Today’s posting would be something of girly and not very important personal update with Korean flavah.
Do you remember this post? Yes, the wedding has happened and I went there with my family. I could see they spent fortune on this wedding. But the quality was…disappointing. I know Korean wedding (to be more specific, Korean westernized wedding) is not the most exciting event in your life. Invitees bring some money for gift, the couples just do ceremony in white dress and all, people clap, some boring and politically correct speech by someone with nice title and connection with family, maybe a song or two, everyone rush to the canteen/catering, eat and leave. Sometimes the venue staffs will herd you out, so they can have multiple ceremonies per day.
Based on the venue, gossips, make-up and dress rentals, I wouldn’t be surprised if they spent one million hundred KRW (about 87,000 USD) in total. I don’t want to comment on the amount of money – I didn’t pay it, they never asked me to chip in so I don’t get a say. But if you spent that much money, you either expect a breathtakingly beautiful decorations, or 5-star rating food or…I don’t know, Adele singing live? None of that happened. In sum, it was expensive yet totally tasteless wedding. Expensive yet out-of-place Emanuel Ungaro dress, not-so-great food, whole bunch of mismatching flowers…My family all thought, “it’s just waste of money, I feel really bad for them…but they didn’t have any taste to begin with, no?”
Now, after the wedding, I keep hearing about the landmines that’s waiting to explode between Marza, Marza’s family and her husband’s family. Well, well, fingers crossed (this is cynicism).
Since I am writing about wedding, I think this is a nice Segway moment to talk about adult man-woman relationship and marriage in Korea. I know a lot of you American folks are cringing at “arranged marriage” and think it’s some barbaric custom. But I, an Asian who grew up both in no-Asian town of America and Asia, am not too averse of it. There are different “kinds” of arranged marriage. Basically, the core of arranged marriage is your (or the date’s) parents get the potential date for you. If you have laid-back parents who places priority on their kids’ emotion, then it’s not required to get the marriage date ASAP. Now, if you have parents who are really anxious, the pressure is on, obviously. Overall, the pressure increases as you get older – Korean people have problem accepting their children’s choice of life when it isn’t the norm, at least to them. And there’s the notion thinking “my child doesn’t know better” – Amy Chua didn’t make up her Tiger Mom story.
Maybe it’s because there’s no such pressure on me (or any of those around me) yet, but anyway, I’m okay with it. What’s to lose by meeting more new people? And they are recommended by people who know you very well.
So I had one of this nature last weekend (note: other than general background and contact information, our parents’ involvement was next to nothing, which was good. Really, it was just like any other blind date). The guy – let’s call him Peter – was recommended by my mom’s friend, who is a fine, gentle, hard-working person. Korean Korean. All I know is Peter’s family has been working as oriental med doctors for more than 100 years. Though their earning is good, they still follow their ancestor’s will: that is not to move away from its original place, and keep the business at manageable size. That deserves massive respect.
We texted to arrange a meeting place. He just kept asking this and that in text, making me think “he can just call….” but then I thought maybe he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate. Okay, whatever. He suggested a Japanese dining bar. I thought it a bit unusual – usually you are going a bit of high-end place for your first blind date, no? Ohhh, maybe he wants it to be casual. I guess it’s not a bad idea to have first date over a cool pint of beer.
The date has come and I was there. I was on time, but I wasn’t sure Peter – today’s “host” – is here yet. I called.
Ceberus: Hello? Hi, this is Ceberus, the person you are meeting today.
Ceberus: I’m at the place, right outside.
Ceberus: Are you in?
Ceberus: Okay I’m going in, see you in a minute.
Honestly, I was a bit off at this point. This already sounds odd, no? If a man is thirty something, I expect him to be able to respond to the “business” calls in formal manner. How hard is it to say “Hi! Good evening! I’m in so come on in!”?
Anyway I went in, and I asked him to suggest/order for me because it’s my first time here. He just ordered foods. Fine – but if you are just going to order foods, what’s the point of meeting at izakaya? We could’ve gone to the other Japanese restaurant. Since the host isn’t ordering, I couldn’t either.
We started chatting. I found that he served at public service unit (all Korean men has to serve in military: if your physical condition prohibits to do so, such as bad waist or terrible eyesight, you are usually placed for public service), so I brought up some of my guy friends doing the same thing. Then for some reason, he started to talk about some fist fight initiated by Korean age hierarchy. Which is hardly a good topic to start if you want to leave someone a good impression.
We soon started to talk about our majors. His major was oriental medicine (in Korea, oriental medicine courses are treated similarly with western med schools and they are officially doctors, subject to medical insurance). Surprise. I said my major was political science. Then Peter looked very excited, saying he wanted to study politics but couldn’t do it due to his father’s objection.
Oh, this may be a good sign.
No it wasn’t.
His question: “so which political party do you support?”
….I thought politics, religion and abortion are big no-no in any kind of first meeting, regardless of country. What the heck is happening.
I had to find a way to answer this politely, so I just said “well…they all look same!”
Peter said he wanted to study politics because his childhood home was near to the Blue House and envied the president’s parade.
Fine, this I can take as a sweet childhood memory.
Then he said, all man should aim for being a president before dying.
Fine. But you are thirty. Time to wake up.
I really wanted to talk about other stuff, but he was too excited and went on. He said Korean race is the best and brightest in the world and he supports nationalism.
You are talking to a TCK, people in general hating nationalism and ethnicism. And this is 21st century, the era of globalization. What time are you living in?
So finally I had to say: “Peter, honestly, having been grown up in one of the most diverse countries in the world, I don’t really sympathize with nationalism and ethnicism-centered education of Korean history. In fact, I really don’t like nationalism. IMO, it’s the seed of all wars and hatred.”
He looked startled, and said, he thought I would be interested because I’m…politics major. Again, I had to explain: “there are two kinds of politics major students. One is those who want to change the world with their hands; another is those who likes observing the whole situation from background and analyze the data. I’m the latter.”
I don’t think he was too happy with it. Same here anyway.
At least he was well behaving, so we had a tea, and he drove me back to home. In his car, he talked about his studying. I chimed in.
Ceberus: It sounds like your dad is oriental doctor, too.
Peter: He is.
Ceberus: Oh, that’s wonderful!
Peter: No, not really.
Peter: Well, dang, I want to play but it’s impossible to skip my study and lie since he knows everything.
So that was the end of my blind date.
Someone said: the more blind dates you do, the list of awful man increases.
Sometimes though, I feel like Korean men, in general, are immature than American guys. I think I know why. In the States, kids – men included – are encouraged to live independently. People rarely live with their parents (and there’s some stigma attached to those who do, though there is increasing number of kids who are doing it due to recession). For most people, they live away from their family and do a lot of things on their own once they start their college education. Meanwhile they have experience of earning money on their own.
For Korean guys, this isn’t the case. Since their birth to college, majority of people live with their parents. They’ve never done things by themselves – doing laundry, preparing meals, earning stipends, repairing their bike, etc. A lot of them live off from stipend given from their parents. It’s pretty obvious who matures first.
I understand why. But I just can’t sympathize with them (I bet I startle them too). Maybe it’s one of those pains of hidden immigrant.