From the courses I've been taking, the way to say "I am British" is "저는 영국사람 이에요" which means "As for me, England person I am". But how do you distinguish between that and "I am from England but I am a Chinese person (i.e. my ethnicity is Chinese)"?

Googling for answers yielded a lot of articles about Korean ethnic nationalism, race, and identity.

  • Context: I went to get 파전 from a street vendor yesterday, and one of the patrons started speaking to me in Korean. I said "한국어 못 해요" so she asked me where I am from (I think she said "어느나라사람이에요?") so I said "영국". But I guess because I am not white she keeps on asking...until I gave in and said I am from Hong Kong. How could I explain to her "I look Chinese but I am from England" (in a nice, polite way)?
    – d4nyll
    Sep 29, 2020 at 5:34
  • Something like this sounds good enough: papago.naver.com/…. Replace the ending with 영국에서 왔습니다 or 영국사람 입니다 may be
    – user17915
    Sep 29, 2020 at 10:12
  • 1
    Nitpick: even though 영국 is etymologically from England, it doesn't mean England - it means the United Kingdom. (E.g., the British Embassy calls itself 주한 영국 대사관.) "England" (a part of the UK) in Korean is simply 잉글랜드. If you ask Koreans about meaning of 영국, some may incorrectly answer "England", not because it's technically correct, but because they literally don't know how to say 영국 in English. ("The United Kingdom" is a bit hard to remember, compared to "Japan" or "France".)
    – jick
    Sep 29, 2020 at 16:28

1 Answer 1


Various options exist:

  • [ethnic origin]계 [nationality]인 e.g. 중국계 영국인. An official-sounding term, relatively neutral.

  • explanations involving parents / ancestry and birth. E.g. 부모님이 중국 사람인데, 저는 영국에서 태어났어요.

  • explanations using 오다 for the country of residence (which is assumed to be nationality) and having ethnicity as "default". E.g. 중국 사람인데, 영국에서 왔어요.

  • explanations involving appearance, having nationality as "default". This is actually a much more common strategy than one might expect from growing in Western cultures (at least, in British cultures). E.g. 중국인 보이지만, 연국 사람이에요. I've even heard [ethnicity]의 얼굴...

  • explanations involving 교포, possibly involving nationality and birth too; 국적 가지고 있는 중국 교포. Note that 교포 "defaults" to overseas Koreans, e.g. 미국 교포.

Use of 중화교포 is also quite well-understood by many Koreans of a certain age, but that has separate meanings that can get confused (either a person of Korean ethnicity with Chinese nationality, including both Mainland Chinese PRC and Taiwanese RoC nationalities; or a person of 'Chinese' ethnicity with a nationality from anywhere else).

Applicable to overseas Chinese people:

  • 화교 (華僑). This is a very literary hanja-derived term, and its understanding by Korean speakers varies quite a lot with age and background.

Like a lot of expressions on the border of personal identity and geopolitics, it can get complicated pretty quickly. But if you go down the explanation route, see it as a good opportunity to practise, especially with the 아주머님들!

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