Posts Tagged ‘Cultural differences’

I have visited London many times, and as a UK citizen I feel almost as if I am a resident of the great metropolis. Even though I feel disenfranchised with previously strong institutions, I still claim a stake in the capital which I wouldn’t in other cities of the UK. In this greyish vacuum between being a tourist and local, I often feel a deep sadness and nostalgia when I visit places which have changed in directions which I feel a little queezy about.

Without doubt, my favourite location in London is the area between Liverpool Street and Brick Lane – where Whitechapel meets Shoreditch. Every time I have visited London I have made an attempt to get there. It’s a well worn route so I will try to describe to describe it with various layers of time piled on top of each other. As I try to imagine it I realise that it’s not a journey thought the actual locality but more of a journey through my own memories of the place.

Shoreditch (1)

Shoreditch (20)

 

I leave the station and walk down through the large banks of the City of London. The City of London Police station is where I once spent some time, a very brief time. I was once interrupted during an outdoor McDonald’s breakfast by two very polite policemen who wanted me to take part in an identity parade. They spoke in that dusty old man London accent that you get in original Sherlock Holmes dramas with Jeremy Brett, the accent used by Johnny Depp in the ripper movie. I obliged and spent some time standing next to various young adults, all of whom had short dark hair and a similar build to myself. Since I was a teenager I have always been followed in shops and generally suspected of wrongdoings, this was the final proof. The lawyer decided that we were not right so I never actually got to have the witnesses inspect me. There was an element of anxiety despite the Police telling us that it’s impossible for any of the identity parade to be incorrectly sent down. I think I may have watched too many movies to fully believe them. Anyway, I got paid so I was happy

Shoreditch (14)

Shoreditch (17)

Shoreditch (18)

Shoreditch (19)

Outside the police station I head down the Bishopsgate  then make a right turn into the wide street running down to Spitalfield’s Market. I love the houses in this part of London, they are very London in colour and seem to watch disapprovingly as their friends and neighbours  get turned into start-up tech firms and overpriced bistros. I think most of the houses and buildings were used as storehouses and shop-fronts when the East India Company was still going. At leasts some of the pubs seem to have remained intact and kept their character – like the 10 Bells on the corner. I walk through the line of franchises into the vast market, a lady with a local accent mistakes me for a foreign tourist because I don’t shave and I wear sunglasses ” I fought you woz Spanish or samfink!” I smile and move on to another stall. The cafes get hipper and seem expensive so I plot my escape. Opposite the  large right angle of original terraces I am  interrupted by the eccentricity of Hawkmoor’s church on the corner. This spawns a cross London quest in which I try to visit as many Hawksmoor churches as possible. The quest is made all the more interesting by running out of battery and forgetting my A to Z map of London.

DSC_0192

Shoreditch (12)

Christchurch looks on silently as if unaffected by the earthly pursuits of buying vintage furniture and comparing new cocktails. For Christchurch guards one of the points of the underworld pentagram which connects the other Hawksmoor Churches. The streets near Fournier Street remind us of the Huguenots and of course Jack the Ripper. This part of London has always been the first port of call for many immigrant communities. In some cases they only remain in the proper nouns of streets and surnames, in others they can still be smelt. As I approach Brick Lane I enjoy the smell of the Bangladeshi spices in the numerous curry houses. I’m sure they are good but I have no intention of eating there. A brief sensation of Northern pride prevents me from analysis, Manchester’s Curry Mile must be much better. Brick Lane is colourful and bewildering, the novelty of Bengali Street names on such typically domestic streets quickly wears off as I spot Rough Trade East. The ghost of John Peel tells me to go in and find a gem but I settle for a catalogue instead. I really really want to buy a T Shirt but I have never been good at being a fan of anything. Moderation stops my impulse buys and hunger takes over.

