Why I don’t look at people I pass on the streets in Seoul

Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world. Lots of people, millions of them, all the time, almost everywhere.

Historically, though, Korea is still one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world. Tens of thousands of foreigners work and live here now, but the percentages are still small.

That’s why I don’t look at the people passing. I don’t look because, probably 50% of the time, they’re looking at me. When we make eye contact, they immediately look away, embarrassed.

I feel bad too. I don’t want to punish people for staring at me, a foreigner from America. I’d rather they stay curious.

Instead of looking at them, I smile and look forward. No one feels bad staring at a foreigner who’s smiling, and looking forward.

It’s one of the largest cities in the world, but I can still make an impression on the one or two or 20 or 200 people who pass this American on the streets in Seoul.