My Race: Coast to Coast, Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

Koreans care only about themselves. Americans aren’t ambitious. Californians aren’t bright. People go up in arms at generalizations, though these are not my claims in this post. Yes, exceptions defy stereotype. But people obviously make up groups of color and features called race. I talk about the cultures I have straddled and the differences within groups.

5) Do you consciously gravitate to certain company? Are you more comfortable, more at home around people of your own ethnicity? Have you observed a social or behavioral tendency in your own people group you would rather not perpetuate?

With some exception, I did keep among Korean-Americans up through college. But if you were to ask me about Koreans, then or now, I would encourage you to ask a black American about village life in West Africa. Two different worlds. I have more in common with many of you than I do with Koreans, and know more African-American and European history than Asian.

An amphibian, I feel white around Koreans and then sometimes remember in white company there is a whole other world to me these folks don’t understand. After all, my bicultural generation grew up steeped in the traditions our parents imported. I at least have a lot of stories and images of white culture from TV, painted not only by the Brady Bunch but drama of all kind. But most people who are not Asian don’t have this familiarity with the Korean culture. I realize in the writing I’ve grown not only more American but more comfortably Korean over the years – though Korea remains a foreign land. I’m surprised it doesn’t have to be either/or when you’re bicultural.

My husband and I have not felt at home in churches that are predominantly white. After moving counties a few years ago, we half-joked in the search for a new church that we should try black Baptist. We probably would’ve jumped out of the pew to groove with the choir. We settled in a diverse church with an active Korean-American membership.

One other factor besides race came up in my time in the suburban district: class. Cross the border out of the idyllic suburb back into the city of Philadelphia and it was 80% black, not well to do. Stopping for gas one day, I remember thinking it was ghetto. A very interesting moment because I’d not only felt at home with black Americans all my life but had grown up poor by middle class standards. The offhand feeling that I didn’t belong in that neighborhood wasn’t snootiness. I had studied my way up the immigrant ladder into Ivy League classrooms. The principal I was working closely with encouraged me to dream big. Her grandfather had climbed out from slavery to a PhD. I now realize that it is not all black Americans but those who’ve succeeded in the upward mobility that I have been drawn to. Those who are educated. It was very odd meeting people here in California who didn’t aspire to the best colleges and advanced degrees; even the Korean parents who secure private tutoring for their kids make golf lessons almost as high a priority. I came to appreciate the health of balanced living. It spotlighted the intensity of the east coast and broadened my experience of people. In my own way I had lived in a bubble. The majority of my friends from childhood went to the top schools, built impressive résumés. But I’ve come to see beyond theory that there are many ways to be smart and successful. And happy. This lesson has saved me from being the parent I would’ve been in the east.

There are some things about my parents’ culture I’ve wanted to disassociate myself from. For one, I find the people complicated and by comparison, Americans more straightforward. Americans say no when we don’t want it and the eager, grateful yes is welcome. Among Koreans, you have to listen between the lines. Which is why the language is among the hardest for nonnatives to become fluent in. While the alphabet and grammar are innocently simple, the social cues and mores to speak under can become complex. In part, my cultural illiteracy keeps me from easy participation in this exchange. It’s also my lack of finesse in navigating unspoken customs. The rest, my temperament. You can take me at face value and I like to be able to do that with you in turn. Another habit I consider a cultural blemish is the self-consciousness of both natives and the acculturated. Koreans often have to save face, especially among one another. It’s subtle, but I have little patience for it. I find myself sinking into the casual comfort among Americans with relief, over against this tiring posture to maintain. Of course the Face has its positive side: propriety, mindfulness against disgracing yourself, the upholding of honor. Koreans reach high and Americans (are happy to) have less to prove. Koreans are also insular. In all fairness, this attribute could stem from the history of invasions we have endured. But the ethnocentrism gets to me. Even many Korean-Americans don’t know how to socialize, extend beyond themselves. Huddling is not socializing.

Any thoughts on the subtle shades of your own culture? And I’m curious, with so many of us throughout the world and in the major cities. What has been your experience with Koreans, native or bilingual?

Continued in Part 3.

