My Korean Husband

Intercultural Life

Category: Culture (page 1 of 23)

Traditional and modern Korean culture.

That Play-Doh Smell

The smell of childhood

Hugh and I had very different childhoods and some things we only realise now that we have Yul. Since Korea has changed a lot, Yul has a lot more access to things that I had in my stereotypical Western childhood, like Play-Doh. Whereas what Hugh had to play with in the ’80s in Korea was very different to what I had in Australia. These days things like Play-Doh are easy to get in Korea.

Growing up, we also made Play-Doh at home ourselves, but my brain instantly recognizes the smell of the store-brought Play-Doh brand. I had fun sniffing Yul’s Play-Doh while Hugh had no interest…

Yul also has Play-Doh toys and accessories I would have loved to have as a child but they were either not available then or would have been too expensive. Yul really enjoys playing with Play-Doh but doesn’t realise how lucky he is! He is also young so his playing mostly involved just layering pieces of Play-Doh on top of each other.

He has yet to discover the slime craze thankfully and hopefully I can hold that off for a while!

We were on a Korean Morning TV show

Filming for Korean Morning TV show

We were on a morning TV show here called Morning Wide. In this video we show you the segment and talk about the experience of filming, when we’d only been back in Korea for a few days. Filming can be pretty difficult and we had to travel as well. But one of the reasons why we wanted to do it was because the audience of this show tends to be older people and we want to show the positives of being multicultural. If we can change someone’s mind who previously had a negative opinion, than it’s worth it.

It also happened to be Seollal, Lunar New Year, so the show tied in with their New Year programming. Hugh’s parents got Yul this very cute hanbok. I’m so grateful they did because in the rush of travelling from Australia to Korea I had not thought about getting him one for Seollal. It was great to see him in this style of one.

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Revisiting my toys from the 80’s

My son plays with my old toys from the 1980’s

In this video Hugh and I look at some of the toys I played with from the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The Duplo Lego and Fisher Price cash register was shared with my siblings, the Tuppertoys school bus probably belonged more to my brothers, but the soft toys and My Child doll were my own.

Yul already played with most of the toys already, but it was the first time seeing my doll and soft toys. Watch the video to see him playing with the toys. It will be interesting to see him interact with the same toys next time we go back to Australia.

Yul’s First Lunar New Year

Yul’s first time in the countryside for Lunar New Year!

We headed back to the countryside for Lunar New Year recently. It was the time Yul had been down south to the area where Hugh’s parents live, and where we had previously lived for 2 years. Usually we would catch the bus but decided to take the fast KTX train instead as it’s more comfortable for traveling with a baby.

I also hadn’t been back in the countryside for a while as I hadn’t been able to travel when pregnant. It was great to get out of Seoul and breathe the countryside air again. It was also a lot warmer than in Seoul. Hugh’s parents had seen Yul once before but this time they got to spend a whole week with him. They were over the moon and so incredibly proud to be grandparents. Hugh’s sister and her husband live in the area as well so we got to spend some time with them too.

As you can see in the video, Yul was given lots of money! It is a tradition for children to do a big bow for relatives and are then given some money. We will probably use it to buy some things for him. We also did the Jesa ceremony in the morning which is a way to pay respects to deceased family members. And of course we ate lots of food. In future we will have a car and be able to drive down south more regularly hopefully.

We were sent some suitcases from SHAPL, which could not have come at a better time! I was dreading pulling out our old battered suitcases and had been meaning to buy some more anyway. These new ones were so smooth and nice to use and made traveling so much easier. You can check out more designs on the SHAPL website and also get these suitcases through the Kickstarter.

 

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Massage Technique

Hugh can give good massages but can also be a total cheapskate and want to use every last bit of lotion, even though we had a new bottle of it. I don’t really appreciate him banging the bottle against my back! But of course before I could get really angry his insistence that it was an ancient Asian massage technique made me laugh.

I do like and appreciate Chinese massages and this was not one of them! I shouldn’t complain too much though because Hugh has had to give me a lot more massages since I became pregnant and I know it can get annoying. But just get the new bottle of lotion out!

Are you good at giving massages? What tips do you have? It’s quite intense work and I honestly don’t know how professionals get through full days of massaging people constantly. My hands and arms get tired after about 5 minutes of giving a massage.

Have you also made up bullsh!t and insisted something was cultural, but really you were just being an idiot? I feel like Australians do this a lot, (drop bears anyone?). But Hugh has a much bigger pool to draw from when bullsh!ting since so many things fall under the category of “Asian”.

