One of the cultural differences we deal with seems pretty superficial but it does come up a lot. We had very different childhoods and we didn’t watch the same TV show or see the same movies, we didn’t have the same fads or sing the same songs. What this means is that my husband, the love of my life, my best friend, doesn’t always get references I make. Things that an Australian my age (or probably anyone my age from a Western country) would understand instantly, is something that he has very little idea about or interest in.
Now, Lord of the Rings isn’t something that everyone will get, but most Western people would know what Sesame Street is right? Blank face from him when I mention Sesame Street. My husband is discovering things now and is a fan of many things, like Doctor Who for example but we don’t have that shared history. He has no memories of ever seeing an original Doctor Who black and white episode on TV as a child. It is so strange to him when I flick over the channel to ABC Kids and sing along to the Bananas in Pyjamas.
I think it’s different now because of the internet and the way the world is changing. A lot of Koreans have favourite American or British TV shows and there are plenty of Western people watching Korean TV shows and dramas. My husband and I however, were born in the early 1980′s so there wasn’t much overlap in our cultures.
It makes me a little bit sad sometimes, not having that shared history. Knowing that my siblings or friends or even strangers may understand an offhand comment, but he won’t. But it’s okay, it’s such a minor thing in the whole scheme of things.
Do you remember a previous comic about him not understanding why I liked Happy Days? I always liked Happy Days and it is on TV here late at night but he usually pays no attention. He actually properly watched a scene the other day where The Fonz did something cool. He was surprised at how funny it was and said, “Wow! He is really cool!” That made me happy.
In conclusion: “Frodoooooooooooooo!!!!”
(He is singing a Korean song from his childhood now that I don’t know).
Mr Gwon isn’t a really moody guy BUT he does have some strange moods sometimes. Sometimes I think he likes to pretend he is the lead male in a Korean drama. You know how they are usually jerks at first?
It’s really not romantic, trust me, it’s just annoying. I should be nice to him because he gave me one chewy mint?! I didn’t draw it in the comic because it would have been too long but he actually made me eat the half first before he gave me a full one. I know he is laughing on the inside but he does it with a really straight face.
He remembers which day is Anzac Day for two reasons, it is 2 days after the date that he first arrived in Australia years ago, so he remembers seeing the parade, and he loves Anzac biscuits (cookies). For me time is just going too fast! How is it Anzac day again already??
Anzac Day is a public holiday and a national day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand. Originally it was to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (which is where ‘ANZAC’ comes from) who fought at Gallipoli in World War I. Now Anzac day is also for commemorating all that served in military operations.
It is tradition to eat Anzac biscuits on Anzac day which supposedly are similar to what wives sent their husbands when the husbands were away at war. There are a lot more in the supermarket right now because of Anzac Day. We actually won’t be in Australia for Anzac day this year, but usually I would make some at home.
When we actually have a decent oven I think I’ll have to make a batch. Home made ones are so much better than supermarket ones.
It didn’t feel like Easter this year. Usually we are both with my family and have a really nice weekend. On the Friday we usually have a nice seafood meal, my sister makes a great seafood paella, and on Sunday we have a roast dinner and lots of chocolate. I like hiding our Easter chocolate, it was fun when we were little kids and now as adults it just pisses us off when someone hides all the chocolate- which makes it funny.
Unfortunately we didn’t have our usual Easter as my parents only just came back from their trip to Japan and my husband was working. Since we still share an apartment we don’t really have the freedom to have a nice Easter dinner and besides from eating a lot of hot cross buns, we didn’t do much else. So it was nice when a friend gave us some chocolate eggs.
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Have you had hot cross buns before? Around Easter they are everywhere here. They are for Easter so obviously those that live somewhere that doesn’t celebrate Easter is unlikely to eat them…. but I think the also USA isn’t as big on them as much the UK and Australia is. According to Wikipedia Australia is one of the only countries to make chocolate hot cross buns ones as well as the normal ones.
My husband loves the chocolate ones. He saw them in the supermarket a month ago but I didn’t let him buy them because it was too early. He bought them yesterday and was pretty excited. The chocolate ones are nice but I think I prefer the original ones. I’ve also seen on some commercials there are sticky date ones available now, but I haven’t tried those ones yet.
