular interest in South Korea before I set myself on the path of living here, which I prefer to think of as a collision course. I came to Busan in 2006 to get married and take a six month break which I needed after developing Meniere's Disease and being really sick for over a year. Then the British government exiled me by refusing to grant my wife a spousal visa on the grounds that they "didn't believe I intended to return to the UK to live." Even I can’t make up comedy like that. I only didn't laugh out loud because I was afraid if I did, my head would've fallen off, which no doubt would have made the appeal process even more difficult.

We eventually did go back after winning a long and expensive legal case, and my wife passed the required "Life in the UK" test, which surprisingly doesn't yet involve performing any random acts of violence to demonstrate the ability to integrate. But then we returned to Korea when the time came to extend my wife's visa, because I realised I have better things to do with my life than spending it in immigration lawyers' offices. When I was growing up I wanted to be a physicist (not clever enough), a writer (not experienced enough), a politician (not intolerant and dictatorial enough) and a software developer (which I finally quit for financial trading), but at no point did I consider making a career out of fighting the British government.

In 2010 with my illness finally in remission - or at least the best remission I’m evidently going to get - I started doing a regular ten minute guest slot on Busan eFM. Committing to a live radio show at a fixed time every week was a huge personal step forward for me. After reaching the end of the line with trading, I'm now even looking for a proper job.

Statistically you aren't reading this blog, and that's OK. I write for the self-therapy, the intellectual challenge of crafting the words people aren't reading, and for posterity. If one day my children read this and understand a little bit more about me for it, then it has served its purpose, even if it's to understand that I really was as intellectually bankrupt and alienated as I might have appeared.

Generally I like my life in Korea, but life in this country isn't perfect - you only need to read the Korean newspapers to see what Koreans say about life here to understand that. Sometimes overseas Koreans - or anonymous Westerners in cultural drag - like to demonstrate their boredom and inability to engage in critical thinking by suggesting that I am 'too negative' about Korea, which only serves to prove that while I have Meniere’s Disease, it is other people who have real problems with their sense of balance.

If, on balance, life here were not better than the one I left behind in England, then I wouldn't be living in Korea. But I tend towards not writing the kind of relentlessly-positive material that would get me published on Korea.com. Someone once said that the problem with many Koreans is that if you scratch the surface, all you get is more surface - but in my experience some foreigners are just the same.

English people are often known for their irreverent humor (sic), so I'd like to clear up any cultural misunderstandings and say that anything in this blog which appears sardonic, sarcastic or just downright bitchy is probably is, but I often write with my tongue firmly buried in my cheek - as opposed to someone else's - and not just because of the problems I have with my jaw.

If you wish to contact me you can find my email address via my Blogger profile.


Abby said...

Hey, Mike thanks for blogging. I stumbled upon your blog through google while searching for Busan businesses-speaking of which I can only find PR articles--the surface information-- so I guess I have to do some more digging.

I actually wrote a long comment on your post about national identity crisis and the Royal wedding. Then I accidently hit back button and everything disappeared. I am a Korean living in North eastern part of America and have studied abroad in Britain for a semester. I like the irreverent, Charlie Brooker type of humor. Keep on! I look forward to your entries!

Mike said...

Thanks for your kind comments! I'm sorry you lost your earlier message, it would have been great to read it. I've made that mistake myself.

Despite my experiences with Britain, I hope you liked it there. If there's anything I can help with regarding your Busan business search, just let me know.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about no one reading this. It could be worse. Millions could suddenly start reading it and then your comments would cause a firestorm of controversy, leading to your detainment and torture by being enclosed in a room with a dozen electric fans. After being flogged by blurred whips on the steps of the Capital building, you would be forced to apologize or suffer endless clockwork-orange torture by having your eyes propped open while you are forced to watch romantic K-drama's from the early 90's.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought of becoming the the English/Korean version of Dave Aldwinckle/Debito? Things got a little better for foreigners when he started standing up to the wrongs of Japanese society. If you don't know who he is, check out his page at debito.org. He also has written a few books on his experiences with societal injustice in Japan, his marriage to a Japanese woman, and the difficulties his two daughters have faced.

Mike said...

Anonymous - thanks for the hilarious yet frighteningly real comment :-)

Yes - I don't really want thousands of people reading my blog - if I did I would have taken up Busan e-FM's offer of plugging it in my segments, instead of specifically requesting not to. There's always an assumption that people who write blogs should aspire to reach a wider audience, but if engaging with that wider audience is going to be more trouble than it's worth, then it's possibly best avoided!

Mike said...

Thanks for that blog link - it sounds fascinating and I'll certainly give it a read. I'm sure there are better qualified and experienced people than me though to really tackle Korean society, such as 'Popular Gusts', which perhaps is similar to debito.org.

Gavin said...

Hi Mike,

I've enjoyed a few of your posts. A new expat I'm afraid, not a teacher so I might not have the same ailments as described in your posts.

I write news for a living, am fairly young at 22, and am looking to come and live in Busan more long term (in Sasang-Gu with long-term girlfriend and future wife *shudder*) I'll be reading through your posts, many of which I empathise with! I've bookmarked this and will check back if you fancy replying.

Mike said...

Hello Gavin,

I wish I'd come to Busan younger than I did. Good luck if you decide to. It's probably a good idea to marry a Korean after you've lived with them in Korea ;-)

Being here as a non-teacher is definitely a different experience to the norm, but teaching here tends to be the easiest option. Drop me a line if you're ever in town!

Anonymous said...

Dear Busan-Mike, I am an infrequent but regular reader of your blog. As such I got the impression that longer periods of silence indicate trouble, and your last entry dates from early Sept. To you and your family best wishes. The Lord of Christmas may come to you in carols as in prose.

Mike said...

Hello Anonymous - thank you for the message - I am now belatedly enjoying the video while I type this. Unfortunately I have also been an infrequent visitor here in the last few months - and even to my email in the last two weeks - but in the most part this has been connected with my job and a series of non-negotiable and demanding software project deadlines that came along with it, rather than to something more concerning.

Now that I am no longer working for myself I am struggling to reconcile how I write here going forward, given that telling the truth of my experiences in the last couple of years would carry consequences, possibly quite far-reaching - and my opinions are at this point simply unmentionable.

After writing two paragraphs while pondering the meaning of the anomie and circumstances I find myself in and what it means for my self-expression I find that the video is into its 45th minute so I have few real answers but thank you for your wishes.

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