Tentative thoughts (and more) on race-based hiring practices in Korea

But first some stories (with apologies to those who have heard or read them before).

1. Hagwon Hiring

I was asked to help in finding possible replacements for myself at the hagwon (private language academy) which was my first full time teaching job. Through the miracles of online communication I found a young woman who seemed like she’d be a great fit. She had some experience teaching and living in Asia and by all indications she was a smart and dedicated person. In fact. she was probably more qualified than I’d been the previous year when I was hired. I thought I’d hit the jackpot when she said she was willing to come to this hagwon in a small Korean town. I mean jackpot in two ways here. The first is because I thought she’d be a great teacher and fit for the school and the second is that I stood to get a payout of about 400 dollars US for finding a suitable replacement. After a few emails and with my positive impression of her growing I brought her resume to the director who seemed happy until he discovered she was African-American. He informed me it was not going to work. You know, this being Korea and all. I didn’t like it on either the moral or financial level but I went back to work on the project. The next candidate I found was another USAmerican female who met the criteria I was given and also struck my intuition as the right type or person. Up I went to the director’s office. The problem with this candidate? Well, she was Asian-American and the students might be confused by this. How could someone of Vietnamese descent be a “native English speaker,” anyway? I clarified with the director that what he really wanted was White People. Let me be clear, there are not a whole lot of things I did when I was 23 that I am super proud of now but telling the director I was not interested in continuing to participate this (farcical) candidate search is one of them. The epilogue to this sad little tale is the two eventual replacements were a White Canadian couple who were semi-disastrous in terms of teaching and to the business of the school (according to my sources) and the husband was disastrous as a person (according to my not so humble opinion).

2. The parents might not like it 

A long while back a mixed-race friend was hired at a hagwon upon the recommendation of a friend of hers from college. The hagwon owner in small town Korea was a bit apprehensive about the skin color of her future employee but she liked and respected the opinion of the person making the recommendation and decided to follow the advice. The director was concerned that students would leave her school. She didn’t seem to harbor any racist views but was simply concerned with the bottom line. Maybe their parents would think a teacher with darker skin would be less qualified or less native or less something than a blonde and blue eyed teacher might be.  So it was with some trepidation my friend was hired. The results were extremely positive. My friend was a great and compassionate teacher who I believe the students loved and learned a lot from. Maybe they even told their friends and enrollment went up and the school owner made an even bigger pile of money. The hagwon owner was pleased with her hiring decision and vowed that she would not consider skin color when hiring in the future.

3. Dark skinned engineers need not apply 

A friend of mine told me a story that blew my mind. He was working for one of the big ship building company in Korea (It was not Hyundai Heavy Industries or Samsung Heavy Industries) and he accompanied the HR team on a recruiting trip to India. His job on the trip was to assess English ability, potential,  and potential fit for the company. When reporting his assessments he was told a few of the candidates he rated highly were simply too dark to work in Korea. He couldn’t really comprehend what he was hearing so he asked some follow-up questions. Apparently the HR team thought lighter skinned people would fare better in South Korea. They thought their Korean staff would treat this lighter skinned Indian workers better. They thought the lighter skinned employees would adapt to Korea more easily. They made their hiring decisions accordingly. I have always hoped those engineers who were denied the chance to work for this company based on their skin color ended up working for a competitor and made some massive and profitable breakthroughs in the field.

4. Remind me who is overly concerned about race again 

In a prestigious university in Seoul the foreign staff was asked for input on a list of potential colleagues. One of the applicants happened to be black. Somehow the race of the candidates was an issue for the (largely male and entirely white) staff. No, they weren’t racist, of course, but they expressed their concern their students might be. They weren’t sure how a black professor would be received, this being Korea and all. The (Korean) admin in this case had no issue regarding the race of applicants and didn’t’ believe the students would either but the (entrenched) workers had no problem bringing it up as a concern.

Discussion Questions:

A) Who are the most moral people mentioned above? Why?
B) Who are the least moral people mentioned above? Why?
C) What motivates those making hiring decisions?
D) What would you have done if you were me in story #1?
E) What helped change the owner’s mind in story #2? What do you think was most persuasive?
F) Am I crazy and naive to imagine the company in story #3 suffering for their skin-based hiring practices?
G) Why would those mentioned in story #4 bring up race?
H) What, if anything, can be done to combat racist hiring practices?
I) Who is responsible for combating racist hiring practices?