96 thoughts on “My Race: Coast to Coast, Part 2

  1. “huddling is not socializing”…so true, and applicable to everyone. When I am at a party, which is rare, I tend to huddle 🙂

  2. I read this contribution with great interest having worked with Koreans over a 10 year period. Yes there is an initial barrier between East and West but that’s because of events in which Western nations have tried to forcibly impose their will on Asians in times of memory. The blockading of Japanese ports to force them to trade. Militancy against the Chinese in the opium trade. Of course back in antiquity Asians in turn forced their will on the Caucasians. Case in point Genghis Khan who burned alive townspeople in Europe who wouldn’t surrender. It’s all part of the human experience and we only condemn it when it happens to us don’t we? It was at least 2 years before people we worked with in Singapore warmed to us sufficiently so we could form lasting friendships. It was up to us to study their customs carefully and give those customs and the people the respect they should have before the breakthrough came. I worked hard to try and understand what was necessary to get Koreans and Japanese to trust me as one who had their interests at heart and respected them and their customs. The problem with many of us in the West is we don’t do our background checks before venturing into another society because we feel everyone naturally thinks as we do. Then we wonder why an obvious barrier exists in our business and personal relationships. Your problem as a Korean migrant child are no different to my wife’s family experience as Hungarians when they migrated to Australia after the war. Incidentally the Hungarians are the only Asian nation in Europe. Migrants in any country will have it tough. Their children will suffer through the two culture complex, that is acting one way at home and another outside. But the third generation should be integrated. There are many races in America and the relations between them are often rocky but they all consider themselves as American so broadly they share similar culture and aspirations. I’m Caucasian, but if I migrated to America I would have to work hard to fit into a different culture and mind set than they have here in Australia. I’ve toured and attended business meetings in the US so many times and know that to be true. My children though were brought up in the US school system overseas and therefor gravitated naturally to that country rather than mine as they were conditioned from childhood.

    • Fascinating, Ian. So enriching and enlightening.

      “It’s all part of the human experience and we only condemn it when it happens to us don’t we?” YES.

      G Khan was ruthless.

      It’s an ongoing question of identity (about bicultural people) bc by the third generation, the native traditions are lost, if not devalued.

      Your own challenges being accepted in America are so interesting. I would think this country more than Aus (or supposedly any other) is defined by her openness to all peoples, and you would even enjoy an advantage here among others for your color.

      • I think you will find nations, any nation, feel they are superior in some way to another. They would probably not see that, and would even be offended if someone told them so, but it really does happen that way. That superiority is not always seen to be so by the offender, it comes across as body language, tone of voice and obvious preference over those not of the culture. I’m not taking a swipe at any particular country, I’ve seen it in every place I’ve visited including my own. Even so we should take it as a challenge. Show we are competitive and potentially as good as those in the host culture we are privileged to live and work in and don’t react to intended or even unintended slights. That would often be met with surprise or anger and barriers would be further raised.

      • Agree with every word. Yes, we all have a sense of superiority. I was working through something basic before reaching that point: what “we” or “I” even means, esp when you’ve transplanted geographically and culturally. =)

        Thanks for the enrichmt, Ian.

  3. It’s all so fascinating, isn’t it? I grew up in Northern Ireland where the community was violently divided. Everyone had the same color skin, the same accent but there was another dividing characteristic: Religion. Catholics and Protestants at war. I often wonder if/how sure it has effected me through life…am I suspicious, anti-religion, closed, more open-minded etc as a result?

    • I bring up religion in my next (final) segment. =) You put your finger on something big, J. The human insistence on distinction. My boy and I have learned a lot about all the warring between Prot and Catholics in European history.

      So…ARE you suspicious? Antireligion? Open-minded??

      I appreciate the support. It’s been quite an assignment I set for us! Rigorous thinking through…and I’ve wondered who the hec cares to read this about me? LOL I’d rather give you guys a poem.

      I appreciate our connecting coast to coast. 😉


      • I think it’s a great undertaking you’ve started. Good on you!
        I think I understand the Irish and particularly the Northern Irish ways more now that I’m older, especially seen from a distance. The need for escape in endless cups of tea and pints at the pub, the small safe country ways and clannishness, suspicion of foreign ways and people. Me, I am a negligent Catholic, am more and more open minded the more I travel, find American politics much more engrossing than I ever found politics at home, and can understand both sides of the complicated “Irish Question” now that I’m not drowning in it. We are so much a product of all the messy surroundings of out childhood! xx

      • You should be WriTing for fashion magz, as talented a designer as I expect you to be.

        “I understand the Irish and particularly the Northern Irish ways more now that I’m older, especially seen from a distance.”
        LOVE this. Time and distance indeed afford us greater clarity. Of ourselves, others, and our own writing and art. =) (Had to squeeze that in.)

        “find American politics much more engrossing than I ever found politics at home, ”


        Like you!

