We were at a Japanese restaurant the other day so the chopsticks were bigger and rounder than Korean metal ones. I felt very clumsy using them. Korean ones can be a pain to get used to, because they are flat and small, but once you can use them well it feels more precise and it’s hard to switch back.
Traditional and modern Korean culture.
We answer your questions about Korean dramas. There is always lots more to say on all these topics, but never enough time. If you’d like us to elaborate more on a certain answer just leave a comment and we’ll try to reply.
Some extra thoughts:
I really do feel that schools can vary a lot based on where the school is and the type of school. Hugh definitely had a more wild time at school than I did, even though I went to school in Australia. His school was considered more of a technical high school where students weren’t going to go to top universities anyway. He literally drank alcohol on school grounds. In this area we can see that teenagers are probably way more promiscuous too. We’ve been in restaurants where teenagers next to us were talking about sexual things in a very crass way. Compare that to many other schools where people are very shy around the opposite sex. Especially if someone goes to an all boys school, or all girls school. When we did this video with Jongdae he talked about just never even having the opportunity to meet girls. Hugh says lack of students and money means that the highschool in this area was co-ed and there was less pressure on students to study hard, so teenagers end up being…. teenagers. There is some truth in teenagers in dramas being ridiculously awkward, but when people in their 20’s are like that, it’s super unrealistic.
Also, of course not every guy is going to be doing an “event” for his girlfriend, but it’s completely normal if a guy does. Korea also has that push and pull idea with dating which means that guys are expected to be very persistent if they really like the girl.
Were any of these answers in the video surprising to you?
Korean society really caters to people staying out all night. There are many restaurants that are open all night and things to do well into the early hours of the morning, like noraebang (karaoke). Because we live in the countryside we either have to make sure we get the last bus at 11pm from Jinju or stay out all night. There is the option of getting a taxi, but it’s about $20 and that just seems like too much in Korea (though the same trip in Australia would be about $60!).
Hugh is not as young as he once was though, and all nighters can catch up on him, though he does a lot better than I do. I’m amazed when he comes home at 8am and then has to help his parents on the farm right away.
Lots of people have huge nights and go straight to work in the morning in Korea as well, though of course there may be consequences… like Hugh’s friend who is a hairdresser and was still drunk in the morning when she went to work and managed to cut her own fingers. Don’t think I’ll get her to cut my hair.
Due to my health problems and constant battling with fatigue, it is a part of Korea that I find difficult to keep up with. When you go out with friends for dinner, it’s not like in Australia where you have dinner and drinks and then can be home by 10pm! Instead, in Korea, you don’t just go to one restaurant, it’s normal to go to 3 or 4 and to stay out really late. I sometimes have to avoid social situations simply because I know I will be wrecked for days if I spend that much time out.
We wanted to correct any misconceptions that all guys in Korea are walking around wearing Kpop makeup all the time. As we said in the video, a lot of the time people may not even be aware if a guy is wearing some makeup. The times it’s obvious is when it’s badly applied, or it’s the wrong shade. That happens with girls as well, you’ll see girls with these super pale faces that don’t match their neck.
We are both of the opinion that it’s a good thing for guys to be able to wear makeup if they want to. I’m glad to see society changing here and making it more acceptable and that it’s a fast growing market.
While Hugh wears BB cream for filming, he never wears eye makeup but has been accused of wearing eyeliner or mascara several times! He just has long dark eyelashes that makes it look like that sometimes.
We also wanted to show some opinions that are not Seoul centered. I think often when people are talking about “Korean guys” it can be mostly be talking about young guys in Seoul, because they are in Seoul and that’s what they see. Since we live in the countryside we want to show more of Korea and that Seoul does not equal all of Korea, as well as talking about different generations.
Reverse culture shock is such an interesting thing. People who have never had the experience of living in another country and then going back to their own country probably can’t understand the full extent of how shocking it can be. I had no idea how strange it would be. In some ways it can be more shocking than going to another country. You are prepared for cultural differences in another country but in your own country you expect to fit in, and then when you realise how much you’ve changed it brings up conflicted feelings about identity. As the saying (and book title) goes “You can’t go home again” because something has altered your perception and the home that you once knew doesn’t exist anymore.