My thoughts 

My fear is that I might be on the verge of over-simplifying very complicated issues here. I mostly just wanted to share the stories in the hopes that they might provoke some thought and discussion. I am sure that there are lots of similar and related stories around Korea and around the world. 

I think the argument I am dancing around is something like this:
Aside from being terrible on a moral level, racist hiring practices make bad business sense. Taken a step further it might mean, “Let certain idiots be racist as they are shooting themselves in the foot.” I think this can be applied on the level of a small language school or a big ship builder or even a region or nation. For example, on the larger scale, if Japan has more  enlightened hiring policies and practices than Korea I honesty believe there will be an impact in terms of overall English ability and national competitiveness in favor of Japan. This can be applied all the way do. If Korea (or anywhere) wants to make hiring decisions on things like melanin content then perhaps that is their poor decision to make.

I’m worried I am stepping away from the moral considerations too easily but at the same time I can’t see much way into change without doing so. As I patiently await being tarred and/or branded as a neo-liberalist I wonder what other remedies there are (other than the market) for silly hiring practices. Can this be legislated? What would this even look like? How else can perceptions change other than cases like story #2? Are such views on race something that will be grown out of as more and more students have interactions with teachers of color? How can education play a role?

As I consider these issues I can’t separate them from thoughts regarding native speakerism. I think they are inextricably linked in places like Korea. I mean, I think race becomes more of an issue when “native speakers” are so highly prized and are often hired for the sole reason of being a “native speaker.” If qualifications and teaching ability are not seen as important for the teaching positions then basing hiring choices on other superficial things like race is only a small hop, skip, and jump away.

Returning to the discussion questions above, what alternatives are there to letting the market sort things out? I don’t want to sound as though I am throwing my hands up in despair and saying race will always play a role. I also don’t want to expect a nation with a very different history and make-up than the country of my birth (which surely has its own problems) to adhere to my personal views.

What am I missing?
Other thoughts?

Links:

I’d like to share a few related links. Please feel free to add more in the comments. The first is a very interesting blog post where the writer conducted some undercover research on recruiters preferences in hiring. She created profiles of two invented women of different races and tracked the results.  The second is a newspaper article entitled, “The hagwon color line: Korean language institutes and their inexcusably racist employment habits.” Finally, I previously wrote “Some thoughts and stories about ‘native speakers’ in South Korea” and I think there are quite a few connections to the above (including one of the same stories).

Updates: 

1) I keep thinking about how I didn’t focus enough on applicants who suffered through such ridiculous hiring practices. I don’t think it is enough to say, “Yes, this is silly and in time it will all be sorted out. The market will take care of everything.” I mean real people have faced real problems with these issues and I don’t wish to gloss over this.

2) I guess I wasn’t as clear as I could have been regarding how I see  native speakerism fitting into all this. What I wanted to say was how issues of race and language are quite intertwined. The image of “native speakers” seems to have a lot of crossover with race. In this post, I was trying to talk about just race, but I think that proved to be difficult because of how prevalent native speakerism is.

What I wanted to say in the post is that if we are going to use superficial criteria like passport held, as opposed to teaching skills, to make hiring decisions then other superficial criteria like skin color seems to be an easy next step. So, if it is not about teaching it is not about teaching.

Also, as I hinted at in the comments, look at the passports deemed acceptable (actually required is the right word) to for “native” English teachers in Korea to hold. Lotta white folks in those countries. Is that by accident?

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28 comments

  1. Adi

    Most of the job applications I’ve sent in to employers in East Asia have resulted in rejection. However, they’re usually polite and some even try to justify why it would be impossible to hire someone who doesn’t ‘look’ like a native speaker because of the expectations of students and their parents. But there was this one rejection email from Korea that spelled it out for me – “The requirement is for white teachers” I think it said. I was tempted to reply and say that I had died and become a floating white sheet and inquire as to whether I was now eligible.

    • mikecorea

      Hi Adi,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it. I am assuming your citizenship is Indian. If my assumption is wrong on this then my message that follows is even more nonsensical than it would be otherwise. I think part of the (even bigger?) issue here regarding race and that is that in Korea (as far as I know–and I have heard conflicting reports on this) they only accept teachers (for most teaching positions) with passports from one of the 7 countries the govt has deemed to be native speaking. I recently saw an interesting conversation (which I should admit devolved from a conversation into something more like a flamewar) online about this policy and its potentially racist implications. My personal view on this policy is that the policy is less about over racism and more about lack of knowledge on the part of the govt. There was an influx of foreign teachers and a huge increase in the demand in the 90′s and such policies were put into place. You mentioned rejections and explanations. If it is not a policy issue I think those places are being quite short sighted and underestimating the importance of their students/clients. I genuinely think students generally want good teachers.