  4. My experience with Koreans has been phenomenal. Actually, I must stress that, because of one person, and her integrity and character, has shaped a lot of my views of Koreans. Or maybe it would be just my view of her as a person. She was a leader of a mission’s team I was involved with in Hong Kong, but that traveled throughout India, Bangladesh and Nepal together. She lived by the value of ‘walking in the opposite spirit’ and she was a very giving individual. A real servant. And very funny as well. I still have contact with her today after 14 years. She bought me my first Indian sari, and I still have it today. I see Koreans as hard working, devoted individuals. My experience has shown me that they have servant’s hearts and are hard workers.
    Thank you for yet another enlightening post Diana. Always a pleasure to read your work.

    • Staci, that is just so neat to hear. Your memory repaints her so well – I feel I’ve met her. Koreans and K-Ams by and large are crazy hardworking. Has its downside, of course, the dark side of our gift. That is wonderful you still have the keepsake of her friendship. Was it with YWAM? How long was the trip? You do realize that with contributions like the ones you’ve just made here I get to know you better, too. =)


      Thanks, Staci.

      • That was at the beginning of my YWAM career. I did a short-term mission’s trip with YWAM Hong Kong’s ministry called, FEET, Far East Evangelism Teams. That team lasted for about 4 months or so, but we were together for almost a year, being that I remained in Hong Kong to do some training with YWAM. She is so awesome, and I really learned that Korean people are, as you said, crazy hardworking. I love her and to this day, she is one of the greatest examples in my life. Actually, the greatest examples in my life are all from that time, two Americans and one Korean.

      • ” the greatest examples in my life are all from that time, two Americans and one Korean.”

        Getting chills.

        A long time. That is really beautiful, how we can impact one another across racial lines. Of course we have a lot of this in Christian fellowship, but just wonderful and powerful seeing you affected as you have been.

  5. Someone very wise (My father-in-law) once told me that we spend the first half of our lives trying to prove to everyone that we do belong. And the second half wondering why in the hell that was so important in the first place. Nice post on why we ALL belong.

    • Love it! Every word. =) Even the “why in the hell” LOL. Huh: I’m so glad you got from this that we aLL belong. I’m not thrown in for a loop that you got that from your thoughtful reading but can you elaborate on how you extrapolated it? I’m seeing how difficult it is to see outside yourself when writing anything autobiographical. I tried (hard, as always) to offer something you all can take for yourselves. But your elaboration would be helpful.

      Thank you so much for making this venture and my story so meaningful, at least to me.


      • As a man who spent the first half of my life trying to belong in a world that somehow I always felt like I was the odd man out so yes I could totally relate to your post. To see outside of yourself means to me to be able look past your thoughts but instead look inside your heart. The heart never lies, your brain however will.

      • My readers are amazing. This means you. You realize you’ve written me a post. Happens a lot here. Rich insights. I encourage you to expand your comment into a post on your blog. I’ll be sure to chk it out if you let me know you’ve done that. =)

        And this series, by the way, is just that: simply about how we locate our roots and set anchor when we don’t belong.

    • Thanks, Natalie. Very nice hearing from you. Yes, I thought in the least that where we’ve not had much experience with a certain culture, we can all learn from one another in this series.


  6. Fascinating! I’m second generation German from my mom and have been working on German for years. Language is so critical to understanding a culture. The grammar etc shape thought patterns and more. Learning a language is learning a world. But beyond that east vs west, North vs South.. these all add complications. But still there is a common humanity.

  7. I have been convinced for a long, long time, Diana, that America’s greatest strength is that it is a melting pot. So many people from so many lands have come here with dreams of bettering themselves. And yes there is prejudice, terrible prejudice. We see it every day. But we also see people from all walks of life succeeding, climbing out of whatever unfortunate circumstances they are in and improving their lives. California may be the most culturally diverse place on earth. If it can succeed, there is an important lesson for all of us. Peggy was principal of an elementary school outside of Sacramento. Nineteen different languages were spoken at her school. And the kids got along very well. It can be done. –Curt

    • Curt, you beat me to it. I have a quote from a president ready. On the melting pot, from the day The immigration Act was passed. You just shared volumes about Peggy. She is one uber multitasker, for one thing. It is an extraordinary job. Though my principal had groomed me for the position, I never thought I’d cut it. I’m more a writer and teacher. And it is very telling that her school fared so well. Oh, I loved your input on America and CA. I was just impressed with Peggy.


