Tag Archives: conversation

My Last Blind Date and Some Scary Wedding.

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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. 
Peter: Yeah.
Ceberus: I’m at the place, right outside. 
Peter: Yeah.
Ceberus: Are you in?
Peter: Yeah.
Ceberus: Okay I’m going in, see you in a minute.
Peter: Yeah.

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.

Oh fug.

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.
Ceberus: Why?
Peter: Well, dang, I want to play but it’s impossible to skip my study and lie since he knows everything.

I’m speechless…

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.

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Aside

The following post was uploaded in anonymous forum on Korean website about working abroad.  Translated by myself.  It’s okay to take this article to somewhere else, but please cite.  Basically, this post sums up my feelings on working in Korea, and this is what I’ve been through, until I decided I can’t do this.

Original post from http://www.gohackers.com/bbs/zboard.php?id=j_work_life&no=370&page=1&sp1&sn1&divpage=1&sp=off&sn=off&ss=on&sc=on&sf=off&sa=off

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I know everyone has different priority on getting a job in Korea or America.  This is just a subjective opinion based on my personal experience.

I had an interview with Sam**ng Electronics, a company often called as the best in South Korea.  I didn’t apply there directly.  A recruiting agency contacted me whether I’m interested, so I went for it.

My sentiment before the interview:

You know, working in Korea isn’t bad at all.  I’m not the only one here.  I know a lot of people who couldn’t get a job, but got a place in Sam**ng.  People go to Sam**ng Electronics a lot.  It’s a big, well-respected multinational firm now.  Payment isn’t bad.  And think about all that racism, glass celing, visa/green card shit and high tax. Korea is a good option.  I’ve been doing job research on Korean companies anyway.  The economy nowadays in America is terrible.  It’s not like past.  Life is tough.

My sentiment after the interview:

WTF.  What’s up with this suffocating air?!?!  ME NO LIKE THIS Even if Sam**ng offers me a job, I don’t want to go there.  I’m going to do everything I can to get a job in America.  If America scores -10 in this recession, South Korea scores -20.  Jesus.

Some highlights of the interview:

First, I hated how the interviewers kept using broken English in really unnecessary moments.  It annoyed me so much.  If you want to use English, then just speak in English from the beginning, for god’s sake.

Interviewer 1: nae gah CONCERN de nun gun…(=What I’m concerned about is…)

He repeated this phrase for more than 4-5 times.  Exactly same phrase, over and over.  So annoying.

Interviewer 2: CONSENSUS ruel ga jyo ya haji anketsoyo? (= don’t we need to have a consensus?)

This is something you can express in Korean, just fine.  Why do you have to use some dead English vocab and overuse it?  Does that make them look smart? Or, do they have so much sense of inferiority so they have to camouflage it in this way?

Now comes the best part.

Interviewer 1: You haven’t written any research papers yet?

Thing is, I sent several beforehand at their request.

Me: Oh, I sent it and it should be there…

And, in the paper, you write the author’s name.  Below the name goes address.  For example:

John Smith — my professor
123 ABC avenue
San Martino, CA (I don’t live in San Martino. Just for the sake of example)

 Interviewer 1: I see the paper written with San Martino, but not with your professor.
I: (at loss of words.  But I did my best to answer politely) Um, it’s written on the paper.
Interviewer 2: Yeah, John Smith, written above there.

Interviewer 1 doesn’t even know which is first name and which is last name.  Then he started all this bullshit excuse.

Sam**ng is so-called the best company in South Korea.  And this guy is in charge of international recruiting.  I don’t understand.  Shouldn’t he know which is name and which is address, at least?

And they have no concept of job description.  I asked over and over, before and during and after the interview, about the opening’s field and work.  Their answer? “we don’t have such a thing.”  WTF?! Then how an earth can you evaluate people and what’s the point of interview?