      And finally, LOL at the white sheet comment!
      Thanks again for the comments (and the chance to think about this more).

  2. Nicola

    God that makes depressing reading. It’s always been obvious though, I barely know any non white EFL teachers and I’ve worked all over the place. I don’t know what to say. How to tackle bigotry on such massive scales?

    • mikecorea

      Hi Nicola, thanks for reading and commenting. It’s funny, well not really funny. Interesting? Something. Anyway, I didn’t even think this was a particularly depressing collection of stories (compared to what is out there) as I was writing it. I tried to include some glimmers of hope. Whatever the case your comment sort of shocked me and reminded me how depressing it really is.

  3. Hana Tichá

    A very interesting post. I’m afraid we’ll never totally get rid of the issue of ‘otherness’. Some jobs will always be regarded as more ‘suitable’ for men, native speakers, white people, skinny people, etc. We create the demand and we have to face the consequences. Each of us is responsible for the way the world looks. But I’m an optimist – we have the power to change things. That’s what you did by writing up this post – you made things change a little by making people reflect….

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for the very thoughtful comments, Hana. I am also happy to see your optimism. I will have to admit that mine comes and goes in waves. I love this line:
      “Each of us is responsible for the way the world looks”
      So I thank you for that and for sharing your thoughts and for the reminder of the power we have to change things.
      I’d be thrilled if this post could have just a little impact on anyone but I will be hopeful about that as well.

  4. Zhenya

    A hugely important issue raised, Mike. Wow. I keep thinking about (so many!) questions you are asking, and here are a couple of those that I see as key (well, at least to me):

    - [Race-based] hiring practices make bad business sense (‘racist’ is in square brackets, because I can put other ‘discriminating’ categories here, such as age, religion, political views, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) Agree strongly!

    - How else can perceptions change other than cases like story #2? – I think this story is an excellent example of not going with the general stereotype and basically do something that education needs to be doing, namely create positive experiences and then as you said kids and their parents spread this new(er) idea in their circles, and a more positive change (and perhaps more global thinking?) begins.

    - How can education play a role? – I think having discussions like this is already a step forward (often times I feel this topic is avoided both in teachers’ rooms and in class); one other (simple!) idea I remember from The Tipping Point by M. Gladwell was learning about great accomplishments that people of other races have achieved, about their culture and lives. I am joining Hana Tichá in being optimistic about the future!

    • mikecorea

      Hi Zhenya,

      Thanks very much for tackling some of these questions. I appreciate it.
      Regarding the [ -ist] hiring practices I can’t help but think the key is to help the decision makers and stakeholders see how foolish these policies are for the bottom line. I think if this is clear then the decision to be more brave/open-minded/ethical in hiring decisions becomes easier.

      I think this topic is often avoided in classrooms and staffrooms. In terms of classrooms (without much evidence) I have this image of a western teacher lecturing their students about why racism is bad and why the ss are silly and backwards for having such beliefs. I might be exaggerating here. but I think such conversations can get very lectury or superficial quickly. Now, I don’t have the recipe for making them more nuanced but this is something I always think about.

      I like your point about learning about accomplishments from Gladwell. If my memory is correct this was about priming. Perhaps by sharing and celebrating achievements decision makers can be primed to be more color blind. I worry about being too simplistic or optimistic but I will join you and Hana on the optimism train.

      My hope is that stories like #2 are becoming commonplace and that students and younger people don’t/won’t consider race to the extent their parents might. I am on the verge of going tooo far with the optimism so I will stop here! Thanks again for commenting!

  5. Rob Dickey

    If we view “native-speakerism” as a cover-term for “native-level fluency and awareness in the target language and culture” (nfTLC) then it is less objectionable, I think, though still not wholly justified. (There are, of course, arguments in favor of instructors who were learners, now with near-fluent TLC, regardless of whether the instructor’s L1 matches the learners’, but that’s a somewhat different discussion.) Most of what Mike is discussing here is the skin-color issue… As a White American I can say that I haven’t seen kids having problems with English teachers of color, but I have seen adult learners (univ and older) who object to non-white teachers.