      • I am always impressed with Peggy as well. I better be, she might get her pistol out.:) Just kidding. She is a very loving. She actually managed to take her school that was academically the lowest rated in her district and turn it into one of the highest rated in three years. –Curt

      • The three years’ spike is really amazing. I saw the behind-the-scenes juggling act of a principal. It’s a political tightrope, too, where you have to try to please admin, teachers, and parents. No Can Do. It’s hard for many in that position to bend down and SEE the littles. Bet she’d see I get it if she read this comment. =) So glad to know her better (and you by default). 😉

  8. Again, I have have learned from your article. Reading does open the mind. In truth, “stereotyping” is really not limited to a certain race/caste. I am black, my first time away from Africa, Nigeria specifically, was late last year. And boy! was I in for a tidal wave of ‘skin colour consciousness’? My knowledge of the English people was limited to newspaper headlines, and gossip from the “privileged” , rich enough to travel out. While some of it holds true, how wrong I have been puts my ignorance to the fore.
    the issue with the world entirely, in my opinion, is the unnecessary burden we carry by labelling people based on skin colour or culture; one person’s character doesn’t define an entire race/caste/country etc (I should know, I come from “a country where everyone is a con artist”, according to Ann Coulter). Looking forward to the next in the series

    • Yes, I can imagine what a blast of ‘skin colour consciousness’ you experienced. What were some ways you found you had been ignorant (your word, not mine) about white culture where you went?

      Thank you for the hearty support!

      HW =)

      • I know this is offensive, but I came here with an ill informed notion that they weren’t too bright, especially when a well meaning relative told me that they always say ” I am not clever”. Oh! this one is funny, I used to think they all have bad teeth (and sadly, this i gleaned from the limited number of English movies i have watched ). I also used to think that they were all very tall. But these are mostly physical traits. I am still getting to know them, so I cannot say much about their culture, only that they aren’t as friendly as i thought. They are way too formal, but I love that they like to smile.

  9. As an immigrant myself, it is definitely easier for me to empathize with you. I had to overcome what seemed to be an insurmountable challenge, the language barrier. Now that I have overcome the barrier, I am now struggling to accept the cultural differences. To say that Korean culture is less effervescent would be a generalization… or something that only applies to my family and relatives, but lately I’ve been thinking how much more fun it would have been had my relatives and family adapt to American culture. I hear my friends talk about their family vacations on holidays with their relatives, but ours seems too dry… I know the example doesn’t justify my intolerance towards Korean culture, but there are things I just cannot accept, one of which you explained very well:
    “Among Koreans, you have to listen between the lines. Which is why the language is among the hardest for nonnatives to become fluent in. While the alphabet and grammar are innocently simple, the social cues and mores to speak under can become complex”
    When I talk to a Korean person, I just cannot sense any sincerity or find him/her genuine. Particularly, Koreans who have not acclimated to American cultures seem more stubborn and extremely, and unnecessarily, proud. Korean parents whom I have spoken with in the past were always busy trumpeting their children. I don’t know if that’s what being a parent is about, but I have never heard a Korean parent compliment another child… From my experiences, Koreans have to let others know that they are better than others even if they cannot justify their claims.
    Also, I don’t like how the culture interprets the word, “respect” differently. In Korean culture, we have no choice but to do what our elders say, and we cannot add our opinions to their statements. Koreans assume that just because a person is older, he has more “life-experiences”, so to add any statement to his would be considered rude. Korean culture limits voices of the younger generation. In American culture, it acknowledges that the younger generation is the one that will drive the future. I believe that giving a feedback or suggestion to a person is a great way to show respect. Of course, this is not to say that we should dismiss what adults tell us, but to point out the fact that Koreans find ways to suppress others’ voices to make sure that theirs is the only voice that could be heard.

    I apologize for the pessimistic and antipathetic tone on the comment. I just really enjoyed reading your Coast to Coast posts, and somehow got carried away. Mea culpa. I understand this is just a generalization, but I don’t know… these 2 big differences have been bothering me lately and have been pushing me closer to American culture.

    • 1. How did you overcome the lang barrier, Mark? With your parents, you mean?

      2. Yes, Koreans don’t travel, party, celebrate holidays as many Americans do. But they (the older generation) have also been busy without such a luxury. Busy building a life for us to feel some solid ground on, though we repudiate it, think we don’t need it. My parents were simply trying to survive and put rice on the table.

      3. It’s funny how even cultures – not just individuals – have trouble with balance. We can’t honor both the elderly and the young alike now, can we?

      4. I hAve heard plenty of Korean adults compliment their friends’ children. There IS always the silent expectation of reciprocation, though, I think….LOL Gotta laugh.

