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Friday, June 29, 2007

The whole "Oppa" Thing

Guys- Ever have a girl you loved say you were like a brother to her? Probably worse than being told she doesn't want to ruin your friendship.

This is not the case in Korea.
Girls call most boys, "older brother." In Korean, it sounds like, "oppa."
Older sisters are called, "luna."

I just got this comment on the blog: "Hmm you're cute but you look like my sister. which kinda cancels the attraction part out for me. hah." And isn't that the way it should be? As an only child, I'm no expert, but the whole "big brother" thing is a little creepy.

Many wives call their husbands oppa, as a term of endearment. Girlfriends call their boyfriends oppa, and the label seems to carry through to the couple's brother-sister dynamic.

I have been insulted so many times by Korean guys who try to carry my bags, tuck in my shirt, get me water and pay for my meal. As a budding independent, I used to think they were insinuating I wasn't capable of taking care of myself. I even had one guy roll up all of my 삼겹살 lettuce rolls, one by one.

But Korean ladies like to be taken care of. I was told by a student that if my friends weren't being paternal, or 'brotherly', I'd have reason to be insulted. So I guess I should just enjoy my oppas while I'm in Korea. Maybe they're the only brothers I'll ever have.

14 comments:

MUD said...

I think the role I love is one of Uncle. Old enough to be wise and with enough money to make things right when needed. My older sisters were 5 and 6 years older than me so they were basically not a factor in my life after 11 or 12. They can't understand to this day why I get mad when they tell me what to do. My success in life has so far exceeded theirs through hard work and investments. Play nice and people will play nice with you. MUD

daeguowl said...

It's not quite clear from the post whether you are aware of this regarding nuna(I would guess from the rest of your posts that you are but just in case and for the benefit of other readers...)

A guy who is younger than you would call you nuna. You would address a girl who is older than you as Onni. This of course leaves the appropriate word for a younger guy addressing a slightly older one which is Hyong.

Anonymous said...

I see it this way. Terms like "oppa" means you're not a stranger, you're close with the person and not on formal terms. Thus, calling a guy "oppa" to someone is saying "hey I feel close to you, there is no distance between us, I'm your friend" etc..

I love the pics! :)

Anonymous said...

aww that sounds sweet, personally i think id quite enjoy that\your situation

Michael said...

I think most Korean women under the age of 45 would get very upset if a man called them nuna. Can't imagine why ;)

Helena said...

I've never heard a woman call her husband oppa. Yobo, maybe?

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Micheal and Helena- Tae Hun read your comments and disagreed. He said they don't mind being called Nuna, and that many wives do call their husbands, Oppa

And you're right, anonymous. It basically is just a way of saying we are friends, we are close

Michael said...

Perhaps I just worked with lots of vain ajummahs then...

daeguowl said...

A lot of the younger generation call their husband obba. My wfe refuse to because I'm only a few months older than her. She calls me Yobo instead (or sometimes just Ya! :)) My mother-in-law calls my father-in-law "boyo" as a reversed yobo as some kind of aegyo (애교). Taksal (닭살!) It will be interesting to see if as these people grow older they are still addressing their husbands as obba or whether they turn to "yobo" or "Cholsoo's Daddy"

Jane Milton said...

At college, we used to call it the "Oppa action." It worked both ways. Girls said to get what they wanted, guys said, "Call me oppa," as a way to say, "I'm da man." Ah... college.... *sigh* (Oh, Tae will disagree.. but this is what happened where I went to college... in the US)

Anonymous said...

Here's an apropos gif:

http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/6232/20070629118310523420062jc5.gif

^ She's saying "oppa."

Anonymous said...

I'm responding very late to this post, but I just happened to find this blog today. Anyway, I grew up calling my older brother "oppa." It was so ingrained that to this day it literally feels weird to use his first name. I inwardly cringe. Whenever I talk about him to my friends, I always just use the term "my brother." I'm sure they think it's weird because they refer to their own siblings by their names. :P

Anonymous said...

Look, anyone spent any time with Spanish people know that some of their guys like to be called "papi"... it's like 'who's your daddy' its for the guy to stick his chest out and feel like a man. For whatever culture, it's clear to me and why shouldn't it be when it comes to the Korean culture, it's not something 'creepy' or some kind of baby complex for Korean guys. (no i'm not Korean).

madelyn said...

Yup, just relax and enjoy it.

They're just being really, really considerate, and if you notice, it's not in the jackass smug way north american guys will pick up your bag or open the door.

It's just being polite, and shows they care about you. I used to get bent out of shape when my boyfriend tried to carry my bag, but now I think it's so considerate.