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.
New Nicholalala Webtoon episode is up!
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You see octopuses displayed like this a lot in Korea. It does kind of unnerve me sometimes!
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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.