      5. I am as stubborn as they come, and see all the more from the response of your tender years that I have softened most shockingly to compassion and understanding with time. So will you. Esp when you’re a parent. Try working and trying to provide for your family without the excuse of cultural and language obstacles, and you’ll appreciate even more what our parents have done.

      Not wagging a finger. =) I wouldn’t do that to a faithful reader. 😉 Just speaking from experience.

      Good to be sharing this journey in particular with you.


      • When I was younger, I wasn’t afraid to use the words I didn’t know. I would seriously just throw out words that I might have heard and use it in a sentence, so that a teacher or anyone could help define the word and find the right word that belongs in the sentence. Those words are still fresh in my head, but the words I simply tried to memorize are coming and going things… (exp. SAT words)

        But yeah, I completely understand what you are saying. I call my parents everyday to check up on them, but it honestly hurts to hear them doing the same thing. I know we are financially tight, so they would only work or do mundane activities at home… but I want them to, for once, let go of their worries and do something they like. Of course, from their perspective, that’s just a naive thinking and could be my wishful thinking, but it is something I want to change and feel the need to change for them. I grew up thanking my parents for providing for me through times of struggle and for giving me the privilege to learn at a university to have an equal chance to compete with anyone, but I want to do something big for them. I know it sounds more feasible for me to study for a few years, get my degree, get a job, and support my family, but honestly, I have become anxious and felt helpless since I took a year off. So in a way, I guess when I saw my friends’ families traveling for holidays, I shifted my disagreement towards cultural difference. Veraciously, through those “cultural” disagreements, I have developed greater intolerance towards Korean culture… or rather, have become more aware of Korean culture that I have become more critical.

        But as always, thank you so much for your insights and feedback! I truly appreciate it!

      • You will never change your parents, Mark. Just as your children will not change you. While you can’t live in perpetual debt to them (that is, live/study/achieve just for their sake), your flaking or not doing what you need to (sounds harsh, and I’m not saying that has been the case bc I do not know the circumstances of your time off. No judgmt there) is a great disservice to them. Your best is all that anyone can ask of you, that your parents can, whether it falls short or measures up. And the opportunity for you to become your best self is what your folks are slaving for everyday. That hope is their daily fuel, their bread, their glad sacrifice. Remember, I speak with knowing on this topic.

        You implied, unwittingly I think, that you ended up casting blame on the cultural differences when it was really yourself you were frustrated with, your struggles you resented.

        Lots to chew on.

        A pleasure to be of help.

        Counseling tab’s running. I take postdated checks, and your bill’s in the mail.


      • I think that is exactly what I needed to hear.
        My close buddy is in the same shoes as me, so we often talk about it and just worry about what we need to be doing. I’m sure he would love to hear what you just said!

        Seriously, thank you!
        And I will send the bill to the given address! 😀

  10. A very thought-provoking post. I am instantly reminder of my friend Alex who was born in Korea then moved with his parents to the States as a kid. I had an instant rapport with Alex due in part to his openness to others, his amazing sense of humor, his deeply philosophical way of viewing the world, and lastly, we both consider ourselves artists, best able to express ourselves through a variety of creative mediums.

    For me, an African-American male, I have always been intrigued by people. Where you were born or what your genetics say about you are lesser concerns in my book. Show me who you are, what interests you, what do you have a passion? Those things, for me, say more about the REAL YOU than anything else…

    • Thanks for this glimpse into your beliefs and wonderful friendship with Alex. I can understand, esp as an artist (whose medium is words). Are you still in touch with Alex? I take it your other artist friends make for a heterogeneous crowd?

      • Thanks for posing the question, and for responding, AND for supporting my site too!

        Yes, I do still see Alex. He is a Mr. On-The-Go, so not as much as when we worked together. Still, he’s always great energy to be around. Ain’t nothing wrong with fun and smart!

        As for my other artist friends, yes, they come from all walks of life, all sorts of backgrounds and for that, I remain grateful…

      • =) Everything you said here, esp about your circle of artists just brightened my day. It’s your enthusiasm, how you embrace LIFE in the colors that are available to us.

        Wonderful connecting w/ you.
        *Off to work on the final segment of my story*

      • Hey, right back at you! Thank you for the validation… It means LOTS!

        It all comes down to this theory I’m formulating : we get one shot at being US! IF we choose to return for another life, we have to submit to a memory wipe, so best enjoy this round with all we’ve got!

  11. I have followed your two posts about your race from coast to coast with great interest. All the comments you get on the subject are most interesting too. I am looking forward to reading what you have to say about religions.