We aren’t having an Easter dinner with my family this year unfortunately. Normally we all come together for the Easter weekend but my parents get back from Japan Saturday night and my husband is working over the weekend. We’ll have to do something just by ourselves on Sunday night I think… and give each other lots of chocolate eggs. Yay! Chocolate!
He is feeling a bit better about GD now because dream GD was nice to him!
If you are a new reader to my blog, or don’t know anything about Kpop: G-Dragon (or GD) is a very famous, very talented Kpop star and I’m a huge fan.
GD has the same family name as us, which is why my husband tries to say that he is the from the same family. Yes technically we can check to see how we are related but we are probably only very distantly related. In Korea there aren’t many family names so it is very common to know many other people with the same family name as you.
Korean Genealogy is very interesting and it’s amazing to me that my husband’s family have the family register dating back to the 15th century but in my family, my grandfather who likes to research family history, struggles to find records and dates from just 200 years ago.
I don’t wear high heels that often but I’m starting to wear them a little bit more now. When I’m wearing flats he is slightly taller than me. It doesn’t really bother either of us if I am a bit taller than him, especially since he has found a way to solve that problem!
I did suggest that he could wear lifts in his shoes like a lot of Korean guys do, but he couldn’t be bothered.
This is a reoccurring argument for us. When he takes a self portrait he always does the exact same pose and opens his eyes are far as possible. When I point out that he is doing it, he gets all annoyed and indignant. He thinks that I’m saying that his eyes are really small, but really I’m just saying he is trying to change them for the photo. The problem is that Koreans often insult each other by saying things like “You have small eyes!” There is this idea that big eyes are better somehow and so many people have a complex about the size of their eyes or their eyelids (hence the popularity of eye surgeries in Korea, but won’t talk about that right now).
HOWEVER, I love my husband’s eyes. They are beautiful. I think they are a lovely shape, and actually quite wide, and he has the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen on a Korean guy. I just wish he would realise that his eyes are beautiful and that he doesn’t need to try and change them like that for photos.
I’ve been back at my parent’s house these past few days so this post isn’t really about my husband. My parents have a young Korean couple boarding with them at the moment who I’ve been gradually getting to know better. (Even at home I can’t escape Koreans haha).
We got them to help us decorate the Christmas tree, which was exciting for them.
Christmas in Korea doesn’t seem to have the same meaning as it does in places like Australia. My husband told me a lot of people do nothing special and it’s common to just go out and do things with friends. He likes the Western style of Christmas because of the focus on family and traditions (and food!). It’s not really a surprise though, as Christmas has been a big holiday in Western countries a lot longer than in Korea. It’s been fun to introduce the Korean couple staying with my parents to Christmas traditions.
Does your family have any particular Christmas traditions?
So I bought 2 new books.The Korean Mind by Boyé Lafayette De Mente and Korean Thought and Culture by Chai-Shin Yu. I have a bunch of other books on Korean culture and Korean Thought but I like learning more and seeing how books on it differ. I’ve found reading these types of books helps me immensely as they just make things so much clearer. Learning about Korean culture from the average Korean only gets you so far, as they are not usually able to articulate certain aspects of Korean culture or even realise how something differs to another culture. It is actually quite hard to explain your own culture and it usually takes an either an outsider or someone who has studied extensively to adequately explain well to others. Which is why I really appreciate these types of books. They explain things that my husband can never explain to me. Sometimes things are explained that I was wondering about, but other times it’s something I hadn’t even consciously realised but once it’s explained it gives a much bigger picture of Korean culture. Which of course, benefits our relationship as my husband’s ‘Koreaness’ is a vital part of who he is and it’s not something that can just be separated from him.
Unfortunately there just aren’t enough books on modern Korean culture. South Korea has changed rapidly in the past few decades and I don’t think literature has really caught up properly yet. Even in the past 5 years Korea has changed a lot. I feel like I’m still waiting for a really good comprehensive book on the subject. That’s not to say there are no good books – there are – but I think they could be better. For example, The Korean Mind by Boyé Lafayette De Mente, this author is widely regarded as an expert on Asian culture and has published so many books. But when you open the book there are very obvious spelling mistakes in the Hangul. The idea of the book is to look at many different words in Korean and show how they relate to Korean thinking and culture. But with such big mistakes quite obvious as soon as you open the book, it makes you wonder what else is wrong in it. That is disappointing.