Seriously, Sam**ng – is this all you got?  I am beyond disappointed.  For a starter, do something with people in charge of international recruiting.  All American companies I interviewed with asked my availability first, and then we worked together to get the best time. Sam**ng just notified me the interview time, without asking me.  Just one email with dates.  It was impossible schedule for me, so I asked whether it’s possible to move the interview to some other dates.  They simply answered “no.”

Their basic mindset is this: shut up, just be thankful that you are given a chance to have an interview with usOf course you have to adjust your schedule for us.  Isn’t that obvious?

Everyone knows how Sam**ng thinks its employees as parts of machine.  My experience confirms it.  No wonder why all those employees quit within 1-2 years.

[Translation] After an Interview with Korean Company

Wall

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I always feel as if I am talking to a wall whenever I “talk” with my dad.  We are a pair of parallel lines.  I think I already wrote this for a million times – how he wants me to explain something, to have a “conversation,” or asks me about my thoughts; and how I state my thoughts; and him picking on me, usually saying how my way of talking doesn’t suit his preference, or how I am being rude.  Then I try to explain.  Then again he thinks I’m rebelling or something (I’m too old to be a ‘rebel.’ Please.).

If you have been reading my blog (thank you), you know what my culture-conscious solution is.  I just zip my mouth, say yes to whatever.  Then the household peace is realized.  My dad complains about it, saying how I don’t share stuff with him.  I don’t intend to do it, at least for a while.  Because, if I do so, there are things he doesn’t know, which leads me having to explain.  And if I do the “explaining…” you know what will happen (for the reference, read the earlier paragraph).

Here’s what really put me off.  He wasn’t the kind of dad who calls/e-mails his kid frequently, unlike some parents who sent their kids to boarding school.  Not even once I envied them or upset at my dad.  I didn’t get into any trouble.  I managed my daily life.  I did better than average.  All was good, without him directly intervening.

Then, all of sudden, after I moved in with my family, he complains how I don’t share stuff, and tries to execute authority on me.  If I were still a teenager, sure, I understand.  But I’m well over the legal adult age.  I have work experience.  His experience and my experience are two completely different thing.  I respect that.  He doesn’t seem so.  How can you share something and understand each other, unless both parties respect each other, and recognize they are different?

Long story short, here’s what happened today:

While I was busting my brain with LSAT and applications, he said maybe it’s a good idea to take a course in accounting, or finance whenever I’m free.  I agreed, and looked up for some courses.  It turns out all hagwons I could find were either for government certification exam, or using Korean SW (which, of course, is not used in countries other than South Korea).  What I wanted was a general intro class.  I felt exam prep courses are too serious for me, and learning only some Korean finance SW seems to be too limited and waste of money.

Then, I heard that though getting a job in the States might be tough, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan can be different story.  As someone going for an occupational school and dying to secure employment in international Asian places out of South Korea after graduation, I thought learning Chinese can be a good option.

After weighing my options, I went for Chinese.  Yes, learning about accounting and finance is very helpful.  However, it’s not my immediate need, and it is less related to my goal.  Besides, I couldn’t find any courses that suit my needs.  If I get a job and luckily start to build my career, the finance/accounting knowledge will be handy only then.  Maybe I will be in MBA.  Who knows.  I’ll need them if I happened to specialize in tax/financial law.  But that ‘s not going to happen soon – I’ll be one of those pathetic 1Ls who are just struggling to stay afloat.  What I know is, it all starts AFTER I graduate and get a job.  And for now, my priority goal is to get a job in international Asian places.  I will have a bit more edge in the market with foreign language skill (which, by the way, I already speak two).

I was talking with my mom about potential Chinese courses.  All of sudden, my dad called me to come to his room.  Ooops, not a good sign, here it goes again.  Clearly he wasn’t too happy about my decision.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he said “are you not respecting what I said?”  He didn’t.  Instead, he kept going on, trying to convince me that I need to take finance courses.