    • Aunty, just please know my appreciation for your conscientious reading. =) You leave me humbled by your graciousness because you have a deeper reservoire of wisdom than I.

      I scrawled those thoughts on faith and culture while DriViNg this week – one hand, one eye on the wheel, the others on my new blog book! Yes, I did swerve a bit LOL. But I had to catch them before they evaporated.


      • Dear Diana, you think that I have a deeper reservoir of wisdom than you have? Well, I feel very honoured that you should think so. It is very reassuring when a younger person recognises some kind of wisdom in a very old person because of accumulated life experiences.
        I am glad you can formulate your thoughts in such a way that even I, who have comparatively little education, am able to follow them. I think I am a very introverted person who likes to do some thinking and observing. To write something is easiest for me when I am on my own without any interruptions. To come up with some important thoughts while driving a car and writing the thoughts down immediately, my gosh, I hope
        you’re not going to make a habit of it!
        Lots of Love, Aunty Uta

  12. “…some things about my parents’ culture I’ve wanted to disassociate myself from”. This sentence in particular struck out at me, because it’s not often we hear people admitting this and I can relate so much to this. I’m Chinese Australian. My parents are Malaysian Chinese. Australia is where I’ve lived for half my life and Singapore and Malaysia for the other half. In Chinese culture and other Asian cultures too, keeping quiet and listening to others as opposed to speaking up is a virtue.

    My parents always reminded me to “listen to the teacher” and growing up I always disliked this. I always wanted to speak up as I felt others can learn from me and me from others. Once in primary school in Malaysia, I did and somehow made everyone else speak up too (it was some kind of off-the-fly joke); the teacher got mad at me and my parents weren’t too happy either when they heard about the incident. Though I must say I did enjoy it immensely when the class laughed along with me. Today, I am a shy person and am not usually noisy, but that’s another story altogether.

    I’ve come across a handful of Koreans in my time here in Melbourne, where I currently live. All of them are originally from Korea. Korean is their native language. Those who live with their parents here in Australia speak Korean to the latter at home. It seems that these Korean friends and acquaintances of mind are extremely bent on carrying on Korean tradition and respecting Korean culture. And I do think they are insular to a certain degree as you’ve mentioned. On a number of occasions when I’m out with a Korean friend and they see a Korean friend of theirs, the former will automatically talk to the latter in Korean and I’m left standing by myself.

    • Mabel, your comment(ary) on voice and culture is actually a post all its own, if not a book. =) Something I’ve given thought to as well, from experience. Esp as a teacher.

      Your update on Korean Aussies is very interesting, as I understood there were nonnative Koreans there but it’s my first time hearing about Ks who remain comfortable with their traditional culture. That is something, your description of how insular they can behave because it’s classic in my book. I sound like I’m bashing. In this very post (under which we’re talking) I had wanted to elaborate on the + and – of American and Korean culture. Meaning, every culture has its virtue just like the individuals in it. I always considered it very rude to cut anyone off by switching to a language she, he doesn’t understand.

      Really appreciate your feedback.

      • Thanks for the nice words. I am far from ready to write my a book. Someday, it will happen. I believe this! You should write a book if you haven’t already 🙂

        I didn’t see your post as bashing on Korean culture, though I noticed you did veer towards the “negatives” of Korean behaviour. But depending on how we look at it, a negative can always be positive. It’s all about perspective, I suppose. Also, I do notice a lot of Koreans in Australia – be they those who are international students or Korean Australians – tend to stick strongly to their faith, i.e. they go to church weekly. Not just any church, but a church where many Koreans frequent. I remember someone in my uni class gave a presentation about Korean churches or churches for Koreans in Melbourne once.

      • Keen, Mabel. You have a sharp eye. Firstly, the final segment on my story I’m about to roll out talks about the negativity and positivity. I’ll leave it at that. Secondly, the sticking strongly to their faith is the impressive loyalty characteristic of Koreans. But thirdly, yes church becomes a social community for them and as such they will seek out other Ks or K-Ams. This is the case for other people groups, too. There are many African-American churches here. Arguably, they had no choice but to start their own churches from the days of slavery and segregation.

        Mabel, you put your finger right on the defining lines in the portrait of Ks. Use that good observational eye for your blogging. Thanks so much for enriching this discussion. You leave me looking fwd to your feedback on Part 3. =)


      • “it’s always nice hearing from those with similar interests and stories”

        That’s the thing. It was so interesting to hear Koreans don’t interact differently there than they I have experienced.

