Culture

Traditional and modern Korean culture.

INTERCULTURAL MARRIED LIFE: AUSTRALIAN/KOREAN COUPLES 0

We ask questions to Australian/Korean married couples! How did you meet? What aspects of your partner’s culture have you adopted? Best and worst things about international/intercultural relationships? Advice or other couples?

Big thank you to everyone who helped us make this video!

Check out Rachel and Nick’s YouTube channel, The Drunken Bear here.

Check out Sophie’s blog on raising a bilingual child here.

There is a reason why we don’t do these videos regularly: they sure are a pain to edit! But we had been wanting to do something like this for a long time. This video is just Australian/Korean couples, but we may in the future do another video with a bigger mix of people. We wanted to focus on the culture rather than race aspects, as too often people focus on race and what people look like. But culture is what we should be talking about. How do you navigate and international and intercultural marriage? It’s an ongoing exploration and discussion.

(A video with Korean subs will be coming).

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Korean Culture: Flowers and Photos 0

I’ve shown this in a comic recently here, but we also made a video about this flower culture in Korea.

The flood plain next to our village is bare all through winter, but in preparation for spring, canola seeds are planted. They come up really quickly as the weather gets warmer and then suddenly there are yellow flowers everywhere! We usually go there at the end of the day when there are less people. So for this video we filmed while there weren’t many people and as the sun was setting.

There are lots of nice things about Korean couple culture and dressing in matching clothes and taking nice photos together is something I think is lovely.

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Photos and Flowers 0

Photos and Flowers

Canola flowers grow on the flood plain next to the river in our village. They are deliberately planted so people can come and enjoy them. During the week I see a few people wandering through but on the weekend there were so many. People arrived in cars from all over to walk through the flowers and take photos. We were riding our bikes around the village in the afternoon and were shocked to see lots of people. Usually we see no one in our area besides from a few old people.

Taking photos with flowers is pretty popular in Spring in Korea, so people were all dressed nicely, and one couple were even doing engagement photos. However, Hugh was in his “home clothes” which are old and falling apart clothes, and had gross, unwashed hair. Very different to how he looks in Seoul! It’s fine when it’s just old people that see you, but a bit different when there are large groups of nicely dressed people! So after grumbling at how many people have invaded his village sanctuary, we rode our bikes somewhere else instead.

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5 THINGS WE MISS ABOUT AUSTRALIA 0

What are some things we miss about Australia?

This video is a collab with The Drunken Bear YouTube channel, so check out their video here:

We love collaborating with other couples, especially Aussie/Korean couples. Rachel and Nick will appear in another video coming out soon too!

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Gwon Family Ancestral Memorial Rites 4

We filmed this before we were in Australia for 6 weeks. This is the ancestral memorial rites for the Gwon/Kwon family. Hugh and I were researching online the exact word for this type of one but couldn’t find it, there doesn’t seem to be as much information about it. It is Jesa, the ancestral rituals, but not exactly the same as the more commonly done ones. This one is done once a year with the head family and it honors 8 or 9 generations back. Because the Gwon family were part of the yangban (the traditional ruling class) they have all the records of how far back their family goes.

In Korea, Catholics, Buddhists and the nonreligious practice ancestral rites, but protestant Christians do not usually. Although I identify as Christian myself, I have a lot of issues with the type of Christianity in Korea and how culture can be erased when Western missionaries push their own beliefs but that’s a discussion for another day. These ceremonies show appreciation and respect to the family’s ancestors as well as strengthening ties with living family.

You can see the different treatment of men and women in Confucianism in traditions like this (and still to this day in modern society). But it is gradually changing. Just recently for Lunar New Year Hugh’s immediate family decided it wasn’t fair for women to have to do 4 bows when men did 2, so it was changed to women doing 2 as well, because as Hugh put it, “Confucius was sexist”. At the Gwon family ancestral memorial I could see the difference in attitudes depending on how old the male family member was. Hugh was actually quite shocked that the women couldn’t eat with the men and had to prepare all the food, and a middle aged family member was helping carry the food across for the women, while the older men didn’t seem to give it a second thought. Confucianism has some good elements, but some benefit from some modern changes. The culture can be kept but updated for a modern Korea. In fact modern Korea could benefit from going back to some Confucian ideals of not having corrupt leaders, but again a discussion for another day.

