My Korean Husband

Intercultural Life

Category: Culture (page 5 of 22)

Traditional and modern Korean culture.

Picnic Set

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

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

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?

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

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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Do Korean Guys wear makeup?

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.

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Reverse Culture Shock – Australia

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.

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