  13. I love reading and learning from your writing! I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, 98.6% white…mostly German-American. No diversity. I distinctly remember bringing a friend of mine, who was black, home when I was about 20, thought my parents were going to faint! I didn’t see the big deal. She was fun and I liked her a lot. I’ve never “looked” at the “outside cover” of a person, rather I like the eyes to show the inner soul. I moved to St Louis for 20 years and loved the diversity there. No real experience with Korean Americans, but some with other Asian Americans from Thailand and Japan. Love them!

    • Thanks for the hearty feedback and happy read. =) Wow. I know there are still plenty of monochrome places in the world but to hear it spelled out is something. You went from one end of the universe to the other, it seems. I’m sure St. L enriched your life in many ways — AnD the enrichmt went vice versa with those you met.

      Well, I’m glad I introduced you to K-Ams, except I haven’t done justice to us crazy folk LOL. Made us sound bad ha ha.

      Appreciate your staying connected.


  14. ‘Any thoughts on the subtle shades of your own culture?”

    Texans do not do ‘subtle’.

    Now, that is somewhat tongue in cheek, as there are many many different Texan ‘Cultures’, but we don’t really use that word–culture–well most of us don’t.

    I have been to Korea. I had a Korean boss for two years. I do know just enough to be dangerous.
    But, I will say this: I loved my Korean boss. And he loved Golf just about above all else. I suppose he was good at it.

    Great post. I need to unpack it a little and take it bite by bite. Lots going on there.
    Thank you.

  15. wow……you really raise awareness…….I was Eileen O’Leary, but my ancestors came here early in American history, so I never felt very Irish. My mother was Methodist and my father, Catholic. I was raised Catholic, but taught by a pretty liberal order of nuns. I actually had a prejudice against the Irish. My Irish side of the family tended to alcoholism and perhaps from movies, I had a picture of the Irish as drinkers, talkers, and fighters. I never understood the religious conflict until I went to Ireland and saw the poverty of the Irish and the affluence of the English and realized the conflict was more political than religious. By traveling, I did come to value that the Irish kept learning, culture and Christianity alive during the dark ages.

    • Thanks, Eileen. I appreciate the glimpse into your precious heritage and the rich history behind it. It’s funny. Another blogger – his username starts with Y – confessed in his comment here how his perception of a group had been based solely on TV/the movies. LOL. Funny in your case all the more bc yOu’re part Irish. =)

  16. I’m being kind of long winded here, but I grew up pretty much a pacifist and somewhat anti-military. Then I ended up working on an Army post in Kentucky in the 1980’s. What an eye-opener!
    In the forties and fifties in St. Louis, the Germans lived in a ghetto, the Irish lived in their ghetto, the Italians lived in theirs. And of course in those days, the blacks lived separately from all the rest of us.
    In the 80’s on a Military Post everyone was intermingled in housing, schooling, even religion.
    And now that America has posts all over the world, our soldiers, both men and women, white and black, marry people from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, And there are many Hispanics also in the army. This has to be one of the most diverse populations anywhere, and unlike the civilian populations, these families have to live, work, learn, play and pray together. The stresses of military life on marriage also leads to frequent divorce and remarriage with blended families of both multi-racial and multi-ethnic and multi-cultural children.
    And yes there are some problems like anywhere else, but on the whole the American Military may be the best sign of hope for peace we have.

    • What a beautiful tribute to America and what she stands for, Eileen. Again, funny you share this perspective bc I jUst reviewed a contribution for this series that echoes your comment on the military. It’ll run in April.

      Thanks for your heartfelt piece on this discussion.


  17. Excellent share on he way of the world. Personally, I never judge a book by its cover. I don’t stereotype people. I take them for what they are worth and not by race or religion. Nice of you to put it out here. 🙂

  18. I’m really enjoying getting to read about the depth of your experiences. You clearly have an understanding of all the complicated nuances and how this affects you- and your awareness of your own feelings and inner responses.

    • Thanks for the conscientious, loving read, Diahann. What I wanted more than anything was for you each to end up thinking about your own self-definition and relationships. But you know that. Your feedback (plural, but yours esp) enhances my self-awareness. This exercise and project have turned out to be awfully meaningful. But that’s in large thanks to my readers.

  19. This inspires a whole range of curious thoughts, dear Diana! I think I shall have to contemplate them in Post form. I promise to link back to you here when I get it put together, but for the moment I must tell you that I love this series and find it intriguing to wonder how any number of things related to race, culture, social standing, education and so on can influence and shape me just as much as they can anyone who *isn’t* constantly amid seemingly similar people!

