Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday Favourite V12: Compliments

At the end of every week I'm going to write down one thing I love about Korea. Last week it was Coupling and here is this week's... .

The other day I walked into a classroom of 5th grade boys. The cutest boy walked upto my desk and from behind his floppy man bangs he looked at me with big brown eyes and said 'Teacher, you're so pretty". I'd love for the story to end there but, after being here a few months, I've now become well aware of the fact that most compliments you receive tend to have a not-so-hidden agenda. He closed the sentence with "...game?" and looked at me expectantly with big puppy eyes.

I mumbled maybe and sent him back to his seat. As I handed out the worksheet for the lesson I noticed the boys whispering amongst themselves. It was only when I heard them count 'One, two three...' that I knew there was some massive conspiracy against me that was about to happen.

'PRETTY TEACHER GAME!" They started chanting. I don't know if I should feel mad that these compliments are so throw away, but I find it hilarious. I never hear them use this tactic on the Korean co-teachers, so I don't know if it's because they think I'm soft, or whether they genuinely believe all westerners have a massive ego that likes to be fed.

As mentioned earlier, I have been here a few months now, so I'm not as much of a celebrity as I first was. The kids don't pull my face close to them to stroke my 'high nose' or 'oooh and ahhh' at the colour of my eyes anymore, the gifts, sticky and warm from the kids' pockets have almost dwindled away. Yet these compliments are fired in both mine and Tasha's direction numerous times in one day.

'Teacher, today your hair looks like rice. I love rice. Rice is nice...Game?" Umm...okay.
'Teacher you're so smart, you're so clever...game?"

Yet, it seems as though the adults haven't noticed the advantages they could get from complimenting people, and just shoot them at you, without wanting anything in return. The music teacher here seems enchanted with us and tries in broken English and the power of mime to get her message across. It usually has something to do with the size of our eyes. Apparently our faces are small too, I never realised that was supposed to be a compliment until I learnt that many Koreans have a fat face complex due to their bone structure. Strange.

Tasha has had to request a male escort to buy hotteok as the man serving her just couldn't stop saying 'Oh My God, Oh My God' at her to the point where it did start to feel a little creepy.

At school it is often at the expense of the other teachers that we get these compliments too. When learning how to compare, my Korean coteacher told the kids to compare us to each other, with very awkward consequences. The kids love nothing better than pointing out to the homeroom teachers, who are like the alpha males of the school, how much taller I am than them. Slightly uncomfortable.

Most of the time the kids are cute enough to not really need to compliment to get what they want, if I hear them trying their hardest to talk to me in English then I'm a bit of a sucker. And hearing their inventive ways of getting what they want never fails to cheer me up, no matter how insincere.

But I think this idea that cuteness and complimenting gets them far is something that viewed as agreeable in Korea,especially for the girls both young and old, and I guess they're just getting some practice in early.

Here's a video showing Korean Aegyo - the skill of being cute to get what you want and I think the girl in the video is already cute to start with.