Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ampontan and "the dirty little open secret" on whinging expats

The dirty little secret being that expatdom in Japan, like its neighbor South Korea, is full of Kvetchpats™ (yeah, I've been waiting to use that word). Well, maybe not full, but there are enough to notice:
It soon became apparent that more than a few of them shared some attitudes with expatriates in Japan: They had very little complimentary to say about the country in which they now lived. Their posts were clogged with whiny, whingeing, self-centered rants about a nation that failed to live up to their expectations. I’d heard the same for years from foreigners in Japan; only the names and places were different.

Fancy that; they came to the other side of the world to broaden their horizons but expected everything to be much the same as it is where they came from, including television program content, informal interaction in public among strangers, and supermarkets selling bucket-sized containers of diet ice cream. You know the expression, “Youth is wasted on the young”? In this case, the experience of life overseas is wasted on the people who live overseas.

Among the reasons for this phenomenon is that some people are not as open-minded as they like to pretend when they preen in front of their psychological mirrors. Most people come to terms with a world that isn’t going to conform to one’s demands or expectations before they’ve left school. Some of those who haven’t wind up in Northeast Asia.

Another factor–in Japan at any rate–is that they feel cheated because the Lafcadio Hearn experience is no longer open to them. They’re disappointed that time and traffic doesn’t stand still because they happen to be walking down a street filled with people more interested in the concerns of their own lives than their proximity to a member of the Master Race Mr. Global Adventurer from a country Far Across the Sea. Yet another is that it gives them a cheap excuse to bask in the sunshine of their superiority.
Though the proportions may be different, I think the same types of people can be found on both sides of the East Sea (or Sea of Japan). And while a lot of it may stem from the reasons Ampontan suggests, a good amount of it (for some people at least) comes from the jarring experience of being stripped away of one's racial transparency, which they never knew they had back home (it's transparent, you see).

But there are legitimate reasons to grouse, of course, and the mere act of complaining about something reasonable to gripe about (e.g., "no gaijin" housing listings in Japan, honesty-impaired hagwon managers in South Korea, difficulty for non-White faces to get work teaching English, etc.) doesn't make one a kvetchpat or a waaaaagugin. But if it takes over your mindset and becomes the dominant theme, then you may have crossed over to the dark side.

And, like I said at Ampontan's, kvetching can be a contagion, so watch out.


  1. Hahaha.... good one.

    I typically think of ampontan often as a wapanese wanker, but at least he uses intelligent arguments.

    I think he's dead on with the expat posting. I don't know a ton of expats but the ones I talked to generally are respectful of the countries they have lived in (they just don't appear to blog much, hahaha). One girl, a light brown headed gal from Santa Barbara, CA, lived in Taiwan for 2 years studying abroad. She has a coffee cup she painted Chinese characters on. Any ways, she told me that she thinks most of the white guys who study in Taiwan are uglies losers who couldn't get any play back in the states. But they do generally do get the girls since the Asian ladies don't really know what a good looking white guy looks like since there are so few of them in their country.

  2. Is she now in California or Taiwan? Because Caucasian women who can function in Korean or Japanese are a major turn-on for me, and I'd like to test if that works with Mandarin as well. ;)

  3. This topic is important enough for three important Asia blogs to comment on? Really?

    I've seen most of the Kvetchblogs go belly up over the past year or so. If there are replacements, they aren't well-written enough to warrant my attention.

  4. You're too late Kush. She's already dating this Korean guy (who's an amateur MMA figher, but cut like a concrete slab) in our office.

    She came back from Taiwan with a permanent case of Yellow Fever.

  5. What I mean is "...MMA fighter and cut like a..."

  6. HA! "Kvetchpat", I love it! Submit that rascal to wiktionary.

  7. Kvetchpats. I like it. Waaaahgukin was always a little patronizing to me, but Kvetchpats hits it on the head.

  8. What you 7-10 ladies and gentlemen call Kvetching or whining, the other 700-1,000 call opinionation and observation. I absolutley agree, the Englishman who complains about the type of vino he receives as gift from Japanese bankers is an ass, plain and simple. I see this as a classic case of British arrogance.

    I have been in the Hermit Kingdom for over 17 months and I don't claim to be an expert on Korea by ant means. I read a decent portion of the Korean Kvetch blogs. I don't see a considerable amount of what I would call "whining". But I do read the same observations, opinions and realities throughout most of them.

    We've all heard them before. Immaturity, jealousy, arrogance, considerable lack of organisation skills, rote memorization in learning, zero critical thinking in education, xenophobia, staunch nationalism, inferiority complexes etc.

    All these Kvetches, opinions, observations or however you choose to define them, are further reinforced by the reality that of those who choose to teach English in Korea, 30-40% pull a 'Mid-night run', well before their first year is completed, the other 30- 40% finish their one year contract and happily leave the country and the other 20-40% might stay longer etc.

    The numbers are real and most expats in Korea are well aware of this reality. The idea that young westerners whine because they expect x and y, might hold a few drops of water. I have talked to and read comments from quite a few "older westerners" who were well traveled and their opinion of Korea was quite poor.

    I know, I'm Kvetching and I'm not jewish. I respect your opinions as I respect every individuals right to do so. Unfortunately, for every expat who calls this phenomena whining, there are 100 who call it reality.


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