International Couples: What Sets Us Apart

These days you can find so many good resources for international couples, marriage, child-rearing, visas, etc. It wasn’t always like this. It used to be if you typed in something like ‘korean husband’ into Google you would come up with a porn sites or racist blogs. These days you are much more likely to encounter blogs and YouTube channels featuring real-life international couples and find out what they have to say on a large variety of subjects. This blog will not be focusing so much on those things just because they are so well-covered elsewhere. (See the Resources page).

That said, I wanted to write about the few areas where me and my husband Chansik (찬식, pronounced ch-ahn-shi-g/k) differ from most of the interracial/international couples you might encounter in an effort to not only broaden people’s perspectives and awareness but also to include some of those who felt that they ‘didn’t fit it’ with other international couples.

This post will focus on Korean with Westerner marriage but some points will no doubt apply to other international couples or even just people living in Korea in general. I also want to to stress that this is one couple’s point of view, not a set of facts or a guideline on how to conduct your own life/marriage. My husband read this blog before I published it and is in full agreement with it, so while these are my words you can consider the opinions expressed here as coming from both of us. 

Eating 호떡 (hodduk)

One of the major ways in which my husband and I differ from other couples is that I am disabled. Not only am I disabled, but I am invisibly disabled. You would not know I was sick unless I told you. Sometimes this works in my favor and other times it does not. But more on that in another blog post.

Since I am disabled I am unable to maintain a job. I have plenty of good days where I can function semi-normally, but my health is never consistent so I never know when I might be stuck in bed for a day or even a month. This is the main reason I am a housewife and while I have always loved domestic pursuits I still feel that my health prevents me from even doing those as well and as fully as I’d like.

While my disabled status makes my Chansik the sole financial supporter of our little family, my job as housewife means that I can make his home life comfortable and as stress-free as possible. He has a few house chores that he is in charge of but otherwise I do everything from cleaning the toilets to buying the groceries. As my Korean improves I can continue to take on more tasks and do things without as much aid from my husband.

Also, if you’ve read my page on chronic illness you know that Chansik, his mother and I also have the special bond of having all been through liver transplants. You don’t meet a couple like that, everyday!

Another thing that is a bit different about us is that we not only met in Korea but we’ve stayed in Korea. We have never tried to live in the USA (my home country) for many reasons but the main reason is probably another thing that sets us apart: we both prefer living in Korea. While I miss my family and friends, I don’t really miss actually living in America. I want to be clear, though, that I do not dislike America. I’m proud to be American and am so grateful for everything America has and is giving me.  Plus, social media makes it so easy to stay in touch with people back home that I don’t often feel like we’re that far apart, anyway.

Our living in Korea also means that our marriage takes on more of a ‘Korean style’ if you will. I plan to do a blog about just this subject. American culture, food, media, fashion, etc. rarely comes in to play in our marriage. We by no means try to exclude those things. On the contrary we try to bring them in a bit more often. However, our day-to-day lives are mostly like that of a Korean couple. We watch Korean television, listen to Korean music, shop Korean brands, eat Korean food (especially foods like live squid, steamed pupae and blood sausage that most foreigners and even some Koreans don’t like), and enjoy activities such as going to the public bath house (찜질방/목욕탕), singing old Korean songs in a karaoke room called noraebang (노래방), eating fish cakes at street tent or shopping at traditional markets. I preferred to do these things before I even met my husband so there was never a time when our cultures clashed in this respect (though there are other places where they have, such as work schedules and holiday celebrations).

And lastly, Chansik and I are both children of divorce and at around the same age. We both had a younger sibling of the same gender as each of us, respectively, that we helped through the divorces. Now, we each have one parent who has remarried and therefore have stepparents. I believe that some of that background and changing family dynamic that my husband and I share accounts for us having similar outlooks on life and, in particular, marriage.

So, those are some of the things that come to mind as being somewhat unique about us among  other interracial/international couples. All that said, we have so much in common with other couples that we are always interested in their stories and find we get along with most of them very well because of those similarities. I also think it’s important that we have those connections (particularly other couples of the Western girl/Korean guy dynamic) because they can be a big support when marriage gets tough. I’m really glad that my husband has friends he can go to who can truly empathize with him and I’m grateful I have lady friends who can also empathize with me.

Thanks for reading!

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