Culture

Traditional and modern Korean culture.

Harsh Reality 20

Harsh Reality

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.

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The Simpsons Quote 10

The Simpsons quote

This is a topic we’ve talked about before – not having similar childhoods. Our childhoods were influenced by different TV shows, movies, trends and books. While Mr Gwon has seen many episodes of the The Simpsons and has heard many of the famous quotes from it, he saw and heard it as an adult, he didn’t absorb it when he was young. He didn’t quote it with his siblings and in the school playground with his friends. The perfect quote doesn’t come to mind in certain situations and he doesn’t pick up on the times when I do it, even if it has been explained to him, because it just wasn’t part of his childhood or teen years. Although not every western person my age watched The Simpsons, they would have been very aware of it and how it affected our generation. For example Sophie wasn’t allowed to watch it as a child but she was aware of the characters and some of the jokes and the influence it had. It is such an iconic TV show, especially the earlier episodes.

The top video that comes up from the scene I was quoting is just someone filming a TV, but look at how many views it has and how many people are reminiscing in the comments.

It’s also a kind of sad reminder that it doesn’t matter how well I can speak Korean later, there will be some things that he says that I just won’t understand because our childhoods were so different.

(Oh and why was I on that gym equipment? I was just laying on it but he pushed the button and made me go upside down… I think you are supposed to do sit-ups or something. I didn’t do that).

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Siblings 9

Siblings

We were talking about respectful terms for in-laws and what my siblings should call him if they were Korean. I told him he could ask them to call him that, but he thinks they are “too naughty” and wouldn’t.

Understanding cultural differences is so important! What he deems “naughty” is pretty normal behaviour in Australia because ours values differ. Something seen as good, such as an easy and casual way of speaking regardless of someone’s age, can be offensive in Korea. He knows it’s just cultural difference, but he still likes to say they are naughty… especially when he sees my youngest brother pat my father on the head. Shock, horror!

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Commenting on Comments – Chuseok 4

Yesterday was a really big day but we still tried to film our Commenting on Comments and edit it. We managed to do that but then exporting took too long and it was already 2am, so we had to sleep and wait until today. So sorry this video is a bit late!

We show you a little bit of Chuseok, talk about Korean towels and ahjummas in the mountains, open a package and Hugh’s cousins bust in with some fireworks.

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Chuseok Food 8

Chuseok food

It is Chuseok today. You can read about Chuseok here.

It’s a big holiday in Korea and there is a lot of preparation. A lot of food needs to be prepared and there is a lot of fried food. Before we eat it, some is used for ancestor rituals where we pay respects to deceased family members. While I was helping set this up, Mr Gwon was stuffing his face… and then hiding and stuffing his face!

Our tiny village is quite busy today as everyone comes back to their parents or grandparents’ houses. If you are a foreigner in Korea, never try to travel at this time of year! The roads and clogged and the public transport is booked out.

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Korean Towels 18

Korean Towels

Something I’ve talked about before. It’s normal in Korea to just use tiny towels. Besides from the towels I brought from Australia, there are no large towels in the house. Doesn’t make it easy to walk around the house in a towel…

 

I’m getting a bit of elbow pain so I will probably take tomorrow off. So just letting you know there won’t be a comic tomorrow. Sorry guys!

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Foreign Girls 8

Foreign girls

He was supposed to say, “No, you are not annoying!”

One of the interesting things about meeting his old friends is seeing what their perception of him was, and also their perceptions of themselves. They always thought there was no way that Mr Gwon would be the one to live in another country, marry a foreign woman, speak English well, and travel that much. But he was the one to do it. This friend in particular hadn’t seen him for 14 years and was so shocked to hear him speaking English naturally with me. This friend didn’t do any of that and settled down in Korea with a Korean woman (though I’m sure he is happy too).

On the topic of marrying foreign women, we have another friend who wants to marry someone who is foreign. Now there are lots of reasons why a Korean man wants to marry a foreign woman and before I’ve talked about foreign brides for older men, or men who can’t find wives. Those are arranged marriages that are supposed to benefit both the man and the woman who is usually from a developing country. This is nothing like that.