    • Rob Dickey

      And those adult learners, and even middle-school kids, who have complained about unfamiliar (usually, non-North American) accents…

    • mikecorea

      Hi Rob,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Much appreciated. I think perhaps we are using the term native-speakerism differently? I am using it in the way outlined here: http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/60/4/385.full This excellent blog post (including the comments!) is also a good illustration of what I mean with that term. http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/n-is-for-native-speakerism/. Perhaps I misread your comments, though?

      I am glad you mentioned culture. I sincerely wonder how important this is or if there is such a thing as “target culture” anymore or if there ever actually way. Maybe in very specific situations?

      You wrote, “Most of what Mike is discussing here is the skin-color issue…” Yes, this was my intention but I think it is easy for other issues to get crowded in there. I found it hard to talk about race (as related to prospective English teachers in Korea) without considering linguistic factors. From my view there is a perception of what a “native speaker” looks like and and L2 English using Swede might fit that better than an L1 English using person of Indian descent.

      You wrote, “As a White American I can say that I haven’t seen kids having problems with English teachers of color, but I have seen adult learners (univ and older) who object to non-white teachers.” That is very interesting. I think I have heard tell of insensitivity of kids to teachers of color but not what I’d call objections. Interesting to note uni and older students objecting to teachers of color. I wonder on what grounds? I read somewhere that teachers of color are more likely to be scrutinized and not given the benefit of the doubt. That seems to be the case. Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts, Rob.

      • Rob Dickey

        There are many perceptions of native-speakerism. Safe to say I think a lot of people have gotten fanatical and horribly PC in defining things. As with so much, the pendulum swings to the extremes before swinging towards a middle. (Not to say “middle” is “right” and recognizing that “middle” evolves over time, creeping one direction or another.)

        One start is to remove the reactionary discussions of skin color, ethnicity, and culture. We are talking about language. Target culture is a fair topic of discussion, it too must be removed from skin color/ethnicity and language!

        Native-speaker, as I read it, equates with what it explicitly suggests, and nothing more. Born and educated in an environment where that language is the main language of use within the community and the individual’s home language. Skin color is irrelevant. One can be a native-speaker of Creole.

        Has nothing to do with the legal language of the land (hence, Korea’s policies are wrong). I’ve met some EPIK teachers who were born in US but far better in Spanish than English. Korea has finally recognized the bilingual Canadian environment by requiring Canadian “native speakers” to be educated in an English-speaking university (nice try, but it doesn’t work that way).

        None of the above is to suggest that I endorse native-speakerism as an employment consideration (or any other basis of otherness.)

        And yeah, I think one could be a native-speaker of English, or French, or whatever, but not share the generally-accepted target culture. Examples could include Tahitians for French, Nigerians for English, etc. And subcultures within the motherlands of any given language (US, UK, France, whatever).

      • Marek Kiczkowiak

        Very interesting comment, Rob.
        I think the term native speaker is very unhelpful, fuzzy and almost impossible to define. The definition you’ve given is to a large extent true, but then it still leaves a big grey area (don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is a good definition of a native speaker, or that I can come up with a better one). For example, what a bout somebody born of e.g. British parents, who has a British passport, but went to school and lived most of their life in a non-English speaking country. Are they a native speaker? And what about somebody who does not have a e.g. British passport, but has done all their schooling in Britain (I examined for IELTS a Dutch guy who’d perfectly fit the description – of course, he got a 9). Finally, is somebody who’s passed C2 level exam a native speaker?
        I’m saying all this to stir the discussion a bit. What I’m getting at is what many scholars have suggested over the years – native speaker is linguistically not a valid term. Especially if we view it, as it is often viewed within EFL, as the ideal and infallible source of L1 correctness. This perpetuates the view that non-native speaker’s language is always lacking, and is never quite on native speaker level.
        What do you think?

      • Rob Dickey

        Yes Marek and all, the term “native-speaker” leaves much to be desired in terms of specificity and gray areas. There doesn’t seem to be a better one. The questions of “ideal” (versus “idealized”) native speaker, and separation of language from target culture are helpful somewhat.

        The examples Marek raised are valid concerns (but note that my examples said AND – so native-speaking environment and household were both required, but passport was not, nor “legal language of the land” – I pointed out the problems of people whose Spanish was better than their English in US, and French schools in Canada).

