“Are you Russian?”
I am waiting for the light to change while walking to my job as an elementary school English teacher when a young Korean man rolls down his window and yells this seemingly innocuous question. Immediately I am furious.
I’ve been told before that sometimes men in Korea will ask white women if they are Russian, which is an informal way of asking if they are a prostitute because there are so many Eastern European women in the sex industry here. But I’m in a smallish town, I’m dressed professionally, and I’m carrying my lunch. I really don’t think my appearance screams “prostitute!” But maybe I’m wrong…I mean, even prostitutes need to eat lunch. I glare at the man, and walk away, brushing off the incident as a one-time insult by an ignorant man.
A few months later, I am waiting at a bus station while Matt is in the bathroom. As I sit there playing with my phone, a middle Eastern man approaches me and asks me “Are you Russian?”
This time I just look at him and say “No.” I try to ignore him and go back to my phone, but he asks 2 or 3 more times. I repeat “no,” saying it in both English and Korean. I think he’s finally gotten the point, because then he walks away.
However, less than a minute later he returns with a friend and they eagerly asked me again “Are you Russian?” I say no again, and they switch tactics. “Are you Ukrainian?”
Getting frustrated I finally say “No! I’m American.”
“Oh, American.” They look disappointed. And then they walk away, which further proves my theory that they were not just interested in discussing my nationality. I was currently wearing a sweatshirt and sneakers, hadn’t showered that day (which I know is unbelievably sexy), plus I always wear my wedding ring, and yet somehow I was giving off the prostitute vibe. I’m not sure whether to be flattered or offended…
Have you ever been mistaken as a lady of the night or propositioned while traveling? I got the idea to write about this because of this post by a fellow traveler, so I know I’m not the only one. Right? Right? Guys, is this thing on?