Being naked in Korea?
Korea has a culture where people go to public baths and are very comfortable to be naked around other people (though usually the same sex). There also isn’t any shame in undressing and changing clothes in front of friends, whereas many Western cultures have issues with that and there is a lot more ingrained shame when it comes to bodies.
Hugh does tend to be quite the nudist (maybe more than others) and once the weather is warm enough he doesn’t see the point of wearing clothes at home. Currently he is always exercising naked too. I’m sorry neighbours. But after I started talking about this on the blog, and with friends who also married into Korean families, I’ve heard that many Koreans can be quite similar in stripping off in their own home, at least down to just underwear.
I think men possibly have more freedom than women in traditional homes. Traditionally the parents’ room is also the living room which means a lack of privacy. When we lived in the countryside I never walked in on my sister in law or mother in law changing but constantly saw Hugh and my father in law in just their underwear. As a westerner who is used to parents’ rooms to be very separate and very private it was quite confronting and a big cultural difference.
Another contrast is that in Australia showing cleavage is okay and men often exercise without a shirt in public which just isn’t seen in Korea. Every country has a different expectation of what is acceptable and how much of the body is shown and where it can be shown.
I definitely think ondol heating (underfloor heating) has something to do with it. As Hugh mentioned, when there is ondol heating anywhere can be your bed because Koreans don’t usually have problems with sleeping directly on the floor. When the floor is warm and comfortable it makes sense to strip down and be the most comfortable possible. Also many Korean homes don’t have sofas or that type of furniture so everything is done down on the floor. It can be very relaxing, but I find it hard to be motivated when laying on a heated floor!
Original comic can be found here.
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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!
We made this video because I randomly filmed something that showed the different experiences my husband has in Australia. As we said in the video this wouldn’t happen this way in Korea due to the big age differences between. We always say that neither country is right or wrong, it’s just different. So in Korea you can really only be close friends with someone who is the same age as you.
I’ve seen the problems arise when Koreans aren’t respectful enough to those older than them a lot in Australia. Possibly it happens more than in Korea because it can be difficult for Koreans who come out on working holiday visas. If they are around Australians a lot they may adopt a more Australian way and then accidentally offend a lot of other Koreans. You also get Koreans interacting in Australia who would have never met in Korea, from different regions in Korea, but here in Australia they may be working together or living together and there are some clashes.
As an Australian it is difficult for me to understand why it’s such a big deal sometimes. If someone has no malicious intent surely they can joke around a bit? The word ‘larrikin’ is often used to describe some elements of Australian culture, but it just doesn’t transfer well to Korean culture. Many times I’ve seen Korean people in Australia get very upset because someone Korean and younger than them didn’t use the correct level of speech with them, asked something too directly, made a joke that they thought was too disrespectful. For me as an Australian, if the person who was ‘disrespectful’ is overall a good person, I don’t worry about it much, but for many Koreans it’s something they can get very upset about and there have been huge problems arising from these mistakes.
Those who watch some Korean TV shows may have seen some incidents like that. The YG reality show ‘WIN Who is Next’ had an incident in one of the episodes. YG boss appointed someone whose age was in the middle as the group leader and this guy then spoke very directly to one of the older guys. That guy didn’t take it well at all and stormed out of the room. You may think that’s just made more dramatic for TV but it’s something that happens. People can find it very offensive. My husband, understanding how Australian culture is different, doesn’t ever get really upset about it and especially because he knows my brother is poking fun because he likes him, but it’s something I will have to be careful of in Korea.
5 points to anyone who recognises who my brother is…. some Sydney-siders might have seen him around.
Our first video of just my husband answering your questions! He is very shy about his English so please encourage him.
We are working on getting some proper lighting so we can make better videos, especially because it’s almost winter and there isn’t as much natural light during the day. So please be patient, we are aiming to improve a lot. If there is something you’d like to see in a video, let us know.
Also if you have a question for either both of us or just Mr Gwon you can leave a comment there!