I think many people can jump to the conclusion that a Korean man interested in foreign women is motivated by some fantasy of foreign women, especially western women, that is influenced by the media. That is not always the case. A lot of it just comes down to culture. For example, this friend finds it difficult to find the traits he wants in a partner in Korean women because of Korean culture and Korea being an Asian, community orientated society. He wants a wife that shares his passions and interests (as he is an outgoing adventurous, wanting to be different, type of guy) and personally he has found it harder to meet someone who also wants to break away from what society expects in Korea. It makes sense that he may find what he is looking for if he looks for a woman who is from an individualistic culture (Individualistic cultures include the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, Canada) rather than a culture with more of a group mentality. Usually it’s not about looks at all. It’s about people finding the best match for them. Hopefully he will be able to meet the right person for him.

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Over Water 6

Over Water

Yeah the butt poke is back. (As seen previously in this comic).

I am always vulnerable! It’s not fair to do it while being carried across a river!

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“I like you” in Korean Dramas 10

Han and Hugh talk about how “I like you” in Korean can mean more than what it means in English and why characters in Korean dramas often say “I like you” instead of “I love you”.

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Scar 8

Scar

(Flower boy roughly translate to something like ‘well-groomed pretty boy’.)

Don’t feel too sorry for him… He got a nasty cut on his cheek when he came home from a having a very big Saturday night. We think he tripped coming up the outside stairs that lead to the roof and possibly cut it open on some metal pipes (a situation that was entirely preventable). Right now he has a big bandage on his cheek and he is doing everything he can so it doesn’t leave a scar.

He has aspirations to be a flower boy but is too lazy. When he slicks his hair back he really does look like a gangster because of his strong forehead and features. At our Australian wedding we had a vintage theme and many Korean friends were saying he looked like a certain Korean gangster from last century.

That’s why he is a bit sensitive about having a scar on his cheek. Hopefully it will heal okay.

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Ask Korean Guys – Other Couples? 13

Hugh and Daniel talk about other couples that are also Korean guys and Western girls.

This question is a bit hard to answer. Our perspective is affected by what we see through the blog. We get lots and lots of emails and comments from other couples like us. So we are personally seeing a lot but compared to the general population it’s still a small amount. It does seem that in the past 5 years there has been a kind of surge in marriages between Koreans and foreigners though. Much more than before. There are other couples like us because more people are going to Korea to work and study and more Koreans are going to other countries. Both Hugh and Daniel went to Australia and started dating Australian girls.

From what I see, most couples like us are somewhat recently married. We get emails from people who married a long time ago occasionally, but they usually mention that they were always very different to everyone around them. We meet many people through the blog, but even without the blog there are many are connections forming. For example, Sophie and Chloe knew each other growing up, and just happened to both end up with Korean men. From my hometown, a predominately white area in the countryside, there are 2 other women who also married Korean men.

As well as people travelling a lot more and meeting people they wouldn’t normally ever get to meet, the interest in Kpop and Kdramas have opened a lot of doors, especially in regards to how Korean men are perceived. If you look at the history of Asian men in movies and western media, it’s a pretty sad story. Asian men are rarely cast as leads, unless it’s an action movie, and never cast as the lead male in romance movies. They get stuck in roles of villains or bumbling side kicks. What Kpop and Kdramas has done is changed many women’s perception of Asian men and shown that they are sexy and masculine and so much more than what western media says. I know some people worry about Korean men being fetishized, but you gotta cut teenage girls some slack. Any one who goes into a relationship with a Korean guy just because he is Korean will find that the relationship does not last very long. The guy will work it out pretty quickly, give him some credit! If someone starts dating a guy because their views were opened up by Kpop, if it turns into a long term and loving relationship, well it’s no one’s business but their own. It’s mean to make judgements about someone else’s relationship, (though people still seem to do it all the time).