Math is all about logics.  Wouldn’t you need it for case analysis and such? Wouldn’t you need it since you are going to law school? Like, case analysis, tax laws, and business law.”

– Er, well, pre-law courses I’m looking at are much more directly related (and if academic math is that helpful, I honestly think it would be better to go to academic math hagwon instead of accounting hagwon…obviously I didn’t say this out loud).  And, all that tax and business specialization happens after 1st year.  1st year, you just take common subjects and none of them are finance related.  I’m not even in school yet.  I don’t know what I’m going to specialize in, and I think taking finance and accounting courses then will be far much more useful.  I’m going to take Chinese courses, because there seems to be much more job openings in places under Chinese influence.  And that’s my priority at the moment.

What about the speech courses?
– It’s only about 8-10 sessions, once in a week and I can get discount.  I can do it while taking pre-law courses.

As you can imagine, he started to preach about my way of talking.  Dear God.  How I just cut in, make him uncomfortable as if I am teaching something, how listening improves the mood, etc.  If I need a speech class for that sense, he needs to be in it, too.  His speech is flying everywhere, so many times my mom and I have to “what ? wait what? what’s your point?”  And he cuts in all the time.  And he preaches.  I guess it’s okay when HE cuts in and not listen, but I can’t cut him in and not listen.  Another thing that puts me off.  Why does he keep pointing fingers at me, especially on things he knows no better than I do?

He concluded saying “I know less than you do in this field.  But I’m uncomfortable to ask because you just pour it out, as if you look down on me.”

Honestly, I’m satisfied with it.  If he really want my answer or explanation on something he doesn’t know, it’s him who needs to start to listen and not cut in.  From the beginning, I have had no intention to “look down” on my dad.  It’s him who feels that way – like hundreds of other Korean men.  Few days ago, I read an article by a chef and a high-end restaurant owner.  They all agreed how Koreans get angry whenever someone tries to correct/teach the proper table manner with good intention.  Quoting from them: “it’s the inferiority complex.  For some reason, not knowing and someone merely pointing it out is translated to ‘oh, right, this guy is slighting me!'”

I do pour it out and I do cut in my dad.  Why? I usually spend a lot of time thinking through, and usually have my answers ready when someone asks for my reasoning behind certain decision.  And I don’t want to have a long conversation with someone who regards my statements and reasonings as “being impolite.”  I guess it’s kind of “you asked, here’s your answer, done.”  I don’t want any nonsense stuff raining on me just because of someone’s authority.

If he knows that I know a bit better, than maybe it’s better to leave me to handle this.  After all, it’s my burden and it’s something I can’t just pass to others.

I wonder when he would accept that his world and my world are completely different, have even a minimum understanding of why I act “impolite,” and stop rubbing his values in my face.

Why is it me always have to say sorry?

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You’ve probably heard stories about Asian dad.  Though exaggerated, it does have some grain of truth.  Tell me about it, because I am living with one, and I bet you know some of the past troubles if you’ve been reading my blog.  Sure, he’s not the worst and he’s doing his best.  But what drives me absolutely crazy is that…there’s no “communication.”   He says it’s conversation/communication.  Well, not really.  It’s more like him lecturing. 
Tomorrow’s my big day.  So I prepared everything and planned what I will to today before going to sleep.  My parents know it is my big day.  I will be fu*king anxious and touchy for all day (and, readers, it will be easy to infer that I will go nuts if something doesn’t go like my plan.  We all do, no?)  It will be a long day tomorrow, meaning I will need a nice snack.  There’s a particular bread that I know which would be a good snack for a day like tomorrow, so I bought one and came back home. 
What if my dad eats it away, like he always does?
The thought has occurred, but I soon thought, naaah.  He knows it’s my big day tomorrow.  He really wouldn’t think it is coincidence that there is a single loaf of small chubby bread with potato fillings on the table, from a store that is not near from our home.  He knows better.  Besides, after doing the same thing over and over, he developed a habit of asking “okay to eat this?”  Yeah, it will be alright.
As I was preparing my early dinner, my dad came.  So we ate together.  He didn’t ask for more food.  Usually, he goes to his room or watch TV after dinner.  That’s what I expected. 

