Today, I have experienced the reality of culture shock and (what felt like) complete and utter despair.
I was scheduled to go to the hospital for my mandatory medical exam. This is necessary in order for me to get my Alien Registration Card (ARC). I went with one of my native co-workers, a male.
As soon as we got there, we had to fill out paperwork. Then, I was shuffled off to get some blood work done. Side note: doctors in America can never find my veins and it’s difficult to communicate that fact to them, let alone trying to do it in a foreign country. The tech tried my right arm, no luck. I tried to get my co-worker to tell her to take it from my hand, but he didn’t understand. Then, she tried my left arm. After an arduous attempt at wiggling the needle around in my arm, there was finally blood. Hallelujah.
Next, I moved to another area where they took my blood pressure, height, and weight. Then, I had to go into a changing room and remove my clothes from the waist up for the next series of tests. I absolutely abhor that shit. I had to lay down on a table and they stuck these weird cuffs on my ankles and wrists as well as (I think they were some sort of clamps?) on my boobs. And then they gave me little electric shocks. What the fuck could this have even been for? Save for my personal humiliation?
They also tested my hearing and eyesight.
Finally, I was brought to a room to speak to a counselor. He looked at the chart that they gave him, he looked at me, and said “Obese. You. Overweight. Diet.” I couldn’t say a word. I looked at my co-worker. He exclaimed “obesity!” Then, the counselor said again, matter-of-factly, “You. Obese.”
I was reduced to tears in the middle of a doctor’s office in a foreign country. A sadness like I have never experienced flooded every part of me as my coworker rushed me out of the room and told me to go to the bathroom.
I was in shock. I knew coming here that Koreans are particularly blunt as well as the fact that thinness is important within their culture. However, I know that as a 5’9″ Caucasian woman, I am not obese. My mind is still boggled. It was excruciating to hear those words.
Afterwards, my coworker and I walked back to school. I suppose he told the director what happened, as he asked to speak with me shortly after. In an attempt to make me feel better (I think), he told me that doctors are here to make sure we take care of ourselves and maybe I should listen to him and watch what I eat.
Didn’t help. More tears.
Then, the bell rang and I bolted to class, eyeliner a mess. Whatever. My adorable students cheered me up.
Thanks for the self-esteem boost, Korea!
This is me. Not being obese.