Another aspect that comes up a lot is what actually constitutes a Korean guy when we talk about international couples? If my husband had grown up in Australia as a Korean Australian would I have made this blog? Probably not. How many cultural differences would we have? It’s hard to say and would depend so much on what his home life had been. It’s such a blurry line. There are people who identify as Korean but it was their parents or grandparents that were born in Korea, not them. It also means they grew up in western culture so there aren’t as big cultural differences when dating. But I’ve heard from people married to Korean Americans that even though their husband grew up in the US, there are still cultural things he does that Mr Gwon also does. Then there are others have almost no identity with Korean culture. We are always emphasising the culture and cultural differences on this blog. We aren’t interested in just physical aspects. We also shy away from identifying ourselves as an “Asian male/White female” couple and don’t really like those types of tags. It’s not about our looks and within the terms “Asian” and “White” there are a vast amount of differences and cultures. When we share our lives with people we want to talk about our relationship and our cultures and what life is like for us.

That’s why the people we end up being friends with are very similar to us. Usually they are Korean men who grew up in Korea with Australian women. We also have a wider circle of friends who are mostly Korean men with Western women.

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Big Butts 27

Big Butts

He likes big butts and he cannot lie….

One interesting aspect of being married – or even being around – someone from another culture who speaks English as a second language is the way they can say things that kinda sound offensive but it’s meant as a compliment. Sophie and I mentioned it in a video and talked about our husbands saying things like, “I like it when you are a bit chubby”. For us there can be negative connotations to things like that, but it’s not meant in a negative way. The same way the first time Koreans told me that I have a small face, I thought they were insulting me.

It’s also interesting the way standards for beauty often relate to things that are unobtainable for some people. I’m always amazed to see butt padding or “butt bras” in Korean underwear shops for women to make their butts look bigger.

For me, comments about the size of my rear end can carry the remnants of embarrassing moments from teenage years. Although I was always considered to be on the thinner size, I’ve never been flat in that area. One teenage moment that springs to mind was dressing up as the Spice Girls with friends, and I was ‘Posh Spice’ and wearing a tight dress. Another girl rudely commented about how big my butt was in front of everyone… Combine that with reading magazines containing articles about how to make your butt smaller and tighter…

None of that matters now, and I’ve learning to shake off that negativity. Beauty can be so subjective. Whatever shape you are, there will be someone who likes it.

I just still sometimes have that 1 second of thinking something is an insult before realising it’s a compliment.

 

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Quick Delivery 12

Quick delivery

So we got the box of paints that we ordered just over 12 hours later…. impressive. We’ve mentioned before that Korea has a “bally bally” culture, which means “quickly quickly”. This is great for consumers, but I do sometimes worry about how much effort is put in to get things sent so quickly. Korea is a lot smaller than Australia though, so it does make it easier to send things. So many things are available for quick delivery. Home shopping is much bigger here as well. My mother-in-law orders a lot of things she sees on TV.

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The things with the spoon 11

the things with the spoon

The day we both forgot the word “chopsticks”. My whole life I’ve been setting the table with “knives and forks” so that’s my excuse! Even though in recent years I use chopsticks more than knives and forks, it’s still ingrained in me that that’s how you set the table.

Koreans tend to use metal chopsticks and a spoon, so setting the table involves setting out the chopsticks with a spoon for each person.

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Fishing Ghost 27

Fishing Ghost

I think I’ve mentioned mulgwishin before, which are water ghosts, but gwishin (귀신) in general tend to usually be female ghosts wearing the white funeral clothes with long dark hair. When you become more emerged in Korean culture you start to hear the word a lot more and realise how scary they are for people. I was just saying the word “fishing” but my husband thought I had said “gwishin”. Slightly worrying because it was late in the day and where we live is perfect habitat for gwishins! We live in an old village full of old houses and abandoned falling down houses. We also live near a school. Schools feature heavily in gwishin folklore because schools are so creepy at night and are all very similar looking across Korea. If I see a school in a Korean horror movie I know that at some point I need to walk past the school here at night, so it’s probably best not to watch those types of movies.

When we cut through the school grounds I usually salute the statue of Admiral Yi (important figure in Korean history) just to be on his good side. Many schools have a statue of him and it’s said that he gets down from his pedestal and walks around the school grounds at night. We figure that if a gwishin in the school is coming after us, Admiral Yi can come save us. Of course we don’t really have a strong belief in ghosts and all that, but it’s funny how folklore can affect the little things you do day to day.

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