I dropped by my room to check my materials for tomorrow.  I came out, and could not believe my eyes.  The bread bag opened, my dad munching a good half of the bread away in one bite, saying “this is greasy.  Ew.”  You can imagine how I got really flipped.  Or how my face would have been turned white.
“Why would you eat that!?  It’s my meal for tomorrow!  You know what’s coming up!”
My dad looked like a bit startled, and said he will get another one, but I really did not care.  He can’t tell the difference between bread shops nor where’s the place.  Or what kind.  I was pissed, and all I could do was wishing that the bread store is still open, and the bread I got is still there (it’s Saturday and breads are sold out quickly on Friday and Saturday).  I just slammed the door and ran out. 

 Fortunately, I was able to get the breads.  While I was angry because of his thoughtlessness, I knew it would be better to not to make a big deal about it (it’s hard to stay calm and relaxed before big day, and that was my primary aim for today – to stay calm and go to bed in a relatively good mood).  Alright, if he’s there, I’ll just joke about it or keep myself quiet.’
He was in his room, so I thought “right, no big deal, I’ll just play some game and watch TV and go to bed.”  He came out from his room, as if he is going somewhere.  All of sudden, he said to me, “don’t you think you have something to say?”
Oh no.  You got to be kidding. 

According to the Asian rules of indirect communication, that is roughly translated as “you did something bad and you’d better apologize for it.”  But hey, here’s my question.  One, though I was pissed and it affected my mood control before big day, is it really that much of a big deal?  Two, if this really is a something to decide guilt and innocence, is it my bad?  For both questions, my answer is no.  In addition, it is my big big day tomorrow.  And he’s picking on a fight.  Fuc* me.
I simply said (speaking in honorifics), “look, I got the breads again, so it’s all sorted out.”
Guess what his response was: “Oh, so it’s just that simple, huh?”
I was like OMFG LEAVE ME ALREADY ALONE YOU ALREADY SCREWED MY MOOD CONTROL BEFORE MY BIG DAY but of course, instead of saying it, I said, “Yes, indeed.”  He left.
I mean, is it really a big deal though I’m not too happy about the incidence?  Does he want to set his “authority” that badly?  Even before his daughter’s big day, in a situation like Eminem’s Lose Yourself lyric?  (“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow”).  So as you can see, I ended up blogging because I needed a release.
Honestly, it’s not just my problem.  A Korean-American friend of mine once told me: her parents would just break into her room without knocking.  That part is understandable.  Well, but whenever she’s startled by this sudden break-in, somehow, SHE has to apologize for nothing.  She’s not on drug or sneaking some boys in.  It’s not a big deal, but if someone has to apologize for this situation, it really should be her parents.  But somehow, she ends up apologizing.  It drives her nuts.
Another Korean-American friend of mine has a lot of similar stories with me regarding his dad.  He understands his dad isn’t the bad guy and he is doing what he can.  BUT still, it irritates him whenever his dad goes “we need to talk,” but really he means “I will give you a long lecture and you don’t dare to speak back to me.”  So, my friend found a nice solution, just like mine: whenever his dad says something , he just shuts and say “oh, yes, you are right, I’m sorry.  All good?” 
Dad might get some authority and keeping of his face and no-talking kids, but not a communication.  So Asian dads, don’t ever complain about how your kids are shutting you away and you feel isolated from the family as time goes by.

Maybe I Should’ve Gotten an English Name.

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Unlike most Korean-American or Korean students in English-speaking country, I don’t have English name – like Sarah Lee, Jay Kim, and so on.  Sure, there was a time when I wanted one, because it looked fancy.  But then, for some reason, all the names I wanted to take were already taken by someone around me.  My name isn’t too hard to pronounce compared to many other Korean names, though I have to admit it’s always my name when DMV or local city hall admins screw up.  It worked fine in Japan, too (which I have to thank my grandfather, who named me).

