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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?