Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Blonde Effect

Before we get into this fascinating subject, I just wanted to give yet another Elton update (don't you just love those?)  I was concerned when Elton graduated with the rest of the kindergartners because we wouldn't be able to teach him anymore, but lo and behold, he's back!  He goes to ECC for their afternoon classes!  I don't personally teach him, the new teacher who just flew in, Emily, will be his instructor.  Emily also has dyslexia and the first thing out of her mouth was that she thought the boy had it too.  Anyway, we're past it, he's still around and we can still help him as much as we can.

So, the blonde effect.  I've been meaning to go more in depth about this because it leads to surprising situations and at the same time it is a little frustrating.  You see, Korean's feel that foreigners are all blonde or red headed with pale skin and they have funny sounds coming out of their mouth.  Besides the funny sound bit, the fact that foreigners are Aryan is firmly entrenched in most korean's minds, and I don't know why.  I love providing proof, so here goes.  This is the website for the parent company of the school I work for:

I mean I don't want to state the obvious but there is a strikingly blonde haired blue eyed girl with a red haired white girl prominently displayed on this website which is aimed at getting non English speaking Koreans to send their kids to this school.  The two kids in the back aren't asian either.  I didn't think too much of this at first, after all, the parents are looking for a means to confirm that their children will be learning English and that they're not being tricked.  They don't know that much about our culture (although some think they do) and they don't get most Western countries are pluralist and don't necessarily have a look that everyone shares.  For instance when I tell Koreans I'm American, I get "You don't look like it" from some of them, which makes no sense to me.  I mean I guess there are Canadians, English, and French people who have African and European descent, but I didn't think I looked like I don't come from a Western country.  Anyway, now that we've got that cleared up, let's move onto the blonde effect.

The blonde effect is, that whenever you are in the presence of parents or people who are paying you money, you must stick the blondest whitest person you can in front of them to make them feel at ease.  If they do not look White, Koreans will start to get confused, especially older ones.  For instance, I had just gotten back to ECC from the corner store, when I walked by a parent who gave me this startled look like I had just walked off the set of Independence Day.  The Korean teacher talking to her caught on, looked nervous for a moment, and then started blabbering at me in English as much as she could to assure the woman that I was an English speaker.  

For any large scale event, like let's say Picture Day, Christmas, or Graduation, the blondest person will MC the event and all non blonde people should remain out of sight or in the background as much as possible.  I'm not kidding.  For Christmas, the Australian guy Cameron was picked to be Santa Claus (this year and last year).  I was Santa Claus this year too, but they stuck Rudolph glasses on me to cover up my face and put a hat on me.  Cameron was also the MC for the Graduation Ceremony, and picture day.  Well let's talk about picture day.  On picture day, each class takes a picture with their homeroom teacher.  As I did not have a homeroom at that time, they politely told me to buzz off.  Then, when they're all done, they took pictures of the kids with the teachers so that the pictures could be sent to the main office to be put on this website.  They put the kids in cute poses with props and everything.  Who do you think they asked to pose with the kids? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't me and it wasn't Jackson, the half white half asian guy from Arkansas.  They asked Sean, the Canadian teacher, and Cameron of course.

It makes me wonder where exactly they formed their opinion of our country?  I mean movies and television of course would be the first thing that comes to mind, but our movies and television dramas don't have wall to wall blondes, there is a mix of people.  There are plenty of Koreans who've traveled abroad and many who have lived in the United States and come back to their home country.  They haven't disseminated a new "look' for foreigners, or are they just not in a position to move the big, cultural elephant?  Personally I would believe that maybe the vast majority just don't care, and that since they lack information they try to use whatever information they DO have to make decisions for their children.  It just seemed odd that for a country who prides itself on being one of the best English speaking countries in the world (I kid you not, there are plenty of Koreans who I've talked to that have told me that Korean is #1 in quality and quantity of English speakers) would have such a skewed view of the countries whose language they invest so much time to learn to speak.  

So I think maybe I'll stagger posts so that some posts are "Go" and other posts are "Go Lite".  What do you guys think?