        And Yes, Native-speaker is problematic when discussing linguistics – but then we all know people with university education in their mother tongue who haven’t read the classics and don’t reference them in their speech – does that make them uneducated? (My mother thinks so!)

        As with any job anywhere, employers try to find ways to distinguish candidates.The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is just as problematic, and C2 perhaps doesn’t provide the highest levels distinctions some may desire.

      • Marek Kiczkowiak

        Another problem I can see is that very often the term ‘native speaker’ is used in job ads as a “qualification”, which of course it isn’t. The status quo also has it that you cannot obtain it. Unless not through any existing language exam, although having done C2 exams in Spanish and in English myself, I definitely think that they are more than enough to be considered a native speaker from a linguistic perspective. However, the view that even the highest possible qualification is still somehow less than native speaker level goes completely against the idea of trying to learn and to master a language.
        Of course, CEFR is not ideal. The main difference between CEFR levels and the term native speaker is that the former is measurable (to a very accurate, if not perfect, degree), whereas the latter is not. Perhaps it should be. But then I guess some native speakers would argue that it still wasn’t enough.
        This is mostly what bugs me about the term and using it in job advertisements. Paikeday wrote a very provocative article “The native speaker is dead”, in which he argued that “the native speaker exists only as a figment of linguist’s imagination”, suggesting a more egalitarian term: “the proficient user”, referring to anyone who has fully mastered a given language. I also agree with Alan Davis, who wrote that “the native speaker is a fine myth: we need it as a model, a goal, almost an
        inspiration; but it is useless as a measure; it will not help us define our goals”.
        I don’t think the problem with the term native speaker comes up only when puffed up Oxbridge linguists have their turgid and largely incomprehensible debates. I didn’t quote the above to sound more educated, although your mum might think me so for doing it (I can’t say I agree with her). I’m not a linguist myself either.
        The problem bores down to this: using the term native speaker to differentiate between candidates is wrong, because what most people understand by the term is not obtainable through any qualification, but rather bestowed upon some at birth, therefore, discriminating against those “proficient users” of the language born in non-English speaking countries who have valid language and teaching qualifications.
        Uffff, again I’ve realised what was to be a very short response turned into a lengthy one. Will try to be more concise next time.
        Any thoughts?
        Thanks for the thought-provoking discussion. Really enjoying it :)

      • Rob Dickey

        Marek and all,

        I agree with everything just written.

        My two intended, but yet unclear points in my previous, were that C2 may not be quite demanding enough to meet the specs of what would construed as an educated native speaker of English; and that anything other than the two pillars of communicative competence (language proficiency) and teaching competence seems wrong, but employers will continue to hire based on their perceptions of what “the market” demands.

      • Marek Kiczkowiak

        Thanks for your answer, Rob. This might indeed be true. But how could we measure “native” language level? I worry that even if a more difficult exam was developed, the same practice would continue, because one could always argue that the exam is just not quite, really, exactly native-like level.
        The key I think is to put aside the view of non-native language skills as lacking, deficient, not quite native. perhaps more should be done on the parts of academic staff to educate students as most of us seem to agree that the whole debate is rather nonsensical, and that language proficiency, although perhaps a necessary skill for a good language teacher, is not the ultimate nor a sufficient indicator of teaching abilities.
        Any thoughts?

  6. Marek Kiczkowiak

    Very interesting post. I didn’t realise the discrimination in Korea was so widespread and so open.
    I think the first thing any individual can do is what you did when you were 23 – openly speak against what you think to be morally wrong. If more teachers were more outspoken about this, I’m sure it’d happen less. As the recruiter you might have to go against what the clients believe is best for their English – in this case a white male native speaker (preferably from the UK, Ireland, the US or Australia, as it might not occur to the recruiter that English is an official language in over 50 countries!). What the school should do is educate the clients. Talk to them. Prejudices take minutes to form, but years to disappear. I remember my DoS in IH San Sebastian telling me that for years and years he’s had to explain to parents who were not happy that their child was not taught by a white native speaker that the school could not guarantee that the teacher would be e.g. British; however, what it did guarantee was that they would be a very good teacher, which is really what the students are concerned about.
    There are numerous studies which confirm that students are not concerned whether their teacher is of particular nationality, or a native speaker. The research shows that students appreciate other qualities about teachers, such as knowledge of language, being helpful, encouraging, etc.
    I do agree with you that such practices are not economically beneficial for the school, at least not in the long run. After all, you’re willingly depriving yourself of a huge number of highly qualified and motivated English teachers. It boggles the imagination that you’d choose a completely untrained, inexperienced and unqualified native speaker over a fully certified and very experienced non-native, just because they were “unlucky” enough to be born in a non-English speaking country. Same goes for skin colour. And gender. What you describe is appalling. It definitely doesn’t make one want to work in South Korea.
    I also think that organisations such as British Council should be much more outspoken about discriminatory recruitment policies. Perhaps a “help desk” should be established, where teachers who feel they have been discriminated against could file a complaint which would actually be looked into.
    I’ve just realised my short response turned rather lengthy. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
    Cheers