It’s been hard for me to get a new comic up on the blog lately because I’ve been working on the last few things for the My Korean Husband comic book (in Korean) that will be published soon. This book is for the Korean market and will be available in Korean book stores (and online).

Combining pregnancy with a lot of sitting at desk and drawing work hasn’t been that great for my back, so I’ve been relying on massages even more these days. Once the book is released I look forward to many more comics on here and more videos. (Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel).

KOREAN CULTURE: What to do on a Sunday afternoon. Korean Picnics!

Korean Culture: Picnics

Every culture has their own style for picnics. It varies around Korea too. In Seoul, everyone heads to the Han river as there are many parks along it. There are some quirks to Korean picnics. The majority of people take a tent when going on a picnic. Whenever I livestream from picnic areas, there are always many comments and questions about the tents, as many people around the world think it’s quite unusual. People aren’t camping, they just have the tents up for the picnic. They are usually lightweight, easy to put up, tents. Not hardcore camping tents. People are usually staying at the river for the whole day as well.

When I’ve been on picnics in the Korean countryside, up in the mountains, people have cooked their own meat and other food. But for these style of picnics along the Han river no one is grilling meat and it may not be allowed. Instead people bring Korean picnic favourites like gimbap, and will often order pizza or fried chicken which is delivered right to the park. There is always a convenience store at parks as well so it’s easy to go buy more beer or food.

The weather is really good at the moment and it’s not too hot yet. I’m glad we could take advantage of these weekends. Last weekend we had a picnic as well. The parks can get really crowded but Koreans are used to living with many other people around. I haven’t really seen any major disputes over space before, even when so many people are consuming a lot of alcohol. I don’t think Australians manage as well at cramming into spaces (haha).

I like the Mangwon park near the river as it’s a quieter area and there are more trees and gardens. Also that bridge is my favourite bridge across the Han river. There is also a swimming pool nearby but I’m waiting for it to open for the summer. The pool is only open for 2 months over summer as Koreans are not as into swimming as Australians are.

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Don’t do that with Chopsticks

Don’t do this with chopsticks! Chopsticks in Korea.

One of the first things you may learn when travelling to Korea, Japan or China is that it’s inappropriate and offensive to stick chopsticks into your rice like that. Although it varies from country to country, it is always something symbolic in regards to rituals for the dead.

In Korea you see it in the Jesa ceremonies. There are different types of Jesa ceremonies for deceased family members and they can vary from region to region. The only time I’ve ever seen someone do this gesture respectfully is for Jesa ceremonies at Hugh’s parents’ house when his father leads a ceremony.

An action you will probably only ever see at a jesa sees the leader insert of a pair of chopsticks into the center of a bowl of rice. It is considered taboo to stick one’s chopsticks vertically into food in Korea unless at a jesa, as this gesture is reserved for food offered to the spirits of the dead.

From: Life after death – The beguiling world of the Korean jesa ceremony.

Unfortunately Hugh is sometimes not the most respectful person! He doesn’t do it on purpose but has the bad habit of being lazy with utensils (I’ve seen him eat meat with just tongs before!) and sometimes he just doesn’t think about it. Sometimes the person who is newer to a culture and has more recently learned these manners is the one paying more attention.

I’ve realised when editing videos later he has done it on camera as well much to the horror of some. Telling him that is grandfather is upset and watching him made he laugh but also to think about why there are traditions in Korea.

One a side note:

When Catholic missionaries first came to Korea they realised the importance of these ceremonies and didn’t make converts change which is why Catholicism grew more rapidly in Korea at first. Catholicism has many ceremonies and rituals and Korean culture was able to merge with these new beliefs. Unfortunately Protestants came in with cultural insensitivity and forced many to give up these important traditions. These days some Christians have adapted traditional ceremonies to meet half way between protestant beliefs and traditions but many still shun the days when these ceremonies are done, often leaving the country altogether.  Catholicism in Korea is known to be more accepting of different faiths and work with other religions and religious leaders, while Korean protestants are some of the most aggressive Christians in the world and have been known to even vandalise Buddhist temples. Even the recent holiday of Buddha’s birthday there were protestant Christians picketing temples. It’s sad the damage that western beliefs can do.

Coming from a country that doesn’t have many traditions or ceremonies I appreciate seeing the traditions in Korea and being part of them. I hope the younger generation can realise the important and continue them on. Hugh will have to take over the Jesa ceremonies from his father eventually and will need to learn how to do them.

Then he will be allowed to stick the chopsticks in the rice!

More on how to hold a Jesa ceremony here.

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