One of the cultural differences we deal with seems pretty superficial but it does come up a lot. We had very different childhoods and we didn’t watch the same TV show or see the same movies, we didn’t have the same fads or sing the same songs. What this means is that my husband, the love of my life, my best friend, doesn’t always get references I make. Things that an Australian my age (or probably anyone my age from a Western country) would understand instantly, is something that he has very little idea about or interest in.
Now, Lord of the Rings isn’t something that everyone will get, but most Western people would know what Sesame Street is right? Blank face from him when I mention Sesame Street. My husband is discovering things now and is a fan of many things, like Doctor Who for example but we don’t have that shared history. He has no memories of ever seeing an original Doctor Who black and white episode on TV as a child. It is so strange to him when I flick over the channel to ABC Kids and sing along to the Bananas in Pyjamas.
I think it’s different now because of the internet and the way the world is changing. A lot of Koreans have favourite American or British TV shows and there are plenty of Western people watching Korean TV shows and dramas. My husband and I however, were born in the early 1980’s so there wasn’t much overlap in our cultures.
It makes me a little bit sad sometimes, not having that shared history. Knowing that my siblings or friends or even strangers may understand an offhand comment, but he won’t. But it’s okay, it’s such a minor thing in the whole scheme of things.
Do you remember a previous comic about him not understanding why I liked Happy Days? I always liked Happy Days and it is on TV here late at night but he usually pays no attention. He actually properly watched a scene the other day where The Fonz did something cool. He was surprised at how funny it was and said, “Wow! He is really cool!” That made me happy.
In conclusion: “Frodoooooooooooooo!!!!”
(He is singing a Korean song from his childhood now that I don’t know).
Another word came after ‘my’ but I had to cut it. I do have to check with my husband sometimes if I can make a comic about certain things. There are times when he just says no. I do understand, my website is for a general audience and we can’t have anything too extreme. Also family members are reading as well.
But, sometimes he does or says very funny things but they are slightly inappropriate. I do sometimes envy cartoonists who make webcomics and can have sexual references without any problems. It’s not like I want to do anything extreme, just really normal stuff, but I do need to be concious of the audience. My husband quite frequently reminds me that I do have a big Korean audience and Korean culture is more conservative.
I can’t find it now but I saw a really great web comic the other week about a time travelling boy who goes back in time to when his parents are about to make love (and make him) but of course him being there is awkward and it’s not going to happen, so he starts to fade away. I thought it was brilliant and the sexual references used perfectly without offending. If anyone can find that one, let me know.
It is a cultural difference that comes up sometimes, the difference between Australian and Korean humour and what is appropriate or not. And also maybe my parents are reading. Stop reading Mum!
Just have to make it clear. It’s not our 300 days now- this was a while ago!
Koreans tend to celebrate a lot more anniversaries than we do. I think this is a more modern thing that has been influenced by romance in media. It is normal to celebrate the 100 days anniversary and depending usually on what the girl expects, certain day anniversaries after that. This is 100 days of dating, not marriage.100 days is significant in Korea culture. For example, 100 days after a baby is born is celebrated.
We acknowledged our 100 days, which is obviously quite early in a relationship, but we didn’t do anything very special. I have seen Korean girls demand a lot just for 100 days though- like flowers and a cake and a gift and dinner. Not all are like that though.
So by the time our 300 days anniversary came around it wasn’t something I was thinking about so I felt bad when my husband (then boyfriend) surprised me with red roses and a cake. He knew I didn’t remember though, so it was okay. We haven’t celebrated another “day anniversaries” since then and I don’t pay much attention to all the other, often commercial, “special days” in Korea. Not every one does something for them, as there are a lot where you are expected to give something in particular or do something in particular.
My husband wasn’t the first Korean guy I dated (shock horror!). There were a few before him, but I only really discovered these anniversaries and days because of him. When I first dated a Korean guy (many years ago) I had never watched a Korean drama and wasn’t familiar with K-Pop. I had no idea of the things Korean girls expected from their boyfriends. I suspect that the first 2 Korean guys I dated deliberately withheld this information from me so they’d never have to do it. They were not very romantic guys at all. It was only as I got more involved in Korean culture later that I realised there was this whole very romantic culture with Korean youth. So I’m glad my husband finds it easy to be romantic and surprises me sometimes.