Ironically, ever since I came back to South Korea, I start to think maybe I should’ve gotten an English name.  It seems like no matter how I “hint” or directly say to people that I grew up in the United States, not in California, New York or New Jersey where there are loads of Korean population, people don’t understand my upbringing, or why I behave in such a way.

I’ve ranted on my blog many times.  I don’t deny that I am Korean.  All I’ve been saying is that I grew up away from Korea, so please don’t frown upon me if I make a mistake.  It’s just that I don’t know and not used to, like blue-eyed foreigners they love.  But, for them, I HAVE to be 100% Korean.  After all, I look like Korean, with small eyes and dark hair, have Korean name, do not have foreign citizenship, have Korean parents, and – lo and behold – she speaks damn fine Korean, knowing the pop culture references and slangs!  Of course she HAS to be 100% Korean, just like us!

So while other foreigners are excused from dreadful, soju-bomb exploding 3-hours-long hweshik (roughly translated as “social drinking,” which is the most important ritual in Korean business culture – google it and you’ll get some idea), I have to go because I am “Korean.”

When other foreigners say they don’t want to join the forced drinking because of their personal preference/health/religion, they are fine.  When I say I can’t join the forced shot drinking because my body doesn’t process alcohol well and often causes 2-weeks-long rash all over my body, they think I’m either exaggerating or lying to get out, or being really rude.

When other foreigners say “I think this can be a problem,” they listen.  Or at least they pretend to listen.  When I say “I think this can be a problem,” all of sudden I’m a brat.

Here’s something I go through on a daily basis.  Few days ago, I was at my friend’s party.  There were some Korean guys on my table.  Naturally, we introduced each other and started talking (in Korean).

Guy 1: So where are you from?  Are you Korean American?
Me: I’m Korean but I grew up in States.
Guy2: Okay, so when did you go to the States?
Me: 13.
Guy1: Oh wow. But you speak really good Korean?
Me: Haha…well my parents are Korean?  And I came and go all the time?

Then another guy made some kind of joke with Korean pop reference.  Of course I understood so I laughed.  Then the guy looked pretty surprised.

Guy1: Oh so you know XXX? (The reference)
Me: well, yeah.
Guys: Oh then you are like full Korean!  Okay, we’re not worried then.

I don’t even try anymore.  It’s quiet common to see major newspaper articles here saying “this foreign person eats Kimchi well!!  He/She can take hot peppers too and soju!  With Korean spouse!  He/She is pure Korean!”

I wish the world is that simple.

Back to the name business,  sometimes I think if I had an English name, maybe it could have been worked as a convenient shield for me.  Upon me saying “hello, my name is Grace Lee” or something of that, then locals here would feel me more “foreign” and grant me more space and time.  Or, maybe it would’ve been better if I spoke far worse Korean than now.  Then I don’t even have to try.

If only people can understand how it’s okay for someone to be less than 100% Korean – or be a bit different from the rest.

I Blame It on the Magnesium Powder

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I know there are so much more pressure on women’s look in South Korea than Midwestern America (where I grew up), and I also know the place of my residence is known as the mecca of plastic surgery in the entire South Korea.  But still, I had too much trouble with my parents because of this.

My mom just wouldn’t stop talking about my looks.  When I was working in the office, she kept going on and on and on and on about how I look fat and unattractive.  I said my BMI index is fine.   Of course this didn’t stop her.  Fortunately, she became aware of my LSAT stress and the effect of it (= losing weight) so she stopped talking about it.  Then another issue came up – clothing.

