My Brilliant Korea

Men behaving badly

Blogging | October 12, 2010

Allow me to paint you a word picture.

Two attractive women walk into a bustling Melbourne bar on a cold Saturday night and order two glasses of mulled wine.

They find somewhere to sit.

A cheeky Irish stranger approaches them.

“Ladies, do you know why Irishmen wear two condoms?” he says.

The women glance at each other, smirk, and shake their heads.

“To be sure, to be sure!”

The women laugh, but they don’t want the Irishman to join them.

They are content on their own.

Still, he persists.

“I’m Des, and this here is Phil,” the Irishman says.

“Phil is ready to go home, but I think he should stay out and talk to you two lovely ladies. What do you think?”

“I think you should never give in to peer pressure,” one of the women says.

Phil appreciates the escape route and makes his exit.

But the Irishman is clearly taken with the quick-witted woman, and, after a little more persistence, he wins an invitation to join the table.

More glasses of mulled wine are shared, more jokes are made, and at the end of the evening phone numbers (and a little kiss) are exchanged.

“I’ll call you,” the Irishman says.

He does.

He calls that night and twice the next day.

He emails. He calls. He texts- again and again.

Despite her better judgment, the quick-witted woman tries swooning on for size.

She’s a little bit smitten with “Irish”.

The pair arranges a romantic dinner for the following Saturday night where more laughter and mulled wine ensues.

The next day they have breakfast at a nearby café, then walk hand in hand around St Kilda.

A lovely, uncomplicated, budding romance story, yes?


Except for one minor detail.

He doesn’t call the next day.

Or the day after that.

In fact, Irish (or Bad News Barry*, as I prefer to call him) doesn’t call the day after that, the day after that or the day after that.

The quick-witted woman mulls over the situation and then she calls me (afterall, that’s what best friends are for).

“So, I texted Irish and he didn’t text me back,” Gemma says, deflated.

She is clearly confused**- but I’m not.

“I didn’t like him from the start,” I tell Gemma.

“Really? Why?” she says, surprised.

“He’s a Bad News Barry,” I say.

“His phone calls, emails, texts… it was all too urgent. He was like a child with a new toy. And then when he got you, the game was over. Hence, no return text. Unless, of course, he lost his right thumb in a freak texting accident and is currently waiting for a replacement".

My ability to provide such a black and white relationship analysis is new.

This time last year, I probably would have joined Gemma’s confusion- magnifying each detail of her situation and trying to come to an unshakable conclusion about exactly what went wrong (and how she could put it right).

But that was before I spent a year in Seoul- a city full of men behaving badly.

Thesedays, I am something of an expert at reading the signs that separate Bad News Barrys from non-Bad News Barrys.

Irish was a Bad News Barry- no question about it.

And sadly, all too many Western men residing in this metropolis fall into the same category.

Western men who might have been sweet, kind and unassuming in their home countries, morph into ego-maniacs the moment their passport is stamped at Korean immigration.

Western men who could not get a date in a scone back home, are suddenly spoiled for choice with beautiful Korean women.

Balding Western men with skin problems and crooked teeth are suddenly “so handsome, like movie star”.

Even rangas (red-heads) can do well with the ladies in Korea.

This phenomenon is known as ‘white fever’ and it can lead to some rather unpleasant side effects- specifically over-inflated egos.

Even worldly Korean women, who have previously lived in Western countries, are not immune to the fever.

My friend Jeong, who spent a year in Australia, recently took part in a three-week intensive English class.

The class had three male teachers- an Englishman, an American and a New Zealander.

Midway through the course, Jeong sent me a text about her “handsome teachers”.

“They are like movie stars,” Jeong said.

“Photos please,” I texted back.

Sure enough, the pictures told a different story.

The Englishman was overweight, the American seemed to have an unspecified skin disease and the New Zealander was a ranga.

“Jeong, these men are all quite unfortunate looking,” I said.

But Jeong disagreed.

“But Bly-seh, they all speak English so well… the American man is so intelligent and interesting,” she said.

“What does he talk about?” I asked.

“Himself, mostly,” Jeong replied.

An American with bad skin who mostly talks about himself?

He didn’t sound even remotely impressive to me, but in Korea he is considered quite the catch.

White fever is not exclusive to Korea, but is, in fact, an Asia-wide phenomenon.

In Japan, they even have a name for the bland Western blokes who suddenly seem shiny and new in Asia.

Charisma men.

The term became common lingo among ex-pats after a comic featuring a Western man, who miraculously transforms from a “geek” to a stud upon arrival in Japan, appeared in The Alien magazine in 1998.

Life as a Charisma Man in Asia certainly has its payoffs (a constant stream of attention, a never ending supply of attractive women), but it can also come at a price.

At least three of my male friends have been visited in the middle of the night by scorned Korean women in the last few months.

Determined not to be kicked to the curb without a fight (or at least a text), the women have screamed and rattled the doorknob, demanding to be let inside the men's apartments.

The scream and rattle approach is not something I would recommend to others or practice myself, but I can see some merit in Charisma Men (or Bad News Barrys) being faced with this kind of raw emotion.

They need to know that these new toys they play with and later discard, sometimes without even a phone call or a message, are actually real women with real feelings.

If these men want to play the game they need to learn the rules, and that means a courtesy text when things are over.

Unless, the man in question has lost his right thumb in a freak texting accident.

In that instance, silence is, of course, forgivable.

*’Bad News Barry’ is a spin-off from the original expression ‘Harry High Pants’, coined some years ago by my friend Bay Oliver. I hope to emulate the success of ‘Harry High Pants’ with ‘Bad News Barry’. ‘Harry High Pants’ can be used to describe anyone who wears their pants too high. Bad News Barry can be used to describe any man behaving badly.

**Gemma is no longer confused. She eventually received a text message from Irish, two weeks after their date, inviting her around to his house for a bottle of Moet. His right thumb was still intact and he offered no explanation for his silence. Gemma was slow to respond. Irish, sensing that he may have lost his grip on his new toy, began frantically calling and texting, trying to win back Gemma's affections. Gemma eventually replied: “Hi Des. I don’t want to see you again, but I wish you all the best. Gemma”. She is an inspiration to womankind and a warning to men behaving badly, everywhere.


1. Nikki on October 12, 2010

Blythe, you bring much laughter to my Tuesday night x

2. Becky on October 14, 2010

Nice one, Blythe. Bad News Barry...I've encountered a few of those in my time!

3. bay on October 26, 2010

Hahahaaaaaaaaaaaa... Blythe, that was hilarious! I really like Bad News Barry. And, in fact assumed it was already common lingo among jilted women the world over it was so catchy. Just rolls off the tongue doesn't it? LOVE xoxo

PS Stay AWAY from any Bad News Barrys - that's an order.

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About Blythe Seinor

When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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