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. 

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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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Hangul 한글: The Korean Alphabet

ㅎ ㅏ ㄴ ㄱ ㅡ ㄹ

Hangul 한글=the Korean alphabet

A very brief history:

Hangul (한글) is sometimes written as ‘Hangeul’ and is referred to as Chosun gul (조선글) in North Korea and China. Hangul is the alphabet used almost exclusively in the Korean language with the exception of a few Chinese characters (hanja/한자) used in formal writing.

Hangul was invented by the Korean King Sejong the Great during the Joseon Dynasty (which is where we get the name ‘Chosun gul’/조선글 for Korean) in 1443. It consists of 19 consonants and 21 vowel letters, making it a phonetic alphabet like English. However, unlike English, the vowels and consonants are grouped into blocks to form a syllable. So ㅎ ㅏㄴ becomes 한. Each of the letters was written to mimic the shape of the mouth and tongue when pronouncing it. For example the letter ㄹ makes a combined r/l sound and so looks like a tongue rolling the sound (though there are other reasons besides this that the letters look as they do).

Since Hangul was simple and phonetic it meant that anyone, regardless of status, gender or education could read and write. Gradually, Hangul began to be used more and more and people who had previously been unable to share their thoughts through the written word were given a voice. Ladies-in-waiting wrote court novels based on the secret lives of the royalty they served, a woman could write the genealogy of her family (a job usually undertaken by the male head of the family) a poor peddler could write poetry and a merchant could put forth articles on his political opinion. The creation of Hangul changed history forever.

Some of the combined sounds a Hangul can be a bit challenging but this alphabet is otherwise very simple to learn, which greatly simplifies the language learning process for any student of the language. If you are interested in learning to read and write Hangul, please refer to this following links and/or consult the Resources section of this blog.
Good luck in your studies!

ZKorean’s Guide

PopPopping Korean -a great app I used often in my early days of learning Korean.

This super-helpful comic really helped Hangul to ‘click’ for me.

Talk To Me In Korean‘s video lessons on Hangul

Not perfect on pronunciation but still a great video for making it simple.

Cool educational video

부추 무침 Seasoned Garlic Chives

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부추 무침 (bu-chu-mu-chim)

Seasoned Garlic Chives

This is a quick and easy Korean side dish (반찬) and is, I believe, the first real side dish I made for my husband, Chanshig. The fresh and crisp taste goes especially well with grilled meat.

Notes:
If you are in Asia you will have no trouble finding these chives but if you’re in another country you might have to check your Asian grocer, as you probably will for some of the other ingredients. When I lived in America my Korean teacher grew these herself and always shared her bounty with me, so I learned to make a few dishes with them.

If you are unsure about shopping for some of these ingredients, try copying and pasting the Korean or English name into Google images to get an idea of what kind of package you are looking for. Or, when in doubt, buy online. 

재료 Ingredients:

9oz 부추 Garlic chives

approx. 2 tsp (depending on how spicy you want it) 고춧 가루 Korean red pepper flakes (Note: DO NOT substitute with something else. This is a unique product.) 

1/2 tsp 소금 Salt

1 tsp 다진 마늘 Minced garlic

1 tsp 참기름 Sesame oil (not the toasted kind)

1 tsp 간장 soy sauce

1tsp 멸치액젓 fish sauce/anchovy sauce (make sure it’s the clear kind)

1/2 tsp 깨 toasted sesame seeds

지시 Instructions:

  1. Sort through the chives and discard any wilted ones. Then rinse chives and drain. After the water has been well drained off cut chives into approximately 3 in/6 cm pieces. Put in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Prepare other ingredients and mix together in a small bowl. This is your seasoning.
  3. Put on some plastic gloves and gradually mix in the seasoning with your hands. This is the real Korean way!

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    부추 무침
  4. Before transferring to a container, pick up some of the seasoned chives (while wearing the gloves, of course) and feed by hand to a loved one so they can check the taste. If no one is available, feed to yourself. This is the real Korean way! Again!
  5. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  Note: This only lasts a few days so be sure to eat it up quickly!

 

Let me know if you tried this recipe and what you thought. 맛있게 먹으세요! Eat well!