Before I met my boyfriend’s mom, I thought his endearing timeliness answering her phone calls and questions was just him being a good son. After meeting her and becoming accustomed to the ways in which Korean mothers expect, I realized my boyfriend’s compliance with his mother’s wishes were to avoid certain death.
My boyfriend is a grown 36 year-old man who lives fearfully of his own mother. She is nothing but sweet and happy-go-lucky…usually. But if he is too busy to run an errand for the family or if he passes up on a higher-paying job, we all better make a run for it before getting an earful.
That being said, Oma is the most generous woman and is just about the best cook on the planet. If you have an Oma in your life, consider yourself lucky.
2. You can’t hold your liquor.
I love a good time as much as the next gal, but after dozens of rounds of drinks and seemingly endless bottles of soju, I’m just about ready for my grave. Somehow, though, I always persevere.
Koreans now how to party. They’re the only people I know that can hold down a full-time job, work 70 hours a week, and still party nearly every night of the week.
My boyfriend tells me he’s a glutton for punishment. I’m starting to believe him.
3. You’ll need a kimchi fridge.
The only downside to kimchee is the way its pungent, fishy smell permeates the entire house upon opening the fridge. Having a Korean boyfriend means having a jar of kimchee at the ready to accompany any meal. Unless you have a small kimchi fridge (we’re seriously considering buying one for outside), get ready for your house to smell “distinct” every time you fix yourself something to eat.
The good thing about delicious, stinky, fermented kimchee is the fact that it’s the most superb of all banchan (side dishes) and makes even the most ordinary meal taste drool-worthy.
4. You don’t want to get spoiled.
Being spoiled is not always a bad thing. He’ll foot the bill 90 percent of the time and take you shopping when you complain you don’t have anything to wear. Don’t think all that doesn’t come without a cost, though. He’s likely saving his brownie points for leverage. Thought about splitting dish duty? He has other ideas. Life goes back in time slightly when he expects you to be the domestic goddess of his dreams, not-so-quietly reminding you of how spoiled you really are…thanks to him.
5. You’re a timid eater.
If there’s one thing Koreans love to do, it’s eat. I’m not referring to any run-of-the-mill meat and potato-type dinners, either. Every time we sit down to eat, an all-out feast ensues.
You look down at the table and it’s filled with red leaf lettuce, gochujang, daikon and cabbage kimchi, white rice, marinated kalbi, spicy pork, burn-your-mouth-hot doenjang-jjigae, chapchae, pickled garlic, little anchovies, bean sprouts, and a salt-and-pepper sesame oil dipping sauce. What to do? Watch Oma as she smears gochujang across her lettuce, piles on some white rice, spicy pork (after dipping it in the oil, of course) and a piece of kimchi, rolls it up and firmly shoves it into her mouth. Now, do the same.
That’s just Tuesday night dinner. Get used to eating feasts almost any time you get together — from Korean barbeque to cold bowls of naeng myun on a hot day.
6. You don’t cherish family.
Your Korean boyfriend loves you. He pays the bills, and hell, he has even taken you to meet Oma. Even still, a Korean man has priorities and while you’re up there, family is always number one.
If he’s the oldest son, chances are there’s a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to take care of “family business.” He loves his family so deeply that at times it has him running out in the middle of the night to take care of them. If you don’t honor and cherish family as much as him, you’ll never become part of it yourself.
7. You’re just as stubborn as he is.
Depending on how observant he is of his Korean heritage, chances are you won’t be converting totally to the Eastern way of doing things. Even so, more and more you find yourself eating every meal on the floor, hiding money in the mattress, and eating rice at every meal. If you stubbornly suggest a dining room table and chairs, he’ll make you wait so long to get one, you’ll eventually give in and join him on the floor.
8. You don’t like cheesy soap operas.
If you thought watching soap operas was just for women, then you’re dead wrong. Korean guys love their soap operas. The thicker the plot, the better. Bonus points for plots that include family drama and love stories. I think that covers just about every Korean soap opera out there.
9. You don’t have a thick skin.
Korean guys can be a little bossy and controlling, but we see where that might come from (Oma, perhaps?) Remember how his mom was the one telling you to “Eat! Eat!”? Now she’s the one telling you to lose a little weight when you start filling out your clothes. Your Korean guy will likely give you lots of advice you might not want to hear, but ultimately he’s always right, dammit. Koreans are expert no-bullshitting communicators, so be prepared and enter with a thick skin — or else.
10. You’re lazy.
Koreans have super high expectations for themselves and for you. They want to succeed and want nothing more for you to succeed by their side. Having an off-day? He’ll let it slide. Let your ambition go out the window because you’re having some stupid quarter-life crisis? It’s not tolerated or accepted. You’ll be told to get it together and get back to work.
11. You don’t value loyalty.
Sure Korean men ogle women as much as the next guy, but they are extremely loyal. They might even ask you to pick out their outfits every time you go on a date. They value their girl’s opinion and would never do anything to jeopardize your affections. If you can’t value a guy who will always come home to you every night, dating a Korean guy just isn’t for you. But know that you’re missing out.