Yes, Chuseok was like back in September. I know, I know…I’m seriously behind and my blog is seriously out of order. Moving on!
I was very lucky the first year I came to Korea to be invited by my co-teacher to her family’s Chuseok at her home. This year, however, I work in a new school and my co-teachers (while nice) are not the motherly type and I was not expecting invitations from them. So, I really did not make any plans except for my boyfriend’s side comment that it might be a good idea to join his family for Chuseok. I kind of pushed it aside because I think he mentioned it before he even asked his parents.
Come September though, I found out he was serious. Let me give some information for those of you not in Korea. When it comes to relationships, meeting the parents is a very significant thing; it means it’s a serious relationship. It’s even more significant for the guy to let his parents meet his girlfriend. (While still fairly significant, it’s not as serious for a girl to let her parents meet her boyfriend.) Also, meeting a boyfriend’s mother is a pretty notorious event because if she doesn’t like the girlfriend, most likely the relationship will not work. (Talk about pressure!) Meeting and joining the boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s family for a family holiday is EVEN MORE significant. (An even more additional stress is if the boy is the eldest son…which is Hyun-oo.) All of this equalled the situation I was faced with in meeting his parents. It was one of the most nerve-wracking days ever.
First of all, I didn’t go empty-handed. Gifts are always important! So I went shopping and ended up deciding on a ginseng drink gift set. I also brought a box of ginseng chocolate from Malaysia…which I had bought for this potential meeting. (Ginseng is ever-praised for its health benefits here even though it tastes DISGUSTING. LOL).
As far as meeting his parents, there was obviously a huge language barrier. Hyun-oo did his best to reassure me that his parents were open-minded and that it would be okay. That said–my Korean study skills had been limited to reading and writing and a limited/random vocabulary base. On top of my lack of vocabulary, the words I could say were not impressive with a bad accent and bad pronunciation. Sitting there and smiling was my strategy with a few questions/answers translated by my boyfriend.
As far as the holiday itself, I did not join them for any important ceremonies or anything like that. I joined them for the last evening of Chuseok for a home-made dinner. His mom had asked Hyun-oo in advance what kind of food I liked and that’s the food they made. (His dad cooked 삼겹살 samgyeopsal, which is like pig ribs, and his mom made 김치찌개 kimchi soup, rice, and some other side dishes.) Prior to coming over, his parents had requested that I stay the night. Hyun-oo also offered to drive me back to Gumi if I was really uncomfortable. I thought the dinner and evening went well, so I slept in their spare bedroom. (Korean traditional style bed equals NO BED but a mat….except I didn’t get a mat either; I had a pillow, a thin blanket between me and floor and a thicker blanket on top.) In the morning, I got up and joined Hyun-oo and his parents for breakfast. It was last nights left-overs and it was delicious!
All in all, it went over really well. They want to learn some English and they really want me to learn Korean. They wish they could have spoken to me more, but I made a good impression on them. I didn’t mind the not talking part because it’s pretty normal for me now; I’m constantly surrounded by people that I don’t understand and I rarely speak aloud (in a genuine conversation) for more than an hour or two on a daily basis. His parents were very nice and his mom seems genuinely sweet (she’s the one least keen on Hyun-oo dating a foreigner). I think the biggest thing for me, though, was accepting that meeting his parents signified that our relationship was serious. I think it was a pretty big step for us, considering we had barely celebrated our 100 day anniversary.