Things I struggled with in Australia were the greetings and not knowing what to do. I felt anxiety that I had never felt before. I was uncomfortable meeting new people and how to interact with them. The extremes of customer service also bought on another level of anxiety because I just didn’t know what to expect because it could be either extreme or just somewhere in the middle.
In Korea I know foreigners can have trouble with the way people can push and bump in crowded cities and view that as rude, but I’ve realised in Korea it’s not personal, it’s done with blank faces and it’s just people trying to get through their day in a crowded city. In Australia, it’s so personal! You bump into someone and you don’t know what you may get. The person can smile and say, “No worries” or you can be given a look as if you’ve just murdered their whole family because they are so offended that you accidentally bumped into them.
In Korea there is more of an acceptance of mothers and babies in public places. There are many older women that are happy to help out mothers and easily chat with them or even hold your baby while you do something. It’s also normal to bring babies everywhere, especially restaurants, and be out late with them. Because I was with Sophie and Alice while in Sydney and we were out doing things in Sydney, I witnessed the way that she was treated because she is a mother. It was disturbing to me how much she was dismissed and treated as if she was taking up precious space because she had a child with her. Also because we sometimes switched who had Alice or the pram, it would have sometimes appeared that I was the mother and I felt those looks and disapproval directed to me. At one point I had hold of the (pretty small and lightweight pram/stroller) and was trying to get a hold of Alice who starting to run just out of my reach in a shopping centre. A business woman in her 50’s or 60’s had to side step around the pram as I frantically tried to grab a 2 year old, and she did so with the nastiest look on her face and a very audible sigh and eye roll. Oh I’m sorry that you had to go sideways ONE STEP that took ONE SECOND. I was incredibly shocked at how easily people showed their displeasure to strangers. I can see how a more community orientated society has a lot of benefits for mothers in Korea. You also see many of the grandparents looking after the children in Korea too and it’s normal to be out in public with young children. I also see a lot less public tantrums from children in Korea too.
Some great things about Australia, in particular Sydney, was the multiculturalism and the access to lots of different food! Ironically it’s easier to get authentic Asian food (other than Korean) in Australia than it is in Korea. While it’s definitely getting better in Korea, it’s still normal for foreign food to be made by Koreans and be extremely adjusted for Korean tastes. In Sydney, in Thai town, we had $4 boat noodle soup with Han and Sophie because it was a Thai place that catered to Thai people, whereas in Korea it’s less authentic and more expensive. Being more multicultural allows for there to be more authentic cuisine and a huge variation of food. But on the other hand, restaurant prices on a whole in Australia were more expensive than normal Korean food restaurants in Korea.
Another thing I didn’t mention was how much skin people show! Seeing low cut tops and cleavage was quite shocking to me in Australia. In Korea it’s okay to show the legs, but not the chest, back and shoulders. While in Korea it can be annoying to not be able to wear skimpy tops in summer, I really have changed how I think about what are appropriate clothes.
Of course both countries have pros and cons, but sometimes you don’t really realise what they are for your own country until you live in another country.
As always, these are just our opinions and our experiences.
by Nic • Culture, In Korea, Korean Dramas, Korean People • Tags: korea toilet paper, koreans and toilet paper, my korean husband, toilet paper on table in korea, why do koreans use toilet paper like this?
This is definitely something that doesn’t bother me while I’m in Korea, but if we were living in Australia in our own place I’d have all the paper in the “right places”. Since my parents usually have Koreans boarding with them my mother has made a rule of no toilet paper in the kitchen. While it’s natural for Koreans to have it with them while cooking, it’s too odd for Australians to be using it as much a multipurpose thing.
We do have kitchen towel in the kitchen at my inlaws house here, but I think I use it more than anyone. I use it when cooking and as a serviette/napkin while everyone else is using the toilet paper. Having meals in Korea is vastly different to what I grew up with as well because the style of eating is so different. I would definitely fold the napkins into nice shapes and place them on the plates for nice dinners or when we had guests in Australia.
What Hugh said about sometimes using newspaper for toilet paper as a child was surprising for me. It is interesting to see how different our childhoods were.