Shoreditch (8)

Shoreditch (9)

Shoreditch (10)

I have a OCD capacity to know everything about food. One of those foods is the humble bagel – invented in Poland for pregnant women. The bajgiel was eaten by the Yiddish speaking Jewish community in Krakow. Many of the Jewish diaspora emigrated to this part of London too. One of my many food quests led me to search out two beigel shops towards the end of Brick Lane. After getting past the post industrial chic of the warehouses I finally make it. It seemed like a shorter journey in my head but it doesn’t matter because salt beef makes everything vanish. If mindfulness is living in the moment and forgetting all other thoughts then I may have just experienced it. The lady put huge quantities of salt beef on the בײגל and then doused it in strong English mustard. I stand on a corner eating my beygl and my journey stops.
Shoreditch (2) Shoreditch (3) Shoreditch (4) Shoreditch (16)

 

I’m not sure why people choose to eat cereal for double the price but that’s the price of being hip these days. I backtrack to the cereal killer cafe because it wasn’t there when I last walked past. I noticed the cereal fetish with many North Americans in Korea. Someone tried to explain it to me once but I didn’t understand. I believe it may be mixture of nostalgia and brand loyalty. I appreciated the concept and quirkiness of the imported cereal, and I do admire the willingness to follow crazy ideas. However, I think I fall into the category of feeling slightly ashamed that people would spend a fiver on a bowl of cereal when you could buy a full box and a pint of milk round the corner. My breakfast habits have changed beyond recognition since wolfing down crunchy-nut cornflakes as a kid. These days I only eat oatmeal or refrain from cereal all together. If you think it’s difficult to quit eating cereal, I assure you it’s not – just read the ingredients. Most of what you find in boxes of cereal is pseudo food and by the way, what does fortified actually mean? I’ve never found a castle in my cereal.

Shoreditch (6)

Shoreditch (5)

My hunger is busted now so I try to find a coffee. If all coffee is a little overpriced and if most cafes look and feel the same then why not go for something different? This is why I choose to support another hipster, and if you wanted proof then he has the beard to prove it. I get a coffee from a converted black cab. Admiration and anti-hipster reflexes conflict again in my conscience. The solid authenticity of this neighbourhood really does clash with some of the modern elements. If anything, Shoreditch and its environs echo what is going on the real world day to day. There is no authentically industrialised inner city any more. There are no jobs for life, no job security. The service sector has taken over. You don’t need to make anything or be good at anything. You just need a new concept and hope people are dumb enough to buy into it. I leave my favourite neighbourhood with mixed feelings and as if to raise more questions Russell Brand walks past me whilst nattering into his mobile. Is he an authentic East End boy done good, looking out for social justice? Or, is he just another hipster?

Shoreditch (15)

Shoreditch (13)

Shoreditch (11)

 

Britain and the USA can be “two nations divided by a common language” George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde

Having lived in Korea for over 2 years I have picked up a lot of Korean. I used to take lessons, which helped, but now I rely on the world being my classroom. One of the stranger aspects of living here is the use of my native tongue – English. Something I didn’t  consider deeply before I came, was that I may have to teach, or communicate using ‘American English’. Being the only ‘British English’ speaker in my workplace, I often find myself either questioning or abandoning British expressions or vocabulary. This is not related to a lack of patriotism, it is simply to aid communication.

אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט

a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot

“A language is a dialect with an army and navy”  Max Weinreich

 

My experience of language is that it is often a contentious issue; people cling to the familiar because they fear losing their identity, or they see a confrontation between their own usage and other forms. Language is about communication, so I’m usually pragmatic when it comes to dropping or adding expressions and vocabulary. However, I am rather pedantic when it comes to verbal accuracy, for example, I prefer saying thrice instead of three times.

After trying to explain words and phrases to people, repeatedly, I decided to write this post as a logic test for conflicting expressions. This list clarifies many examples where I think Americans, British, and other native speakers compete to use, their words to describe things. Having been born in Britain I have consumed television from the USA, Australia, and obviously the UK. I have also visited these countries and worked with Americans and Canadians. Something else to note is that most of the Koreans I have been in contact with have learnt American English; they have provided an objective critique of Britishisms or Americanisms which make no sense or more sense.

Football v Soccer

There is only one winner, football. The word soccer derives from association football as there are many varieties of football. I believe it stems from the British Public School abbreviations – Like turning Rugby into Rugger. Football has gone way beyond the shores of Britain, and its introduction to Europe and South America has turned the word into an international word like okay or taxi. The poor countries whose majority sports are not football often use the word soccer. My advice to people is that if you travel to the USA or Australia then you might use the word soccer to avoid confusion, otherwise use football. Global usage makes a mockery of the word soccer. We have FIFA (Federation of International Football Associations) UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football). The global brands and organizations all use the word football, even in the locations where the word ‘soccer’ is used. If you are Korean then take a look at the listings of the K League. Five teams have Football Club in their names, zero have soccer.