The big question is: Why is did he throw the books on the floor? Because he wanted to have a nap and was lazy and tossed everything off the bed. I think that’s just him and not anything to do with Korean culture.
You know that scene in the drama Iris where TOP snaps the girl’s neck? Okay actually I never properly watched Iris. I just watched the parts that TOP was in….
Speaking of Korean dramas, if you’ve watched enough of them you might have noticed that Korean guys sometimes interact differently with girls than what you may be used to in your own country. Or maybe it’s similar, I don’t know. Not all guys act like that, but yes, sometimes things are like in a Korean drama. For me though, the things like the arm grabs (which I’ve mentioned before) and the sudden and dramatic grabbing and hugging can take some getting used to. I still flinch when I’m grabbed or hugged tightly because it still takes me a second to remember that it’s a passionate sign of affection and not something bad.
(This post is more serious than usual and about a sensitive topic).
Okay this needs some explanation. My husband is from a very rural area and his parents still live there. This woman who also lives there asked my mother-in-law this question because she assumed that because my husband married a foreign woman that he must have paid for me (and sends money to my family every month).
As you can see my mother-in-law was like…. what? She had to explain that her son had met an Australian woman and fell in love and got married and that Australia was not somewhere you buy wives from.
There are two reasons why this woman thought this: the first is that she is pretty ignorant about other countries (not unusual in very rural areas anywhere) and the second reason is because this actually happens in Korea – men paying for foreign wives – so it’s not that unusual. Also this woman had actually organised a wife for her own son!
So why does this happen? There are many factors why and it’s not exactly black and white. Each situation is different. But basically there are some men in Korea who can’t find anyone to marry and there are women in poorer Asian countries looking for a better life. So there are agencies that organise these marriages. In theory this arrangement should benefit both families.
I can understand the reasoning behind it for women from poor areas in other countries. If they stay where they are, they know they will be disadvantaged and poor for the rest of the their life, but if they marry a man from Korea (or Taiwan is the other place they go) they get a chance at a new life, as well as money sent to their family. However, there are obviously many risks.
What sort of Korean men need to pay for a wife? This can really vary, for example the woman in my husband’s home town, her son was only 29 and perhaps he is just socially awkward. We don’t know much except that he’d never had a girlfriend and his parents thought it important for him to marry. There is more pressure in Korea to marry by a certain age and they obviously thought the best solution was to get a foreign bride for him.
However, not every guy is going to just be some nice but socially awkward guy. There are other reasons for why a man may be unable to find a wife in Korea. His character could be questionable, he could be abusive, he wants a wife to do everything for him… these are the type of men that cause problems for the foreign women that come to Korea and there are a lot of sad stories. There are more incidents of violence and abuse in these type of marriages not only in Korea, but for example in cases where men in the U.S.A get a foreign bride from poorer European countries. This is because of the type of man who is going to these agencies for a wife. There is obviously a higher percentage of abusive men, which is why this can be so risky for women.
Some men may just be old, others may just be living in a rural area where younger women don’t want to live anymore. It really varies. Some women find a better life (one such woman has even become a politician I’ve heard), others may find something only slightly better than in their own country, others face discrimination and abuse. Some women will leave the man as soon as they get their Korean citizenship and go to Seoul, never to be seen again. This happened to a cousin of my husband’s actually. Every situation is different.
I know some governments of the countries where these wives come from have warned against these type of marriages because of the risks involved, also the social implications, for example the men left in the poorer areas of these countries with no one to marry. I did watch a documentary about it recently where they are trying to work with the agencies to at least teach the women about Korean life and teaching the language before they go to Korea, to try and make it easier for these women.
I guess among all the sad stories there are also the happier stories. For example the man in my husband’s hometown, he and his foreign wife seem to have a happy life and have recently had a baby. So for her at least, the risks she took were worth it.