Friday, July 19, 2013

Korean-Style Dating

I have been in Korea for just about two years. Where does the time go?! It's been a whirlwind that has, at times, caught me by surprise and left me wounded, but has exhilarated and excited me at other times.

I'm still in Korea ... and honestly, I don't know when I'll be moving away (which my mother hates to hear me say). I like it here, and, more importantly, I've adjusted to the point where I'm very comfortable here. It's different from the comfort I have in LA; neither is better or worse, just different.

Anyway. The point of this post was to talk about the hilarity of Korean dating. Not me dating Koreans, that would be a different kind of hilarity altogether; this is about two Koreans that I know that are dating.

The girl, a good friend of mine, is a few years younger than me and worked under me during our last film. The boy (the man) was our superior during said project, and is fifteen years older than her.

Now, fifteen years is a big difference, I think, even by lax American standards. It's quite a shocker in Korea, let me tell you. What makes it an even bigger issue is that, though they have both left the company (before admitting to us all that they are dating), he was pretty much at the top of the food chain while she was near the very bottom. It would be like the CEO dating an intern, in America.

What charmed me completely was something I've heard all my life but never really given all that much thought to: titles based on relationships.

While in English, we say brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Koreans have specific titles for specific relationships. For instance, if I were married, my husband would call my younger sister 처제 (cheo-jae) but he would call my older sister 처형 (cheo-hyung). There are, as you can imagine, a plethora of titles. It gets very confusing, but it is fun.

Because I'm better friends with the girl in this couple, I would be called "older sister-in-law" by her boyfriend (they're not married, but they're getting there), even though he's much older than me. Likewise, though his guy friends (and ex-co-workers) are older than her and have teased her and called her by her name for years, they would call her "older sister-in-law"- and actually have started to do that already, albeit in a gently mocking way.

It's such a little thing, really, but it makes me realize that it's these little things that give me a better sense of culture and history. These titles aren't absolutely necessary anymore; they're a holdover from ye olden days and that's what tickles my fancy.

I need to do more research before I can even begin to know all the different titles, but for now, I know what I need to call my friend's boyfriend (제부, jae-bu or jae-boo) and what he needs to call me (처형).

Korea, for now, you charm me.

(This will only last until monsoon season begins in earnest, at which point Korea will be dead to me.)

2 comments:

Seoul Is For Lovers,  July 29, 2013 at 7:27 PM  

Fellow Angeleno-turned-Seoulite! Thank you for the kind comment on my blog. :)

This post cracked me up, especially the last line...blasted monsoon season...

I can't believe it's been two years since you've been in Korea! Too bad we never got a chance to meet...it would have been cool to grab a cup of coffee and talk about our experiences living in Seoul... Anyway, I wish you the best in your remaining time there and can't wait to vicariously explore more of Korea through your blog.

Cheers! :D

jeanny July 31, 2013 at 11:11 PM  

Aww. It really would've been cool to have coffee, but who knows? Maybe next year, in Singapore!

Have a great time and while you live vicariously in Korea through my blog, I'll live vicariously in Singapore (or my tummy will, anyway) through your Instagram! ^_^