Jeongwol Daeboreum is the first full moon of the lunar new year and there are lots of traditions, customs and celebrations across Korea. In years gone by there would have more celebrations in the countryside like fires (burning the rice fields) but these days those big fire celebrations are only in bigger towns and cities and are big organised events. Nowadays local people in the area come together like this for Jeongwol Daeboreum.
I expected to just be an observer, but of course I stand out in rural Korea so they were excited to drag me into the singing and dancing. It was actually a lot of fun, but although my brother is an amazing drummer, I have no rhythm at all! This group of locals preformed like this again and again around all the small villages in this area.
Wearing a hanbok can be a lot like wearing a wedding dress. Anyone who has been a bride or bridesmaid might remember the awkward help the bride pee moments! There are just so many layers, especially in winter when I’m wearing long underwear under it too. It doesn’t help that Korean bathrooms usually have wet floors as well. It can be a bit difficult to manage.
As I was quite sick on Lunar New Year, I needed extra help getting my hanbok on. Usually I can do most of it myself and just need help with the outer skirt and top, but this time I needed my husband to help with everything.
by Nic • Culture, Korean People, Relationships • Tags: korean husband, korean inlaws, korean parents, korean parents-in-law, korean wife, marrying korean, my korean husband, will a korean's parents accept me?, will korean parents accept a foreigner
We get asked a lot about how Hugh’s parents reacted to him bringing home an Australian girlfriend. We also get asked whether Korean parents are likely to accept a foreigner son or daughter in law and what can be done to make things go smoothly. We talk about the stereotype of Korean parents refusing to accept foreigners, hypothetical situations versus reality and some warning signs.
As with any video, there are many things we can’t cover. For example, we didn’t talk about incidences of Korean parents completely refusing to accept a foreigner (of course that can happen but we just don’t know anyone who has had that experience personally). We also didn’t comment on Korean American situations or Koreans who grew up in countries other than Korea. The stigma of single mothers is another serious topic and how that will affect acceptance from Korean parents is another topic that we weren’t able to cover this time.
I do like wearing my hanbok, but it’s not the easiest thing to get around in. I spent a lot of Lunar New Year sitting and waiting for relatives to visit, and some objects disappeared under my skirts. When you try a hanbok on at tourist places they are usually not this big and are just the outer skirt and top/jacket, but if you own a hanbok it usually involves special socks and pantaloons, a big puffy petticoat, and an under blouse before you even put on the pretty colourful skirt and top.
I wasn’t allowed to take it off either, those that follow me on Instagram would have seen my photo of my view laying on the floor while waiting in my hanbok. Although, for all the ways a hanbok can limit you, they are very special.
We haven’t put anymore videos up with week because I’ve been sick and we have been busy with Lunar New Year, but we’ll have some up soon.
While movies often glamorize international relationships, in reality there are a lot of things to think about!
Also just wanted to clarify that when we say “the government doesn’t care if you are married” we meant that the government doesn’t give a crap about your love life and a marriage certificate is not a visa, nor does it guarantee a visa. However, actually being married can make obtaining a visa easier. We will expand on these topics in later videos.
If you read all the comics and blog posts, you already probably know about this. We made a video about it though!
We tried to keep it light-hearted so we are really sorry if we offend anyone. There are also many other things we could have talked about but just didn’t have time for. For example, what gene are children likely to get when one parent is Korean? Do pheromones in sweat cause some Koreans to be more attracted to someone who is very genetically different to them? Just because you have the more sweat glands and bacteria/sticky ear wax gene doesn’t automatically mean you smell bad- body odour varies a lot from person to person. Don’t be too paranoid, just be conscious of it.
Just last night we asked a Korean friend why they thought foreigners tended to smell more than Koreans and they said because Koreans go to the public baths and scrub their bodies there but foreigners don’t. Hehe.. a lot of misinformation around.
Although I’m completely aware that I’m technically an ahjumma because I am a married woman, there is a difference between knowing that and then actually being called an ahjumma. So it was a shock! Sophie and Chloe think the article title was meant as a fun way because I don’t look like an ahjumma but my first thoughts were, “OMG I am so old”.
The image that comes to mind when thinking of the word “ahjumma” is not a look that I am ready for yet…
Also check out yesterday’s vlog where I get very honest. Make sure you subscribe to the vlogging channel because I won’t always post the video here.