This was the first time Hugh had done this particular ceremony as usually only his father does it. Being in an international marriage and mixing your culture with another does make you start to appreciate your own culture and where you come from. It’s good to understand your own heritage as you also adopt another. In recent years I’ve discovered more about my own ancestors and my ancestor who arrived as a convict in Australia on the first fleet. My father and I visited her grave and contemplated how she was just a young girl who had stolen some fabric and was sentenced to death, but then transportation, and how hard her life must have been. I was incredibly moved to visit her grave but also felt helpless as there were no words or rituals to be said in respect for her. So because that is lacking in my own culture (unless someone dies in a war) I can appreciate these rituals in Korean culture.

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Being Korean American? 2

We talk with our friends Kirstin and Jerrold about what it’s like to be Korean American. What’s it like coming back to Korea? Also, what cultural aspects they keep in the USA and how different both their experiences are. You can check out their YouTube channel here.

We were hanging out with them while they had some wedding photos taken. We showed you the accommodation in this video:

 

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KOREAN PET NAMES 2

We talk about Korean pet names! We cover the most basic ones (and some new funny ones) but there are more talked about on this blog here.

What are the most common pet names in your country?

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Chuseok Food 6

Chuseok Food

Like in most other countries, the preparation of holiday food is done by women in Korean culture. Even in Australia there tends to be more traditional roles in a lot of families on holidays but it’s more obviously defined in Korea. With my mother-in-law and sister-in-law I helped prepare all the fried food for Chuseok. Koreans don’t mind eating fried food cold so it’s food that is supposed to last for a while. Because so much has to be prepared, it takes hours and hours and my body does not enjoy sitting on the floor for that long. So I had to roll my eyes at Hugh exclaiming his difficulty of not being able to choose what to eat.

Since we have an intercultural relationship I expressed some of my Australianess and told him that if he is not helping with the cooking and is just lazing around, he should clean up outside and make the front of the house look nice for Chuseok, which he did.

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Chuseok in Korea 4

Chuseok is an important holiday in Korea. Everyone is expected to go back to their ancestral home towns (or wherever their family is) which means millions of people have to travel at once. The traffic is horrendous and the public transportation is completely booked out. Luckily for us, we are already where we need to be! One advantage of living in the countryside.

In this video we show a few snapshots over two days. We prepare food for the ancestral memorial service in the morning (that food gets eaten by everyone later) and have many relatives visit.  Since it’s a ‘harvest festival’ holiday we wanted to show the countryside changing around us now that it’s Autumn. Hanbok (traditional clothing) is not necessary anymore, but is nice to wear which is why I put mine on in the evening.

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Traditional Wedding – 전통혼례 가마 5

Traditional korean wedding

I made this comic quite a while ago but it was never posted because it was supposed to go in the book (for the Korean market). Since we are now changing the format of the book a lot (one of the reasons why it’s taking so long) I can post it on here.

Traditional weddings are rarely done these days in Korea unfortunately, but I’m glad we had one. We were carried in ‘gamas’ by our friends, which gave Hugh’s friends the chance to complain about how heavy he is!

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Picnic Set 3

Picnic

If I’d taken a second to look closer I would have recognised what it was, but I wasn’t paying very much attention. Chuseok, which is one of the big holidays in Korea, is coming soon, so places like E-mart have these types of things prominently displayed.

An important part of the Chuseok holiday is going to where ancestor burial mounds are and paying respects and tidying up the graves. There is a ceremony with some food and drink, so this type of set makes it easier and nicer. It’s plastic and portable and easy enough to lug up a hill or mountain. While we have the proper set for the ceremony done in the morning inside the home, I’ve only seen paper cups used up where the burial mounds are. Obviously someone has realised there is a market for a portable set that is easy to carry.

When we post photos online of the food set up in the morning on holidays like this, people are always curious… what happens to all the food?! We eat it! That’s one of the interesting things about this tradition. The food is put out symbolically for the ancestors (about four generations back) but then we eat it all over the holiday. It’s important to remember family members who have passed on. I find it quite moving, especially when we pay respects to Hugh’s grandfather who loved him dearly but died when Hugh was still young.

 

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Hand me that 6

Hand me that

In Korean culture it’s polite to give things to people with 2 hands, or with the other hand supporting your arm. It’s especially important to do that with someone older than you or if they are in a higher position.

Being married, we don’t need to always give things with 2 hands (though some people who have a more formal marriage may still always do it) so it was funny that Hugh did it by reflex when he was concentrating too much on something else but still didn’t actually look at me.

Within a marriage you can also do it on purpose to show respect or care but is not necessary all the time. Also because I’m not Korean and our marriage is a cross cultural marriage, we are changing between 2 different cultures constantly.

 

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Big Chopsticks 14

Big chopsticks

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.

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Kdramas: Fact or Fiction? 6

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?

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All Nighter 5

All Nighter

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.

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