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You may have heard the term waygookin before, but do you know what it means?  In short, waygookin is the Korean word for a foreigner, an outsider or someone who is different, a black sheep if you will.  In some way, shape or form, we’re all a waygookin at some point.  Sometimes, it can be a good thing.  But sometimes, it can feel like a negative thing.  But a lot will depend on who you are and who you are around.  Here are a few reasons why I’m the waygookin in different situations.

While Within American Culture

American culture is a mixed and diverse culture.  But sadly, those differences can be used to put people down.  While not every American feels that way, sadly more and more people are putting down, hating or wanting to harm people who are different than them.  To these people, it is the proper way of life.  But to me, that’s no life at all.  When I think of things that people do or have that are different than what I’m used to, such as their language, food, culture, way of living and views on how to treat their fellow human beings, I think those things are beautiful.  In this case, I’m the waygookin because my mindset is different than many of the people that I meet.  And in this case, being the waygookin is a very positive thing to me.

While in Korean American Culture

There can be a big difference between Korean and Korean American culture.  I will go into the differences between the two at a later time.  But in a nutshell, many Korean Americans that I meet struggle trying to be Korean.  For some, they’ve been “Americanized”so they don’t fully feel like they will probably not fit in or be accepted Korean culture in Korea.  But at the same time, they know they will never be accepted or fit into American culture.  So to people like this, they try to do as much “Korean stuff” as possible.  This includes having as many Korean friends as possible, participating in as many Korean activities as possible and making sure as many people as possible know that they are Korean.  To many who fit this category, I will always be a waygookin because I’m either not Korean or don’t act Korean enough for them to fully accept.  At times, this can be a sad thing.  But at times, when I see how such ones act and treat others, I’d rather them see me as a waygookin than as one of their own.

While in Korean Culture

I’m a waygookin in Korea, because I’m not Korean.  A recent estimate stated that 97% of all people in Korea are ethnically Korean.  So in that since, I will always look like a waygookin to many people in Korea.  But Korean culture in Korea can be a lot different than Korean American culture.  Korean culture, real Korean culture, people are like family.  Your friend’s grandma is your grandma.  Your uncle is your friends uncle.  As a non Korean, it took time for people I was around to get comfortable with me.  But once they did, we were like family.  It’s amazing how by making just a little bit of effort, you can make other people happy and make you closer than friends can be.  In that sense, I’m actually not a waygookin when I go to Korea; and that’s a very beautiful thing.

I never expected to find a family when I went to Korea, but I did.  So many people I’ve talked to since that time also feel like they have family in Korea and are still part of the Korean community.  But now that I know the meaning of the word waygookin, I never fully thought I would feel like a waygookin in my country of birth.  And sometimes, it’s hard to explain why I’m a adopted Korean in Korea, but someone who will never be Korean enough for some Korean Americans to love and accept.  But that is life in the world in which we live.  It’s really up to the people around you to decide if you are a waygookin.  But even if you are, it’s not always a bad thing.  Sometimes, it’s good to be different.  No matter if you are a waygookin or not, just be true to yourself.  No one can love and accept you for who you are, unless you are willing to show people who you are.