About 2 weeks ago we traveled to the area where Hugh’s mother is from and where Hugh spend a large amount of his childhood. It has been many years since they had been back. We visited his grandparents’ burial mounds and paid respects, we also saw many elderly relatives and found the house that Hugh lived in as a small boy.
When Hugh was only about 1 year old, his father became very ill and he had to go live with his grandparents as his mother spent all her time looking after his father. It’s not unusual for children to live with grandparents in Korea, either back then or today. You still see grandparents doing a lot of the child minding in Korea and sometimes children live with their grandparents for years like Hugh did. It was very strange for him to see that area again. He was close to his grandparents and grew up thinking they were his real parents, so the transition of moving back with his parents was difficult for him. His grandfather passed away when he was quite young and his grandmother passed away while he was doing his military service.
Korea has had such rapid development in the past few decades, so it’s interesting to think about what Hugh’s childhood was like in the 1980’s and how it differed from mine in Australia.
If you are unsure of what a Jjimjilbang is, click here.
When you are in an intercultural marriage, you can’t always pick and choose what aspects from our own culture your partner adopts. I don’t particularly like that Hugh has picked up this Australian aversion to communal male nudity but that’s how he feels after living in Australia. I don’t like the narrow idea of masculinity in Australia and find a lot of things in Korea to be refreshing. But I guess when something is an aversion, it’s easy for others to absorb that thinking too, and Hugh changed a lot in his time in Australia. He very easily slips into a more Australian/western way of thinking sometimes.
Although he grew up going to jjimjilbangs in Korea and being naked with his friends was completely normal, he now feels odd because of reverse culture shock. I wonder if a few more years back in Korea will change that. If not, perhaps he should spend some time in European countries with naked saunas so he can get over it haha.
“Dingle Dingle Dingle” was the best way he could explain what he was seeing in English.
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).
I’m rebooting the Nicholalala channel! I don’t want it to just be vlogs, though vlogs are still a big part of it. I’m going to try and do a video like this once a week, showing some clips, answering some questions, and recommending books etc.
The reason why it’s been a while since I regularly posted on that channel was not only because of being so busy but also because I was thinking about what I wanted to do with this channel. I really want to do more YouTube videos independent of My Korean Husband, and talk about about the Nicholalala Webtoon and also talk about a bunch of other topics (let me know if there is something in particular you’d like me to make a video about).
We filmed this last year with Sara (SeoulSarang) and have only just been able to edit it because we have SO many videos to edit. Slowly working through so many videos. This was a really fun chat! I really enjoy hanging out with other Aussies, especially after I haven’t seen any for a while. I think both of our Australian accents became stronger in this video (there are English captions on the video for those that need help understanding the accent).
This was very much just a casual conversation without much preparation, so it’s just our thoughts and feelings at this time. Opinions can change! Don’t take the video too seriously.
What ‘weird’ things have you done in your own country after living in another country?
This Nicholalala episode was inspired by Lunar New Year.
READ THE EPISODE HERE!
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(All Nicholalala episodes have some basis in fact, but I blur reality and imagination. Wild boars did really destroy part of one of the burial mounds and previously squirrels were hiding their nuts in one).
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.