Trousers v Pants

Many People assume that ‘pants’ is an Americanism for trousers. In my experience, many people in North West England, Scotland, and Ireland use pants to mean the long things worn over your underwear. In Southern England pants generally refers to underwear. I once got into an argument in a pub in Italy about this issue. There was a man from Liverpool and a girl from Australia who both used pants to mean non underwear. I’ll let logic have the last word. If ‘pants’ refers only to underwear then why do we have the word underpants but not overpants? Pants is also British slang for ‘not very good’.

Pickles

Can you pass me a pickle?

Which type?

My fondness for pickles prevents me from accepting this word to mean Pickled Gherkins (the type you find on McDonalds Burgers) I can only presume that in America they don’t pickle anything else but gherkins. This word is also used for gherkins in the UK too. I prefer to use gherkin because that’s what it is. In my pickle related nightmare, when I go to the pickle aisle in the supermarket, I see before me 20 metres of gherkins. When I awake from this disturbing briny dream, I become aware that thankfully, there are also pickled onions, Branston pickle, red cabbage, sauerkraut, piccalilli, cucumber, dill, mussels, mango chutney, and even eggs if you go in an old pub. I think I’m fighting a losing battle on the pickle front but I will continue to use the word gherkin just to help the other forgotten pickles, sitting on their dusty shelves in the storage area of the supermarket. In the meantime, the phalanxes of the gherkin super race stand in formation at the front of the pickle shelves, waiting for their pickle fascists to buy them all.

Fall v autumn

Apparently, fall predates autumn. People used fall in the British Isles before autumn came into use and the emigrants to North America continued using it. I have no real logical argument for this debate. I use the word fall in the classroom to avoid confusion. For this ‘word off’ I make a plea to all North Americans, I think Aussies and Kiwis use autumn. Please, please try to use autumn instead of fall. Fall is a commonly used verb, but autumn is specific to the season; it also makes an easy adjective – autumnal. I believe the word just sounds nicer and as soon as I hear it I feel the colours of the leaves and the cool winds. When I hear fall, I think of an old man dying. Poetically it sounds more beautiful:

The wind rustled through her autumnal, auburn hair. This paints an image of a Venus like woman whose hair is graceful and flowing.

The wind rustled through her fallish/fall like hair. This paints the image of an alopecia victim.

Elevator v Lift

I switch my allegiance to the other side of the Atlantic. As a noun, lift already means to give someone transport, whereas elevator is unique to doing its job. I also prefer technical words to come from Latin, in this case ‘elevatore’ the verb for raise. Interestingly French and Italian don’t use ‘elevator’ or ‘elevatore’; they use ascenseur and ascensore. I believe this would give us the much improved word ‘ascender’.

Prawn v Shrimp

Everybody is wrong, but North Americans are more wrong. In America everything seems to be called a shrimp even when it’s a prawn – these are two different organisms. In the UK and commonwealth shrimp usually refers to the very small prawns, shrimp being a synonym for small. However, I have discovered that not all shrimp are small. The difference is a tiny biological matter – the shrimp’s tail segments don’t overlap in the same way. The second segment overlaps above the first and third segments. The problem with this debate is the difference in seafood worldwide. Despite the differences, I know a prawn when I see one, and I live near Morecambe Bay which is famous for shrimp, so I will use the word prawn for prawns and shrimp for shrimp.

Pavement v Sidewalk

I still use the British version – pavement. I just like the word. I remember an interview with the Indie band ‘Pavement’ who were from the US, when asked why they were called pavement instead of sidewalk; they said that they got the name from a list of the most beautiful words in the English language. I also like the suffix –ment which can make verbs into nouns: embankment, shipment, allotment….etc

Zebra Crossing v Cross walk

I like zebra crossing because it’s more poetic. It may cause confusion in very specific circumstances in Kenya or South Africa. If there is an actual zebra crossing the road then cross walk may be easier.

Queue v Line

Queue is a clear winner here because it gives us the option to make different shades of meaning. I don’t make a line unless I am in an identity parade or perhaps on the school playground. Queue implies that there is something to be gained at the end, like admission or a postage stamp. I just wish the word queue had a better spelling.

I think I’ll leave it there for now. I may add more as they arise. The point of this exercise, which may be futile, is to refrain from patriotism when it comes to English. The language has gone international so I want to try to use the best and most logical (or poetic) words on offer. I often feel lucky to be able to choose between different words, but I do feel irritated when my own words are cast aside in favour of less accurate or less descriptive offerings.

