Friday, November 16, 2012

Stares from Asian people. What do they mean?

Since I am from Korea and lived in China and travelled to many different Asian countries, so I think I can talk about this stare issue.

When James was in Korea, he was always wondering what Korean people's stares meant. Obviously, many people stared at him wherever he went. He felt very uncomfortable when everybody turned their heads to look at him.
Especially, on the subway, James always went onto the subway through the door at the end of the car. 
One car has 4 doors on each side, and James never used the 2 middle doors. That means you need to deal with people looking at you from your right and left. lol.

Well.. So why do they stare? 
It is coming from the lack of exposure. Usually, old people stared at James. Younger people didn't stare at him as much as older people did. Korea is a homogeneous country. We look very much alike. Older people hardly see foreigners that are not white. When they see a black person who looks nice, (they usually think that black people are from Africa and Africans should look poor.), they look at him or her and observe him or her. (This is just my opinion, and I strongly think that it is true.)

OK. There is an example. 

There is an old Korean guy. He found James. He started looking at James. James started feeling uncomfortable. James felt like the old guy was not happy with James or something. However, when the old Korean guy opened his mouth and told me(Lily) that James looks so cute and handsome in Korean, we realized that that look that he had on his face was just his face when he is not smiling. lol. A lot of people look angry when they are not smiling. lol.

Don't you think so? With a straight face, he does not look happy. You don't think so? Oh whatever. 

Let's try again.

See?? He is definitely keeping his straight face. If he stares at you with this straight face, you might think that he is not happy with you. Right? If you don't think so, then I can't help you. lol.

Maybe, some older Korean people might have bad feelings towards foreigners.  The reasons can be various. They might have gone through the war. (The Korean War was actually controlled by USA and Russia.) They may have had some bad experience with foreigners personally, or simply that is how they have been raised and educated. In Korea, you get to learn how proud homogeneous our society is in our social science class. So, that education might lead them to think that foreigners might invade our society and they are not fond of it.

So, the conclusion is the reasons why people stare at the foreigners are

1. They find you fascinating. They are not exposed to many other races, so the foreigners look very interesting to them. - I think this is quite cute. :)

2. They might not like foreigners. Mostly, this is not the case unless they have some bad experience with foreigners personally, but still it is possible. They might think that foreigners are trying to destruct Korean society by dating and marrying Koreans.

3. They are surprised by how good looking you are. This might be really possible. I remember many teenagers stared at James and whispered to each other saying he looks handsome. (Hehehehehe. I was so proud, hahahahaha.)

4. They are surprised by how big(or fat) you are. No offense, but Koreans are quite small and slim. On the other hand, many westerners are bigger than us. Some are quite bigger than they should normally weigh. We can't find many fat Korean people in Korea.  If you have some body features that are different than Koreans, that draws Korean's attention.


Now, it's time to talk about other Asian countries.

When we went to China, it was really... interesting. Obviously, they hardly saw black people like James, some people even stopped to get more glimpse of him. James was like a celebrity. One day, we were eating at a restaurant. We were close to the window, and there were so many men standing close to the window to see James. That made us laugh so hard. When we laughed, they laughed and waved at us. lol. They found James very interesting and different from them. They probably never saw a black man before. That was cute and funny.

So... If you don't like stares, China is the worst place, but you need to remember that the stares are not from harm purposes or hatreds.  They are just very naiive and they were just never exposed to other foreigners.

If you go to Shanghai, it is actually better. Believe or not, Shanghai people are more modernized and exposed to foreigners than Beijing people even though Beijing is the capital. 

Another fun place for us was Malaysia.

We never thought that we would get many stares, but we did. There are so many Malaysian (dark) people stared at both of us!

In Korea and China, people only stared at James, but this time, they stared at both of us crazily. If you are a single person and visit Malaysia, they will not stare at you. But if you are a black and asian couple, they will stare you crazily until you feel uncomfortable. I think they thought our combination was very interesting. 

Thailand, people didn't stare at us that much. But!!! The Russians and East Europeans stared at James when you were there. Hahahahaha. That is funny. Yeah, but that really happened.
Some Russians wanted to take pictures with James. They look so fascinated by his black skin. lol. Since Thailand is a tourist country, there were so many Russians and East Europeans came. (well... People from all over the world are coming, actually.) They stared at James a lot. But, local Thai people didn't even turn their head to see him at all.

Hong Kong and Singapore are the best places.
James loved it because no one was looking at him. No single old person looked at him funny.

There are so many foreigners in Hong Kong. They don't care.

He felt like he was one of them. lol. 

Now, we are in the USA. People don't give us that crazy stares. 
Once in a while, James says he misses those stares. He felt like he was a celebrity. lol.

Well... I guess we should enjoy the moment whether it is good or not. Once the time passes, you might think that it was actually quite cool and fun! :)


  1. When they stare he should give them his autograph.

    1. He even thought about charging them. lol. It will make us rich. lol

  2. Anonymous6/1/13 01:39

    I was stared at a lot in China. I, LOVED, IT. I'm gonna visit there, again.

  3. Anonymous30/1/13 05:40

    I found your blog funny X3 Yep. Asians (I'm in) love to stare. Most people do because they are curious =>3<= and I noticed that I am one of those staring group XD
    We sees foreigners. . . unique ^ ^ especially in one of those countries thats lack of foreign people, we do stare. And no, I think we don't have any bad history with Westerners or anywhere else :3

  4. My dad is black too, and when I lived in China and went to a extremely rural area, there were more than 4 people that asked to get their picture taken with my dad because it was the first time they ever met a black person in their life! A person even came up to my mom and asked if she was our maid or nanny...of course she told these people I was her daughter and that was her husband, and their minds were blown!

    I also got a lot of stares myself, and sometimes I purposefully smile like I'm really enjoying myself around my family because I really am having fun(it's not a good idea to smile at strangers in asian countries though, my mom told me that sometimes it can come off as rude because it can mean that you find another person stupid). I try my best to enjoy myself no matter what!

  5. I'm Malaysian. I don't stare at "foreigners". I think the reason you were being stared at is because you are Asian-looking and your husband is black. We don't see that very often around here. You see Asian couples, white/Asian couples, white couples, black couples, but not much of black/Asian couples. The general public aren't used to that kind of pairing, so when they see it, it tends to pique their interest. Just don't mind them.

    I'm a very small person (even by Asian standard), and sometimes at certain places people stare at me. I always stare at them back while making a "have a problem?" kind of face. People most of the time just look away guiltily. So, tell James, 99% of the time it's just people not used to seeing what they perceive as "usual"/"normal", it has nothing to do with you, you're fine the way you are. :)

  6. Anonymous5/6/15 06:54

    Russians and East Europeans are a bit backwards. The new EU east European countries not so much now as they can move freely in Europe and in France and UK, lots of brown people

  7. Actually, I am facing some difficulties to understand the meaning of the blog. If you have any short video film related to your blog, then I would request you to share here. It would be great help.