This Friday afternoon at around three fifty, my co-teacher said that she had something important to tell me and I felt worried that I’d done something wrong. In fact she told me that all the other teachers were going on the annual overnight trip at the end of the school year in about twenty minutes, though I wasn’t invited.

This was because the principal was worried about me being hurt after he’d heard stories from other schools about foreigners going on these trips. I’d heard these stories too so I could respect that decision, and since I had a bunch of weekend plans and other things to do, I really wasn’t bothered about not going.

What did bother me, though, was the fact that I was told thirty minutes before. This wasn’t a case of Korea’s culture of the last minute, because my co-teacher revealed that she’d been thinking about how to tell me for the past three days. This is a classic case of Koreans finding it extremely hard to be direct, even when speaking English. Now, I am pretty sure that Koreans are indirect consciously; Koreans I am close to who conjugate their verbs at the plain level and use the word for “you”, speak directly, so it’s not as if it is something deeply unnatural that my co-teacher has never done in her life. So, I feel bad that my co-teacher doesn’t feel comfortable enough with me to just go ahead and tell me (let’s not get started on the fact that the principal didn’t tell me himself!).

The feeling I get here is that the closeness I feel to my co-workers is only apparent; one moment I will feel like we’re making progress and then suddenly something like this’ll happen and I feel like there’s a million miles of insurmountable cultural differences between us. People become close because they share experiences, rather than because they talk about certain things with each other, and I share teaching and office experiences with my co-workers every weekday, so it saddens me when this sort of thing happens.

Indeed for me, one of the most important things that one gets out of being close to people is the freedom to be direct. Strike out against our (worldwide) culture of bullshit.