If you are learning English as a second language my advice is simply to learn both and choose. However, you may have to choose between the following options:

American words in the UK: you will be understood but looked down upon.

British/Commonwealth words in North America: you may not be understood, or you may cause offence, especially in the case of fanny, fag, tramp, and pissed.


In some parts of Australia there are only two seasons: the wet and the dry. People tell you this with that manly swagger common to fishermen and most Australians, at least those outside of the big cities. The subtext is that seasons are for puffs and sissies. Luckily for me I went in the dry because I don’t like rain. The dry is also when you can visit Mindil Markets.

OZ (51)

What was clear after only one day in Darwin is that they really need to visit other tropical places and work out when to do things. Even non puffs and non sissies would agree that the heat of the afternoon in Darwin prohibits most activity. I walked from the downtown to the park near Mindil, I nearly died. Unfortunately, Darwin was settled by Anglo-Saxons instead of people from the Romance countries of Southern Europe. As most people in Italy and Spain will tell you, in hot places the afternoon is for sleeping; the evening is for promenading and eating. My biggest disappointment in Darwin was that when the weather cooled in the evening there was nothing much to do because all the shops and many eateries were on the British and Irish style workday – opening at 9.00 and closing between 17.00 and 18.00. I suspect most colonial types feared these extreme climes, they probably wore their well ironed khakis around midday as a way with coping with homesickness or overcompensation for being sissies. After having spent time in both Spain and Italy I recommend their working day as being a Godsend in such a climate. I would rather wander around the shops in the evening and if you feel sorry for people who have to work late they can enjoy a three-hour lunch break. Maybe the giant and somewhat sinister bats who terrorize the streets after dusk are the reason everything closes.

OZ (25)

Overall, I was pleased with Darwin. Even a small city like Darwin seems like a cosmopolitan metropolis when compared the places you travel through to get there, if you are dumb enough to travel overland like myself. Tourism is a big factor here as Darwin is the gateway to some of Australia’s most interesting National Parks and its most authentic Aboriginal settlements. You may see Aboriginal people in some of the cities but it isn’t until you head up to the Northern Territories that you get the real experience. Nothing seems more natural in this part of the world than the strange vibrations of one of the world’s most ancient musical instruments – the didgeridoo. I was an avid fan of the ‘Bushtucker Man’ when I was a kid so I enjoyed every minute of my stay in the Northern Territories. The biggest highlight, hence the title of this post, was Mindil Beach Sunset Markets.

OZ (29) OZ (31)

Firstly, there is a real beach and there is a real sunset, everything else is a bonus. I was a bit worried that it was one of those tie dye hippy kind of places where they deal tarot cards and talk about auras. I was happy that there was a real mix of people there and many forms of entertainment. One of the best experiences in Australia was watching the awesome eMDee didgeridoo band. I was tipped off about these guys by some Germans near Perth had forgotten to check them out. It was more by luck than design that I got to see them performing live. There were several pipes lined up and the speed went to what could almost be described as techno. I don’t know the exact beats per minute but it was fast and furious. There were some ‘genuine’ didgeridoo players squatting nearby but I think they were moved on by the police.

The other highlight of the markets was the Roadkill Cafe. I generally eat everything but I found my limit here. I felt my conscience looking at me coldly when I saw camel meat on the menu. This is simply because camels are my favourite animal. My dream since childhood has been to go through a desert on a camel. I was a little upset seeing camel meat next to croc, snake, and kangaroo. Actually, the roo is delicious! I guess I now understand why people don’t eat horses and dogs. I didn’t buy much at the market but I had a great feed and I watched the sunset over my sand laden flip-flops. I loved Mindil Beach Sunset Markets and felt like it was one of the most authentic and rewarding experiences in Australia.

OZ (22)

OZ (20)

OZ (28)

OZ (27)

 

Gangneung is a city on the east coast of South Korea in Gangwondo province. I have visited twice: once on my way to Soraksan National park and once on my summer holiday Gangwondo trip. It has a population of about 230,000 and is the main city of Gangwondo province, although the provincial capital is in Chuncheon nearer to Seoul. It has a small provincial feel to it, but it also has all the features of any major Korean city – like the Homelplus and CGV cinema. The tourist industry gives an extra buzz to the place.

