James Dean in South Korea

Nomadic Samuel is James Dean in South Korea

As I was sifting through a stack of vintage retro style v-neck t-shirts I heard someone utter, “Aaaarggghhhh, Jaaahhmmmessssuuuuh Deeeeaaaannnuuuuh.”  As a turned around I noticed a radiant Korean man in his early twenties glaring back at me with inquisitive eyes.  His pronunciation was typical of my Korean adult students with consonant sounds being exaggerated with tail-ending vowels.  I still wasn’t sure if he was talking to me as I evaded his stare.  Finally, he said it again, ” Jaaahhmmmessssuuuuh Deeeeaaaannnuuuuh.  You look likeeee himmuhh”

Nomadic Samuel is James Dean in South Korea

It was only my first week in Korea.  I was still wrestling fiercely with culture shock, jetlag and the responsibilities of being a teacher when mere weeks ago I was still a university student.  It would not be the last time I was told I looked like James Dean while in Korea.  I’ve been told this more times than I can even remember and even last week (many years later) I was compared to the Rebel Without A Cause once again.

Nomadic Samuel is James Dean in South Korea

These comparisons, at times, need to be taken with a grain of salt.   I was once with a friend in his late thirties with an evidently protruding waistline and thinning hair.  When an overzealous Korean student waddled up next to him and proclaimed that he looked like Brad Pitt in the flesh we both nearly soiled ourselves senselessly as we howled like hyenas.

Nomadic Samuel is James Dean in South Korea

Living abroad in a country that is known for being one of the most homogeneous nations on earth certainly has had its share of surprises.  As a visibly noticeable foreigner (known in Korean as Waegook) I’m often pointed out publicly by Koreans.  It’s not at all abnormal to see somebody stare and even point at me with their finger uttering “Miguk Saram” which means American person.  Apparently, it’s the de-facto response to seeing a Caucasian face sticking out like a sore thumb.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m a towering 6’1 inches tall with red hair and a complexion so pale that it even scares the bejesus out of Casper the Ghost.

Nomadic Samuel is James Dean in South Korea

I may just be any other Sam back home but in Korea I’m James Dean 😛  I’m wondering if any of you have ever been compared to looking like somebody while working, living or travelling?  Please let me know in the comments section 🙂

Nomadic Samuel is James Dean in South Korea

*I’ve shown mostly shots of me appearing moody and brooding to fit in with the theme of this post.  Apparently I’m capable of smiling upon occasion :P*

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  1. Pingback: Gypsy Man staring at me in the Thar Desert, India travel picture
  2. says: EarthDrifter

    Hilarious stuff! Reminds me of how ridiculously infatuated the northeast Asians are with Hollywood. Nine years ago in Japan, with a hat on outside in the winter, I got oooooohhhhhh: Tom Cruise. Without the hat it was all smiles and Bruce Willis. It’s comical for a bit but when I got it everyday it became a bit monotonous.

  3. When I first went to India, especially in the rural areas-we thought it was the funniest thing to have local children stop my red-headed friend and motion to him if they could touch his hair. It was very sweet and a great cultural exchange- no dialogue needed 🙂

  4. says: Callie

    I used to have short blonde hair, and once in Turkey this guy (who barely spoke English) came up to me and said “You look like Cameron Diaz….except…a little bit fatter.”

  5. says: ChinaMatt

    In China I got some strange comparisons. I was told I looked like Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin (back when I had a beard). I guess it’s a compliment in China.

  6. I got Milla Jovovich from my banker when I first moved here. But not just regular Milla, he kept bringing up her look in ‘The Fifth Element’…you know, bright orange hair, short bangs, an incredibly provocative white outfit that looked more like discreetly placed strips of cloth… Sounds just like me, right? 😛

  7. Back when I had short hair a few people thought I looked like the woman in the Matrix movies… but no one actually knows her name (who is that again?), so sometimes I would just get “The Matrix Chick”. Alright, I’ll take it!

  8. I used to get Nicole Kidman, until she turned into a straight-haired blonde. There’s nothing like red hair for standing out in non-western countries, or western countries for that matter 🙂

  9. says: Rhonda

    I once had someone say I looked like Christina Aguilera, which I absolutely do not. It was funny. You do kinda look like James Dean though.

  10. says: Kimberly

    I’m cracking up. Who took the last photo? I had an American friend in Japan who was 6’5 with a long, curly pony tail. He was constantly told he looked like Tom Cruise. You figure it out.

  11. says: Waegook Tom

    Ahhhhhh yes! I get David Beckham ALL the time. I don’t mind that. I’m also getting Hugh Jackman now for some reason. “Teacher, you look like Real Steel man!” “Wolverine!”…if I looked like Hugh Jackman, I’d be fornicating myself right now rather than typing this comment.

    I DO see the James Dean resemblance, though! Not a bad one. Unlike one I got from a student the other day.

    “Teacher, you look like School of Rock!”
    “No I DO NOT look like Jack Black!”
    “But teacher…”

    Seriously, I don’t look like Jack Black.

    1. says: Derek4Real

      Oh yes, I see the resemblance LOL. Well, look at it this way Samuel and Tom — at least the locals are confusing you both with good-looking celebrities…better than being mistaken for John C Reilly or Steve Buscemi, am I right? 😉

      As for myself, depending on the length I keep my hair, I usually get Ashton Kutcher, especially while I was in Japan. Occasionally Josh Hartnett as well, if my hair is short, but that is usually only when Stateside..