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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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: 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 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.
Exploring Korean markets and delicious street food!
We have shown Mangwon markets before in videos but we haven’t really been able to do it justice. This time we had Yoojin filming and Joel also got some good shots for us. I always find Korean open markets to be really fascinating and it’s a great way to see local culture. The street food places at the markets usually have somewhere to sit down inside which is more comfortable than standing and eating at the cart street food like in other places. I really like the tteokbokki there!
Local markets are a great place to do grocery shopping as the prices are a lot cheaper than the bigger stores. We generally buy our fruit and vegetables at the markets and only buy foreign items like cheese and butter at HomePlus or Emart. If you go to the markets in the evening the prices often drop even more.
Another reason to go to the markets is of course the food. There is great street food at the markets but also other small restaurants with great food and cheap prices. Since they are operating out of a small area and people can just take and eat as they walk, they can keep the prices down. Korean people eat out A LOT and these types of places allow people to do it regularly and cheaply.
If you are visiting Korea make sure you check out some markets as there are many around. Korean tourism often tries to push people to Gangnam or other modernized areas of Seoul but if you want a more authentic experience go to where the local people are shopping and socializing.
Mangwon markets also merges into the World Cup markets so it’s technically two markets in one. The Mangwon area is also an up and coming area with many small, quirky business and great food moving in. Once you are finished at the markets you can check out some of the great cafes in the area. Also the Han river is not too far away which is another important aspect of people’s lives in Seoul.
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Is Hugh really respecting my culture or just enjoying getting revenge? We talk about the pinch and a punch comic in this video. In this comic I do the Australian culture thing of “a pinch and a punch for the first of the month” but Hugh knew the second part of it and made sure he did it to me. Now I need to be careful if I want to pinch and punch on first days of the month.
As we talk about in the video, Koreans seem to LOVE punishment! Their games tend to always have punishments and even when playing more western games in Australia with Koreans, they had to add and change the games to make sure people had punishments. For example, when we played ‘Marco Polo’ in the pool they added the punishment of brutally dunking and splashing the person who was in if they didn’t catch anyone. I remember protesting a lot saying that not every game needs punishment!
If you’ve played games with Koreans you have probably experienced or at least seen the intense flicking to the forehead or hands that happens as punishment. Watch out! Especially watch out for people like Hugh who have no mercy.
Do you have something like “a pinch and a punch” in your country? I have a feeling this comes from British culture? Also what types of punishments do people like to give when playing games in your country? Or maybe you don’t need punishments? Perhaps there are punishments that don’t actually involve physically hurting someone!
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I really did think this for a while because I’ve never been to one! I’ve never worked in a Korean company. Luckily it isn’t compulsorily to eat hwe at hweshiks because it seems to be a food that divides people. I’m not really a fan of Korean raw fish. A lot of Korean seafood can be quite chewy and some people do love it being chewy. We don’t though! I’m also glad that we work from home and don’t need to go to hweshiks because a lot of people seem frustrated when they have to attend and they go for such a long time. In Korea it’s very hard to bail and leave early. It’s actually one of the big problems facing Korean families and I’m sure the Korean government could raise the declining birth rate (which they are so desperate to do) if they just had a better work life environment for working parents. It’s hard to have children when work expects so much of your time outside of work hours, especially when it requires heavy drinking.