The first time I went to Gangneung was almost by accident. I was going hiking nearby so I had to use the bus station, I also passed through the bus station once again on my way to Sokcho and Soraksan. On my way back home to Jeolla I had to take an intercity bus and it was holiday season so most of the buses were booked up. This meant I had to take a later bus which gave me a kind of 3 hour layover. I decided to explore the town for a while. My first impressions were of a typical provincial place with an overused and abused bus terminal and numerous garish motels near the bus station. It was only when I got down to the river that I started to appreciate the city some more. By chance, I had stumbled upon the Gangneung Dano festival (강릉단오제). This was taking place along the river and adjacent market area. The Dano museum is in Gangneung so I guess it’s an ideal place to hold the festival.

If you have spent any amount of time in Korea you will know that there is a festival going on almost all the time. Some of them are to attract tourists and investment to places which may not otherwise attract anything or anyone. There are festivals for bibimbap, fermented foods, taekwondo, mulberries, horizons, cherry blossoms, and most famously mud. I am deeply skeptical about the need for festivals and the idea of treating places like commofities. When everything has to be marketed and packaged it takes some of the spontaneous fun out of things for me. Luckily I hit an interesting festival at an interesting time. It was completely unexpected and I was genuinely thrilled to see so much going on in a place which I only expected to pass through without much thought.

The Dano is a festival of dancing, drinking, and performance. It goes way back into Korea’s shamanistic past and is related to the wakening of animals from winter slumber and to the end of the seed sowing season. The whole atmosphere feels ancient and authentic, unlike some of the more modern contrived festivals in Korea. The costumes and dancing reminded me of the Mayday celebrations in England. This is not the worker’s day but the traditional morris dancing, maypole and other ancient wonders. Such things in England also have their origin in a kind of post agricultural work party. It amazes me to find so many similarities between cultures so far apart. It makes me realise that if you come from a place with distinct seasons, then the same seasons dictate the cycle of festivals throughout the year. In the UK, and I’m sure many other Western cultures, this ancient pagan rite has been folded into religious celebrations and public holidays. From what I saw in Gangneung the Dano thing seems very distinct and original. I don’t see much sober Confucianism or reflective buddhism in the revelry of the Dano festival, although some of the music and coloured ribbons reminded me a little of the buddhist culture in Tibet and Nepal. The food is great and the dancing shows are very entertaining. If you go to Gangneung try to get there during the Dano festival on the 5th day of the 5th month, you won’t be disappointed.

My second visit to Gangneung was part of my mini summer tour and it served as my jumping off point for a trip on the seaside train down the coast.I arrived quite late and intended on getting up very early so I opted to stay in a jjimjilbang. It was clean and convenient and for 8000W a pretty cheap way to spend the night. This place is a few blocks from the station near Lotteria, it’s called 오아시스 (Oasis) Gyo-dong, Gangneung-si, +82 33-641-7755. Type into google map or show the address to a taxi driver.  ‎Some jjimjilbangs are clearly for local types but this one seemed to have a few tourists passing through. Gangneung is a popular holiday destination for Koreans because of the numerous beaches outside the city. I was invited to sit and watch the Olympic football match with the guy working there, after it finished I managed to get a good few hours sleep. Anything above a 4 hour stint is good going in a jjimjilbang, I got about 6 hours on this occasion. In the morning at about 7.00 I walked to the train station, it wasn’t too far but with a large backpack and extraordinary heat it felt far enough. After booking my ticket for the special seaside train at 14,20 I wanted to see the beach area. There is a bus to the beach area called Gyeongpo but I waited for a while and nothing came. Eventually I took a taxi because it’s too far to walk. I walked back from the beach to the train station and I can say with some conviction …it’s too far to walk! Gyeongpo is a wonderful beach area with a large lake behind it. The beach itself has good facilities and the usual shops selling tatty beachwear and souvenirs. What is unusual about this beach and very reassuring is that they knocked down a whole row of shops and motels and planted mature pine trees. One thing I love about Korea is the pines, especially so close to a white-hot beach. I was later to realise that Gangneung is called the Pine City. Sometimes the marketing has positives. After a brief stay at the beach I realised why I don’t like beaches. I was covered in salt, sand, and sweat. I think beaches are ok if you make a firm plan to stay for the day, if you are entrenched you can enjoy it. However, I was just passing on my way to other sites next to the lake.