As someone grew up in Midwestern America, I really don’t care much about clothing, unless I am going some kind of social or formal occasion.  As long as I  wear something that is not embarrassing and appropriate of the time, place and occasion, that’s it.  For other times, I should be able to wear whatever I want, and people shouldn’t give a damn about it either – especially when I am going to spend next 5 hours sitting in the library, struggling with LSAT questions. Think about it – do you want to wear fluffy spring maxi dress with toe-tightening shoes when you know you’ll have to walk with a heavy backpack and sit down for more than 4 hours?  I know I don’t.

But she thought differently.  And she just can’t say it in a nice way either.

In addition, she’d always say how I need to get a plastic surgery on here and there.  Unfortunately, my stress resistance gauge was already at its peak, all thanks to LSAT.  For several times, I said to her without getting upset, that all I am focusing now is LSAT and such, so it would be very nice if she can at least tone it down.  She said yes.  But again, of course, she wouldn’t listen.  She listened to me only after I screamed and cried and threw stuff around.  Then she accused me how I did not tell her beforehand.  Oh gawd.

I don’t want to be a drama queen – the thing is, she’d listen only when I become a drama queen.

Then there’s my dad.

I know I blogged a lot about my dad.  Since then, I think he figured out how to keep a safe distance from me, which is really nice.  But then, he’s still awkward.  One day, I suspect my mom talked him about how stressed out I am (and thus behaved like a drama queen…*facepalm* if only she did not mention about clothing/plastic surgery again!!!)  Then all of sudden, he started to get my backpack, and give me random neck massage.  Uh, thanks, but really this is awkward, and it wouldn’t magically make you a caring dad, so the best way is just let me be and give a bit of moral support.  That will do.

I was on my way to the local department store, and ran into my dad.  We said hi and all.  Then all of sudden, he started to mention how I should keep my upper and lower teeth together – because I’m not doing it, and it makes me look like an idiot.  Oh thank you very much for your kind words.

I have been loosened my jaws intentionally, ever since the oriental medicine doctor (for non-Asian readers: in many parts of Asian countries, oriental medicine doctors ARE formally educated medical doctors with PhD, managed by governments) told me I put too much pressure on my jaws by tightening up way too much – all that anxiety, tensions and stress.  Not only this affect my blood circulation, but it also made their treatment difficult – they couldn’t get the acupuncture needle in my jaws.

So I explained this.  Then my dad told me how he doesn’t trust them and he knows better.  I had enough comments about my looks from my own parents.  I was annoyed. Making the matter worse, my mom was helping him along.

“Mom, dad, seriously, can we just stop talking about me?!?!”

Then my dad got upset because I “talked back,” and behaved in a rude way (I can’t really recall – as he started this, I really didn’t give a flying f*ck, thinking ‘here it goes again…’).

Here’s the funny thing.  Though I have that problems with my mom, I somewhat understand her.  You can tell she really cares about looks and such.  But my dad isnt’ as sophisticated as my mom.   He never ever helps with the house chore – he thinks as long as he dumps the bowls in the sink (without filling the water), he gets a big pat on his shoulder.  He’d simply command “hey, you need to wipe the table” and walks away into his room.  He never ever answers the home phone.  He doesn’t even know how to make a tea out of teabag and a cup of hot water (I still can’t believe this).

He can’t keep his clothing together with time/place/occasion, nor social.  His table manner isn’t great either (for this I am grateful to my mom) – he’d goggle with the water after we finish eating, he frequently makes sound when chewing, and he would jab his spoons into pretty much everything on the table.   My mom or I would comment on this once in a while, but he never takes it seriously.  I guess, for these reasons, sometimes it’s hard to take his “advice.”  I can’t help myself thinking “so you are advising me on right clothing/posture/behavior while you can’t even dress properly or keep up with the table manner?”  He admires the western lifestyle.  At the same time, he can’t take his daughter who integrated the western lifestyle.  Once, as we were watching some travel TV program on Belgium, he said “they have a lot more relaxed lifestyle than us.  I think I will fit in there.”  I almost laughed – you never know what it takes to be in the world of individualism, especially being prepared to cover your own butt for every situations.