    • mikecorea

      Thanks very much for the comments, Marek. Very interesting.
      In Korea for most teaching jobs one needs to be from one of the 7 countries deemed most Native Speakerish..
      (You already named 4: UK, Ireland, the US, Australia and the others are South Africa, New Zealand and Canada.)
      That’s it. No accounting for any other ways of being proficient at English.
      It is also hard for me to look at these countries without thinking about race too.

      You mentioned my experience at 23…I wish I had been more persuasive at the time!
      I do think part of the problem is otherwise moral people can easily become complicit in the situation.

      You wrote, “Prejudices take minutes to form, but years to disappear” and I think this is sadly very true. At this point, in the private sector I am stuck on the idea that money talks and if people in hiring positions could see that students care more about teaching than color this would speed things along.
      (as you have pointed out this is largely the case)

      I loved your points about schools educating the clients as well.

      Finally, “It boggles the imagination that you’d choose a completely untrained, inexperienced and unqualified native speaker over a fully certified and very experienced non-native, just because they were “unlucky” enough to be born in a non-English speaking country. Same goes for skin colour. And gender.” I think that is right on point. And to add to the boggling… that it is seen as accepted and acceptable is even more shocking.

      I do want to add a bit of optimism here. I think things are changing (and in fairness 3 of my stories are from around 10 years ago and even more). While things are changing it is still not hard to find job ads asking for white teachers.

      Thanks again for the comments. I really enjoyed reading them and the exchange as well.

  7. directidiomas

    Hi Mike. You posted a fantastic, if depressing, post. Like some of the other people who have replied, I am not sure how best to combat these practices but we all have a responsibility to change perceptions of what constitutes a “native” teacher and extolling the virtues of fully-qualified non-native teachers. As a British-born of Indian heritage ESL teacher, I have had my credentials of ‘nativeness’ challenged over the years purely on the basis of my skin colour and name. Indeed, I wrote my thesis for my Masters on the subject. The title of the thesis was ‘Where are you “really” from?’. The ‘really’ is particularly loaded, as you can imagine..and it is a question I have been asked, albeit very innocently, on various occasions. The research I conducted for the thesis was mind-blowing as I really got to grips with how much discrimination goes on, especially in the Far East it seems. Your post tallies with a lot of my research.

    In Spain, where I teach, I feel it is my responsibility to always let students know that ‘white” does not always infer “nativeness”. There is an obsession with having a ‘native’ teacher in Spain but non-white skin colour doesn’t always constitute nativeness for many people, so a lot of confusion ensues. Although I am obviously generalising, I am still asked by potential private students, who have my CV at hand with my British nationality, qualifications etc, if I have an Indian accent.

    Anyway, it was great to hear your thoughts. They are depressing but they need to be talked about and discussed.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts and experiences here. I appreciate it.

      “Where are you really from?” is a fantastic title for what seems like an all-too-common question.
      From where I sit, it would be bizarre for the fact that my great mother lived in Italy to be mentioned in an interview but for people with other ethnic backgrounds it seems like it would be a common discussion point. I know for a fact this is the case in Korea.

      It is interesting to note that one of my best friends also did his MA on a similar topic. It made for an interesting and sometimes depressing read.
      (if you’d like me to put you in touch please let me know)

      After (and indeed while) writing this post I had a range of feelings and some of them revolved around me writing about these issues and wondering about any positive impact from doing so. Your comment, “They are depressing but they need to be talked about and discussed” helped remind me of the importance of talking about these issues so thanks again for commenting.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      ps- On a lighter note, this video deals with the “where are you really from?” issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWynJkN5HbQ

  8. Pingback: The fear of being unemployable | After Octopus

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