Behind Gyeongpo Beach is Gyeongpo Lake. This is a beautiful inlet which you can cycle round or even walk of you have enough time. It sits looking at the East Sea and to its back are the heavily wooded mountains. If you walk round to the North side you can reach the Chamsori and Edison Museum and then Gyeongpodae. The first place is a private collection of mainly gramophones and an adjoining museum dedicated to Thomas Edison. By the looks of it all this place will only get bigger and more renowned. It was a bit more expensive than most museums in Korea but I enjoyed looking at all the nik-naks and memorabilia. The owner has plans to open a movie museum and a children’s museum. Further down the lakeshore is Gyeongpodae. This a pavillion overlooking the beautiful lake, it is said you can see the moon 5 times from here: in the sky, in the lake reflection, in the sea,in a drinking glass, and in the eyes of a lover. I was here on my own in the daytime and I drank from a plastic water bottle. This area near the lake is quite a way from downtown Gangneung but there are buses running about every 10 – 15 minutes and a taxi fare is just shy of 6000W. I could have spent more time in Gangneung and if you base yourself there then you could also visit some of the parks outside town. From the train station you can also get the special seaside train which goes down the coast for 1h20 to Samcheok. This gives you a view of the coast on seats facing the huge windows, great for photography.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Getting there: I think the best way is from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal but you can also go from Express Terminal in Gamgnam

http://www.kobus.co.kr/web/eng/02_service/service01_1.jsp

If you want to travel by train it may take longer than the bus and you should go from Cheongnyangni Station in the East of Seoul. It takes over 5 hours and costs 22,300 W