Thinking about bringing my future fiance to my family dinner scares me because of this.  If we have dinner at some restaurant, my dad won’t be natural at all, never enjoying it.  He’d think it as a work, not as an enjoyable meal.  If we bring him to our family dinner, then my future fiance will have to see my dad absolutely not keeping up with the table manner.  Marrying off without notifying my parents is a really convincing option to me at this point.

I understand the parental care and love and all that stuff.  But why can’t they just listen to me and give me some credit when I talk them nicely?  Why only listen to be after I end up screaming like a drama queen? All I remember as a reply when I talk nicely was “shut up,” “you don’t know better,” “you’re crazy.” (which, by the way, would worked better if I were 5.  But I am well over the legal age!) If you want someone to change something about them, you need to ask nicely.

For instance, you think your friend is wearing a bra that’s not for her, and you want her to change.  There are two ways you can say.

“You need to get a new bra, because-“
1. you look like an old crackwhore in it.
2. your bra will affect your blood circulation negatively.

It’s pretty obvious which would work better.  However, for some reason, my parents always go for #1.  And they think while they can’t do #1 to others, to me it’s okay, because they are parents and I’m their daughter.  For the same reason, I can’t do #1. I really don’t know why.

Since they never ever give any credit to what I say, maybe I should blame everything on how I forgot to have my magnesium drink.  That’s right, I’ve been so stressed out, so I started to drink the magnesium supplement powder called the Natural Calm, which seems to work.  And I forgot to drink it today. All my fault.

Living in the World They’ve Never Experienced

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A friend of mine – let’s just call her Jane – is a so-called “international student” in America, working on her MA and PhD degree at U-Penn.  Recently she finished her MA and went back to America to work on her PhD.  As Jane’s mom drover her to the airport, they started chatting.  The topic soon went to her MA graduation:

Jane’s Mom: You see, the professors’ gowns were really pretty.  I guess Harvard is actually a better school than Columbia or U-Penn, indeed.  Like, the Columbia and U-Penn gowns were all strange blue and not as pretty as I thought.

Then Jane started to cry, saying

Jane: What, are you ashamed of me because I went to U-Penn, not THE Harvard?  Did you want me to go to better school?  I could have gone to Harvard, and I picked U-Penn because you talked about tuition all the time!!!

Her mom is not very sure what she did wrong (or, I suspect she thinks her daughter is being sensitive).

As someone who went to boarding school away from parents for many years, I can totally see why Jane was so hurt.  Living away from family and going to school bring lot of stress.  All the other kids can just call up their parents, and they will be there in a day or so.  Not us, though.  Our family is 13+ hour flight away from school, so you are pretty much on your own.  There’s no safety net and we know it.  On the top of that, non-citizens constantly have to update and care about all the regulations and stuff, especially because it is getting so much tighter and tighter (all thanks to Bush and Islamic extremists – go to hell, all of you).  Of course the local kids don’t have that.  After all it’s their country.  This goes on every single day.

On the top of that, the Korean culture is all about connecting their kids’ school name with keeping the family’s face up, and indirect communication.  Parents complimenting or supporting their kids’ choice is scarce, when compared to western countries.  I don’t know for how long my mom pestered me for not going well-known (in Korea) Ivy schools and choosing a lesser-known (in Korea), mid-sized college.  I had to repeat that I want to be where I like for four long years, and I want to do what I want in college.  Well, if it worked at one shot, I didn’t have to repeat myself, right? And honestly, I can’t really think of times when my mom complimented me.  I can think of so many times of her screaming at me, though.  Which I will blog in detail later on…

Long story short, parents, please keep in mind that your kids know how Korean culture is all about school names and keeping up to the family expectation.  And also do keep in mind your kids are living in a world that you have never experienced and will never know every day, with great amount of stress, knowing that they don’t have safety net like other kids around them.  Please do not think they are all fine.  Just let them be and let them relax in peace.