Thursday, June 17, 2004

American vs. Korean Differences


In the chaos of the past couple weeks, I did something that I should have done a long time ago, but never had the time or initiative. I got my daughter registered as an American, and started the visa process for my wife.

First let me talk about my daughter. Everything was fine. It is an expensive paperwork process, but not too burdensome from the out set. One of the larger hurdles is that both parents, and the child, have to physically be there. Things were just fine, until they told me, "Do you have five years proof of residence in the United States?". I said, "Um, er, I like Hot Dogs?". As you can imagine this question has an immediate metaphysical implication. How can you prove you actually exist, let alone in a particular place in time? In any case the answer according to the US government is school transcripts.

(The reason for the law by the way is to prevent people simply born in the US from making citizens abroad. My wife asks why it is so complex, and I tell her because some people abuse the system. I can't imagine how any of this is a problem in Korea.)

I also got the information on how to get my wife a visa, a really long and cumbersome process. I will say this; anybody who goes through all the requirements to get an immigrant visa qualifies by their sure force of courage alone. This did however get me thinking on one of the bigger questions that always existed in the back of my mind, "What will be my wife's biggest problem in adjusting to life in America?"

I thought of our current situation. I also thought about other things relating to that and Korean society. Then I had the most dramatic backdrop for the answer I concocted, the death and funeral of Ronald Reagan. The hardest part I think my wife will have in adjusting to America is our optimism.

I often half joke that Koreans love to get together and rail on how the world is against them. Even in the modern popular telling of Korean history it is all about how bad everything is that happened to them. There is little talk of the pluck, good fortune, and realpoltik, which played a role in Korea's independence in the face of larger powers for so long.

Even on an individual basis the problem is puzzling to me as an American. My wife worries about the business and our corresponding financial future. From what I can gather, the only things my mother-in-law and sister-in-law talk about with my wife is how horrible their lives are and how its never going to change (either that, or how horrible I am, and how she needs to change or leave me!).

All this eventual gets dumped on me obviously. However I take the American/western approach to it all. I a cliched way, I count my blessings, become thankful for what I got in life so far, and look forward to a new day tomorrow. All three of these seem directly in conflict with Korean culture. Why I am not a religious scholar I wonder if the dominate religions are related. My wife's/Korea's Buddhism sees everything as a curse (including the money to theoretically make everything better), while my Catholicism sees everything as a gift from God.

Even in the prose of Cathartidae you see the signs of life I am talking about. He talks about how thankful he is for his girlfriend. He also talks about what is "next", not "how will I go on in life".

My wife tells me I am always overly optimistic. Admittedly this is true even by American standards. However I wonder how she is going to react being around so many people that look forward to tomorrow, chance to forget yesterday, and start anew.

posted Thursday, 17 June 2004

A visitor made this comment,
convert your wife


comment added :: 18th June 2004, 06:41 GMT+09
Joseph Steinberg made this comment,
Sorry to hear about your misfortune---althouigh I am curious to know just what Korean dynamic justifies your wife's family's actions. More and more its the family stuff that becomes interesting and the politics is just a snore.
comment added :: 19th June 2004, 12:54 GMT+09
A visitor made this comment,
Infidel> The short version of it, and I did not find this out until AFTER the wedding, is that all female members of the family do not like me. Which is a bit puzzling in the case of the sister-in-laws (one, the money-grubber, even wants to marry a forgiener, sugar daddies apply now!).

I know one of the reasons, is that I am not too keen on doing the traditional Korean "in-law" things. However one reason why I do not is because it is a rather one-sided affair. I mentioned once that when I do say "Anyounghasaeo" to my mother-in-law (after she rather rudely in my opinion invades my home) all I get is a grunt (which is disrepectful to me in my opinion). On the other hand, I am expected to give an allowance to my sister-in-laws, then again they never have done sister-in-law things to me (hell they dont even give things to me with two hands even though I am older) because I am a westrener.

To get back to the mother, I know a fundemental reason is simply, I am not Korean. She wanted the "Korean dream" for her daughter (she stays at home and makes me Kimchi as I labor at a chaebol for the rest of my life). She is horrified that not only am I westrener, but also I care for my child (badly in her opinion), cook meals (unhealthy westren food at that), and do not give her daughter a regular juicy paycheck every month (we both want to work, and even take risks).

On a more funny note, when my mother-in-law was arguing with my wife about marrying me, she infered that because I am overweight, I have a small penis. Now this is funny on many levels. However what I find the funniest is the logic of it all. If I loose weight, will my penis actualy grow bigger? If this is all true, are all should we call skinny midgets "tripod"?


comment added :: 19th June 2004, 15:27 GMT+09
A visitor made this comment,
Drambuie - geez, hearing stories like that totally destroys my interest in east asian women. but while i really empathize with your situation, shouldn't your wife have told you about her in-laws feelings before the wedding so that maybe some of this could have been avoided? maybe im being a bit hard on her, but it does seem that she wasn't being very forthcoming by hiding her family's deep hatred (racial hatred even!) for you. even if that was done out of 100% benign motives, if it was me, i would be somewhat annoyed to learn the "secret."

and asians have no right to make fun of penis size

iriquois_warrior []

comment added :: 20th June 2004, 07:34 GMT+09
A visitor made this comment,
I found this blog encouraging - I could also go on with the 'Once I built a railroad' type of sad story...but reading a blog like this helps me to move on.
P.S. what is the name of your bar? I'm a little curious, since I ALSO used to own a bar in Hongdae (man, I thought I was the only one)

been there,done that []

comment added :: 20th June 2004, 11:25 GMT+09
A visitor made this comment,
iriquois> To be fair, I expected it in a way. However the intensity of it all was a bit of shock. Also the level of animosity from her sisters is especialy surprsing, given their westren outlook. They are beging to remind me (as much is beging to) the old protest sign, "Yankee go home, and take me with you!".

That all said, I don't feel "fooled". I did expect some of this.

CrazyKong> Do a search for "Hubble Bubble" you can find a map. I am not there though, and the place has taken a turn for the worse under my sister-in-laws management IMHO. If you want to meet, and compare notes, drop me an email at

Drambuie_man []

comment added :: 20th June 2004, 12:47 GMT+09