    • =) Okee doke. I always encourage friends to go back and expand their comments and thoughts into posts. Initially I thought you meant you’d offer yourself in post form here, join the race. But sure, whatever works. I’m just glad I was able to hold up the mirror for you. Always.


  20. “There are some things about my parents’ culture I’ve wanted to disassociate myself from,” I agree with both you and Mabel on this matter. Ever since primary school my dad has been trying to graft us into the Zimbabwean culture. Speaking the native language (something I cannot do), eating some of the native food (cow intestines are truly disgusting and I can basically eat anything), to different ways we address adults. I feel more European and American than African. I love being multicultural. Embracing aspects of all cultures and respecting and honouring each one is nice. I just cannot seem to connect too well with my own culture, at least, not 100% Ever since I was around 14 I have always felt like I don’ belong here. I was more drawn to the Western side I guess, but not at the complete expense of my own. I mix everything up. An Industrial Age parent trying to force their ways onto an Information Age child is far from wise.

    I will read up on part 3 and let you know my thoughts. Thanks again for an awesome post. Asian-American huh? Alright will be thinking about that when I see your name.

    • I appreciate your sharing your end of things and am glad to know you better. Your dad sure sounds familiar. Very man Asian-Americans will relate to you (go figure, huh?). Btw, the cow intest is a taste acquired from an early (unknowing) age (lol) – yeah, when you don’t know any better. Koreans and Mexicans like ’em.

      Good distinction on Industrial and Information Age. Thanks for the two gold cents.



  21. Him earlier as I was surrounded by communities comprise of almost totally Wasp’s. As I began to encounter people from other cultures I noticed how different they were. The Italians always seem so warm to me angrier happy there was a playfulness and robust affect that I
    loved. With black Americans I noticed that they frequntly had deeper emotional ties than most of the white families I knew. I wasn’t educated enough about varied Cultures to know much about individual characteristics but many Oriental people felt very closed to
    me. Not that they, within themselves, were closed but rather that their social groups were impenetrable.
    Remember this is in the 50s and 60s.
    I could tell the difference by facial characteristics between people of Japanese, Korean or Chinese descent, but there was literally no place in my life for me to become part of a group and learn about such people. Because my mother had run off from a good English family and married an Armenian I was a bit of an alien in my own town and I’m sure would’ve welcomed a companion of any ethnicity. By the way just as a guess even from my reading of your answers to the questions I am assuming you are OM? If I am correct is your clarity and self-definition that topped me off.

    • “but many Oriental people felt very closed to me. Not that they, within themselves, were closed but rather that their social groups were impenetrable.”

      You felt correctly, Alex. About the other groups, too. I’m not surprised the black culture seemed to have deeper ties. Think about how they depended on one another through the years of slavery and J Crow. Very interesting, as I almost spelled out on this post that Koreans have deeper, greater loyalty (esp but not strictly among one another) than I’ve seen Americans show one another or others.

      Would you please spell out what you mean by OM? And I didn’t get your opening words.. your sentence starts with Him.

  22. My personal connection to Korean Canadians has been via …Korean restaurants and stores where I’ve been a customer. Keep in mind in Toronto and Vancouver there are larger percentages of Korean-Canadians. But still, my connection is not much at all at this time. Often I work with other Asian-Canadians and half of the time, I don’t know their family roots at all.

    My partner went to Seoul a few years ago for business purposes.
    Then he went to Taiwan, 1 city on mainland China. So he’s been to Asia. I haven’t been yet. 🙂

    As for subtle differences among Chinese-Canadians –it’s all over the map now in terms of dialect, socio-economic background, educational level and country of origin for Chinese-Canadians. Meaning if they were from Malaysia, Trinidad, Singapore, etc. I speak a peasant dialect, Toishanese, related to Cantonese. It’s considered more country bumpkin for ie. people from Hong Kong, especially if they come from a wealthy, university educated background.

    • I would be surprised if many Korean Canadians knew their own roots. Would you say Chinese Canadians for the most part tend to one another? Bc I’m inclined to put the onus on the K Canadians for your not having met many of them, but wondering if CBC can be insular too. Though I read your post, I’m half-awake right now. Very tired.

  23. Dianna, thank you for doing the series “Race Around the World.” It was such a good idea, and I am enjoying now having the time to read the posts. I know I will learn a lot! You posed fantastic questions, and those lead to such in-depth answers. I have REALLY enjoyed your personal answers but know I will also enjoy the others’ as well.

  24. Pingback: My Race, Coast to Coast: Part 1 | A Holistic Journey

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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