I have been banned from a cafe in my neighborhood today!

Was I being loud? Only ordering water? Did I run out on a tab? Was I rude to a waiter?

No, no, none of those things…. I’m guilty of studying Chinese. Yep, that’s not allowed there.

I have been meeting with my Chinese tutor there every Sunday for the past two months. They have banned us from having lessons in their cafe, claiming that we take up their tables when other customers, who would order more should have the table. Here’s the thing, they have never been more than half full any time we have ever been there, and today, when they banned us, there was only one other customer there! There are 12 tables in this cafe. We are not loud, and we always ordered coffee.

We had noticed before that these people were not friendly and had speculated as to why. One other time they said we were closed, which was confusing because we go there at the same time every week.

I wonder, if I was studying Korean, instead of Chinese would we have had the same response? Do they kick the Hongik U students out who study at their cafe? Hmmm….

I couldn’t be more angry right now.

There have been other times when businesses have refused to serve me, at those times I could almost justify it in my mind (which is better, to me, than just stewing over the likelihood that they were just being racist) but I can’t conjure up a good one here. When I was apartment shopping and I would walk in the door of a Realtor to be met with a loud “No!” before we had even exchanged greeting, I could tell myself– maybe he thinks it would be too hard to communicate. When a taxi with it’s light on refuses to pick me up, I can think, maybe he had a really drunk foreigner in his cab before and is afraid I’ll act the same way. But here— no excuse– blatant discrimination towards me and my Chinese friend. The worst part is, I can’t do much about it. If I say the name of the cafe and complain,here or on another forum, I can be sued for defamation (it has happened to foreigners before). I do not know enough Korean to express my anger in a constructive way to them or to any organization that might be available to make a real complaint. So, basically they will suffer no repercussions and are free to humiliate the next sorry bunch of foreigners who try to have a cup of coffee at their place. Despicable.