From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."

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Things You Can Do to Make Your In-laws Happy on Parents’ Day

Tomorrow is a special day for moms and dads in Korea, because May 8 is Parents’ Day (어버이날). It has been part of Korean tradition to give parents carnation on this occasion as symbol of respect and gratitude. For five years, my husband and I have been doing the same thing: we wake up early in the morning to pin carnation boutonnieres on his parents’ shirts, which they wear with pride the whole day. In the evening, we have dinner with the family. Perhaps, as a myonuri  (며느리: daughter-in-law), you do the same thing for your Korean parents-in-law every year, but if you’d like to do something different for them this time, here are some of the other things you can do to make your parents-in-law truly happy.

1.) Prepare a special breakfast for them.


They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, this is also true with the in-laws. After all, there is nothing like the smell of a sumptuous meal in the morning. Try cooking your sibumonim‘s (시부모님: parents-in-law) favorite soup or stew, and prepare your best banchan (반찬: side dishes). Most Koreans eat rice for breakfast, complete with soup and some side dishes, so you can make a feast that will surely wow them when they wake up in the morning.

2.) Make them a card or write them a letter… in Korean.

The heart is missing one eye and the shimmer has faded... but the message of love remains. ^^

The heart is missing one eye and the shimmer has faded… but the message of love remains. ^^

I have never done this on Parents’ Day, but when I had my first Christmas with the in-laws, I made them a simple card, and posted it on their bedroom door, so it’s the first thing they would notice when they wake up in the morning. My father-in-law doesn’t like posters, calendars or anything plastered on walls and doors. He would remove them. That card, however, stays on their door. ^^

On Youtube, there are tons of how-to videos on making pop-up flower cards. This one is my favorite. It looks elegant and is easier to do.

This Mother’s Day card will make a great Parents’ Day card, too.

3.) Take them to a posh restaurant.

Most older Koreans prefer dining in Korean restaurants and in places that are familiar to them, but it won’t hurt to have them try other restaurants and different cuisines, so if you have budget for a real treat, why not surprise them with the best fine dining experience?

Try Lotte Hotel World’s La Seine Buffet. The food is fantastic!

4.) Go hiking with them.

Spring is the best time of the year to go hiking. A lot of older Koreans go to the mountain in spring to gather herbs and vegetables that are quite pricey in the market. Go ginseng-searching with your sibumonim on Parents’ Day. Who knows, you might actually enjoy the activity, and start doing it regularly? Hiking can be exciting… and it can also help shed off those extra pounds.

5.) Be “Cinderella” for a day.


My husband volunteered to help out with his parents’ business for the entire week. His parents are pleased, because this is a busy season. If your in-laws have a business you can help them with, and you have all the time in the world to spare, a day of doing extra work for them will mean a lot.

The extra work can also be a housechore that you haven’t done in a while, like cleaning your in-laws’ bedroom (or the entire house), helping your si omonim (시어머님: mother-in-law) with the laundry, ironing si abonim‘s (시아버님: father-in-law) favorite shirts, etc. Before you say, “I’m not a slave!”, remember that this suggestion is meant only for a day, Parents’ Day. That is, if you don’t live with the in-laws. Think about the myonuris who have to do these chores regularly, because they live with their sibumonim.

6.) Hold a noraebang (노래방: karaoke) concert with them.

And the battle begins... ^^

And the battle begins… ^^

If your in-laws are not the killjoy type, invite them to the noraebang for a night of party. Team up with your husband. Your in-laws and other family members who are present will pair up, too. Each pair will select a song and sing duet. Karaokes usually score singers. You can use those scores to choose the best team. Our family did this once, and everyone had a terrific time. In fact, my father-in-law didn’t want to go home. ^^

I am sure that there are a number of ways we can make Parents’ Day memorable for our in-laws, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is not what gifts we give them or how we have impressed them with our efforts. What makes Parents’ Day meaningful for parents-in-law is how we treat them even when it’s not their special day. Some in-laws can be pain in the neck sometimes, but here in Korea, they are our second parents. No matter how tough parents can be, they deserve love, respect and understanding.

어버이날 축하합니다, 아버님… 어머님!


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Not “Gay” Lovers, Just Friends


If you have lived in South Korea for some time and you see two men holding hands while walking down the street, you won’t think that is strange at all, but if you are new to Korean culture and you don’t know a thing about friendship between or among males in South Korea, you will most probably think that those two men “holding hands” are gay lovers. This is exactly what happened to my brother-in-law and his best buddy when they spent a week in Boracay. A couple of times, they were spotted holding hands or with their arms around each other. Some people were staring at them; some were whispering behind their backs. My brother-in-law had lived in the Philippines for five years and he can understand some words and phrases in Filipino. He remembers hearing the “whisperers” say Bakla yan! (They’re gay!) Being gay is NOT a crime in the Philippines. In fact, it has become socially acceptable, but we rarely see “gays” holding hands or doing PDA (public display of affection).


My brother-in-law and his best friend aren’t gay lovers. They are just very close friends, and in South Korea, it is normal for male friends to hold hands or have their arms around each other while walking. Oh, you should see my husband when he’s with his buddies! When he and his friends are drunk or they are just being silly, they even grab one another’s balls! Not in a sexual way, or course. ^^

Sometimes my husband and his best friend go to the 목욕탕 (mogyogtang: public bath) together to bathe or relax in the sauna, and to scrub each other’s backs. This is a give-and-take act of friendship or sign of closeness, not only between men, but also between women. When I came to Korea for the first time, my female friend and her mom took me to the 목욕탕. It was embarrassing being totally naked in front of other women, but what embarrassed me the most was having my back scrubbed by my friend’s mother. I told her she didn’t have to do that, but she said friends or family members of the same sex in Korea do that a lot in the 목욕탕.


Hubby is very close to my sister’s husband and he has been trying to convince him to go to the 목욕탕 with him. Yes, we have 목욕탕 in the Philippines, but only Koreans go there. It’s in Korean Town. At first, my brother-in-law wanted to go, but when he found out what 목욕탕 is, he changed his mind. My husband is very persistent. He brings it up every time we go to the Philippines. He knows that Filipinos aren’t familiar with the culture of public bathing, but he wants to build a closer relationship with my brother-in-law by scrubbing his back and having him do the same thing.

The first time my husband tried to hug my Filipino brother-in-law, poor BIL was taken aback. I had to explain Korean culture to BIL, and now that he understands, he’s okay with it and the occasional holding hands.