Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Korean Speaks Back- Culture

Q: You've been living in the US since the late 90's. What is your relationship like with your Korean American friends? Do they treat you any differently because you grew up in Korea?

A: I really started hanging out with Korean Americans when I was in grad school in Boston. Before that, I had no Korean friends. It was interesting to hear their experience as second generation Koreans in the US. I think most of them have pretty deeply seeded identity crises which they don’t like to admit. They’re not quite Americans, but not quite Koreans either. At least, I can pretend to be both since I speak both languages fluently. They make fun of a person like me by calling me a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat), but I know that deep down inside, they wish they could be more like me who understands the both cultures so well.

Q: One day last week I was tired, so I brought a book to work and read between classes. 3 coworkers came by my room to ask if I was alright! Why is it socially unacceptable to spend time alone in Korea?

A: Koreans tend to be very social. I’m not surprised that your co-workers think there is something wrong with you or you are going through some kind of depression. Have you noticed that you never see a Korean person eating or drinking a coffee alone in a restaurant or cafĂ©? We all do have a certain urge to feel a sense of belonging, but Koreans tend to stick together and always socialize together wherever they go.

Q: I am a 50/50 split the bill kind of girl, but men are usually adamant about paying in Korea. Now that you're living in the US, do you still insist on footing the bill?

A: When it comes to paying for food, I am still very much Korean. I cannot let a woman I like to pay for the food. Having said that, I will most likely pay for the house when I get married, which is an old Korean tradition; the man buys the house and the woman pays for the furniture.

1 comment:

yoomz said...

I can identify with your friend. I came to the US when I was 3 months old, but grew up in LA which has a very large Korean community. I can speak the language very well and have a very strong understanding of Korean culture and history (East Asian History major in college). However, I am also very American as I've lived my entire life here and went to undergrad in Boston, worked in San Francisco and Seattle and got my MBA in Chicago.

I guess I'm a big mix of Korean and American culture, but I am very happy with my mix. I think that as a result of this I feel very unique and am priviledge to be able to understand two completely different cultures. As a result of this lifestyle I feel that I am very open-minded and understanding of experiences that are foreign to me.

My husband is half Chinese, half British/Irish American and I've gotten him to go to Korean saunas in the US and eat yuk keh jang quite frequently. He is also going to be doing a summer internship at Samsung in Korea. It is very important to me that our lives are not just lived one-dimensionally but with many different interesting experiences, and I think this is a direct result of me growing up with two cultures.