http://www.korail.com/en/rv/pr21100/w_pr21110.jsp

One of the stranger aspects of teaching and living in Korea is the possibility of giving new students their ‘English’ name. I use inverted commas because of the context of this post.
The naming process is new to me, as I have mentioned previously about 99.9% of Korean students take on a ‘Western’ name for English classes. Some Koreans also take a ‘Christian’ name at their Church of choice. Obviously there were no Saint Ji-sungs or Paul’s letter to the Kims, so it makes sense to have a biblical name. I have often wondered at the logic of how the names come about. I have heard stories about people being reminded of friends back home, favourite football players, movie stars. It seems like some people just write a random 3 names on the board and ask the students to choose . When I got my first new class, by this I mean 1st Grade Elementary, I was genuinely concerned about the weight of a multi (secular) Christening. How would I choose the names? What if they don’t like their names? They could be stuck with this name forever? What if their parents know a serial killer with the same name, or some dark family mystery? A James or a John could be a bent priest, a drunk G.I or a family pet with rabies.
                                Names carry so much meaning that I was confounded when my Korean co-teacher told me I would need to name some people. In the end, after asking other teachers, I approached it like this: what names do I not like? The answer being, I do not like modern trendy names. This can often mean ‘American’ names or names that would get you battered in a playground throughout England. Due to pluralistic nature and cultural melting pot of North America, many names float around without any deep analysis. However, names in the UK can often be a bit too traditional and rely upon saints, disciples and kings. Any other names seem to show a disregard for Western society and the traditions of the Church. I guess I wanted to walk the line between the stifled tradition of my home and the more esoteric American names. Names from the Judeo-Christian tradition are fine –  Michael, Isaac, Solomon, Joseph. Anglo-Norman names are also fine in my book: Robert, Richard, William, Stephen etc. If you are wondering, nobody in England had names like this before 1066. When I say I don’t like American style  names, I mean to say the names which carry no meaning and make no sense on the basic logic of naming traditions. The following is a small selection:
Chip (type of potato)
Randy (a state of sexual excitement)
Chad (a poor country in Central Africa)
Butch (isn’t the Sundance kid dead?)
Jesse ( slightly weak or soft)
Chuck (throw casually or Australian chicken)
Buck (a dollar)
Krystal (what the maze or the ball?)
Dustin (I do it every Sunday after I finish the hoovering)
My stance, although slightly xenophobic, is in the best wishes of the students and the future of the Korean nation. I simply thought if they ever go to the UK, Ireland or perhaps even…Australia, then why not choose a name which won’t be a cause for bullying or hysterics. After all, they could have this name for the rest of their lives. I could be responsible for naming a future football star or president. By complete chance my first naming occasion coincided with when I found my Kings and Queens of Britain cards. This is a deck of cards which has a picture of every monarch since William the Conqueror, and some information on the back. I was a bit coy about this but the co teacher and another American teacher discovered that I was using the cards to choose names. I think they discovered this when someone said to me ‘You have another new student, he has no name.’ ‘Hold on, I’ll just get my cards’.  Moments later I had a young Korean flicking through past monarchs, he made a very quick decision and liked the look of a rather masculine warrior on horseback brandishing a sword. This young student is now called Richard (as in the lion-heart). He likes his name and the person he’s named after. After several days I had a regal looking young Victoria, an elegant Elizabeth (since shortened to Ellie), a studious Edward (the first), a Charlie, a James and an Anne. After exhausting the list of Monarchs I have also used American Presidents, TV show characters; currently I have a huge list printed out which is all English (Anglo-Saxon) names. I usually find the approximate first letter of a Korean given name then give a choice of all the names with that letter. This printout is from an internet site and carries the meaning of each name. The reason I chose Anglo Saxon was because that’s where English comes from so why not give a context. Also, I wondered which names would have floated around before the Normans arrived.
                                             I am not really a patriot or a monarchist but I do think that some sense of tradition should be kept. Working with Koreans, Americans and Canadians has made me realise that people generally don’t care about Britain, England or English for that matter. The English are in a strange situation because we were so dominant but now we are becoming an irrelevance on the edge of an irrelevant continent. This is especially true when you live in East Asia. A place where U.S troops have been posted since the 50’s and where it’s easier to learn English in the Philippines or Australia than the UK. Coming from a previously dominant but now irrelevant nation means that my small political protests and cultural pointers fall on deaf ears. Englishness is simply not important enough for others to worry about, but Englishness is not exotic enough to be curious about. When I protested about being called a ‘Brit’ it was met with a disregard for my utter pettiness. This basic human right of being referred to by the correct adjective based on your state of origin seems to be a weighty issue if you are an Ulster man, Irishman, Basque, Catalan, Bosniak, Kosovan or First Nation, Inuit, African-American, Cherokee… I believe every group, people, nation or ethnicity should have the right to choose how they are referred to by others. Even if this means changing the word for your group, like African-American or First Nation. I may be from Britain but I speak English, my football team is England, my cricket team is England and I follow the English Premier League. I guess I will just correct people until I return to… er…Britain. The worst thing is that other ‘Brits’ have asked me if it really matters. I usually tell people that wanting to be called English is as much about being English as it is about the Welsh being Welsh and the Scots being Scottish; they are other places with other peoples and other traditions. Bring on devolution. 
                                              This trivial stuff was in the back of my head as I took my new classes. I already knew many students , but many faces were new and they didn’t know me. I decided to have a basic Q and A session. When I say basic I mean basic, where do you think I am from? After naming nearly every nation in the World I asked them if they wanted a clue. Pointing to the badge on a girl’s coat which read “British Culture” above a Union Jack, they still had trouble. I asked the wearer of said garment, what flag are you wearing? She didn’t know. After crying for 5 minutes I told them I’m from England. When they looked and read the coat they said “No Englandu, Britaini” “Same thing.” I said, crying again. I have since noticed that 4 other students were either wearing British flags or had British flags on pencil cases, there are some Italian flags too! It’s very post modern that a nation who planted flags in deserts, jungles and bogs all round the World can now conquer the World without trying or without their ‘subjects’ knowing. The British flag has been added to the list of signs, icons and images with absolutely no meaning whatsoever. This same list includes Che Guevara, Brazil, U.S, anything Cuban, meaningless Chinese tattoos and about a gazillion American Sports Franchises. The only symbol you would think might escape the free use of signs and signifiers is the Nazi Swastika, the Swastika in its Buddhist use is in many places here though, this I think is OK because it pre dates the Third Reich. I have since made a point of reminding students and sometimes other adults about the origin of names, designs, logos, and anything else that seems important. Non English speakers often choose to wear slogan t-shirts with absolutely no regard for the meaning of the words. I once saw a typically olive-skinned Italian girl with jet black hair sporting a t-shirt saying ‘Blondes have more fun.’ I asked ‘E vero?’ (is it true?) She just looked at me blankly. In one of my super shy and impossibly quiet classes a girl once walked in with a t-shirt declaring TALK, TALK, TALK in bold black letters. I chuckled instantly and the irony was not lost on the student in question as she hid her t-shirt from the silence.