From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


The Dates


15215_630777316936949_1453355116_nIt’s been a long time since my husband asked me out on a date. Sure we go out every now and then. After work, he’d sometimes call or text me to ask if, what or where I want to eat; he’d pick me up from the house or we’d meet some place. On Sunday, we usually go out for lunch or dinner, or order pizza and chicken for take-out while we watch scary movies on our computer. When we want to chill out, we go to our favorite bar and have some cocktails.

We often go out, but “going out” has become so common that we don’t really call them dates. Of course, we still enjoy each other’s company, and when we are together, we are the same “sweet” couple that we were before we tied the knot (except when I complain about how pricey the cocktail is or how terrible the pasta tastes, and hubby takes it as a form of nagging… but, well, these are completely different stories, which RARELY happen now, so forget that I mentioned them).


couplewcherryb001This morning, while he was getting ready for work and I was fixing him coffee, he asked me if I can wake up early on Sunday. We always wake up late on the weekend, so I figured he has a plan to go somewhere this Sunday.

“Can you wake up at 8?”

“If I have to. Why?”

“We are going somewhere.”

“Where are we going?”

“On a date.”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

Yes… but you have to wake up early.”

“I will, I will.” I was beaming and clapping with glee and excitement, not merely because my husband told me that we are going somewhere on Sunday, but mostly because he called it a date.


What’s so exciting about a date, you may ask?

6120_101222433225776_92967_nBack when we were boyfriend and girlfriend, my husband would not call our dates “DATES”. The moments we spent together, the memories, the conversations we had during those not-so “datish” dates were all beautiful… fantastic… magical, but us going out became so natural from the time I lost a deal with him and I had to buy him a beer and squid balls that we didn’t think we were dating every time we went out. We weren’t in a relationship “yet” when I lost the deal. We weren’t friends either. He’s three years older than me, and according to Korean culture, people who don’t belong to the same age bracket can’t be friends. I didn’t even know what we were that time, other than “he’s my tutee and I’m his teacher, and when he gets tired of our lessons, we go out for some drinks or watch a movie instead”.

Suddenly, he called me one day and asked if I had any plans on Saturday. I didn’t have any plans, so when he suggested we try the new coffee shop in our subdivision, I said, “Yes”. For the first time, there were butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous, confused, but at the same time, happy that it wasn’t just another after-class session. We were going out on a weekend, and that was something.

I never cared whether or not there was “something”. I used to care more about what he learned from me. I am a very dedicated teacher, after all.

However, as Saturday was coming, I became miserable, wrestling with my subconscious thoughts, thinking whether or not there really was something or if I did the right thing when I accepted his invitation to go out with him on the weekend when I could go shopping with my girl friends. “Should I go out with him? Is it a date? It must be a date. What if I think it is, and he thinks it’s not? What if I bring a book, and I ask him to bring his electronic dictionary and his notebook, so none of us assumes it’s a date? No, silly! It’s a date. It’s a date, okay? You are not to be his teacher on Saturday. You are his date… and you should look your best.”

Alas! Saturday came. I slept all morning and when I woke up, I started rummaging through my closet to find the right dress to wear for the evening. Was I excited? You tell me. I spent hours getting ready for the date or “whatever” it was. 

couple2An hour before our engagement, he called to say he was ready. I thought that he would be waiting for me at the coffee shop, but I was surprised to see him outside my house, waiting in the car. He must have waited there for a long time, but he was smiling and his eyes had that gentle, entrancing look as he was telling me that I made him wait too long. Every time I was late for our class, he would look at the clock and make a face, but not that night. I could smell his aftershave when I sat next to him. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to look my best. He did a lot of prepping up, too. He looked different, very handsome in fact. He had a hair cut and his hair was nicely gelled. I used to see him in round neck T-shirt and shorts every time I went to his house for our class, but on our first “official” date, he was clad in white collared semi-fitted shirt and blue jeans that I was certain he had not worn for days. In the car, we were quiet, but we always had something to talk about. That night, it was as if we were both at a loss for words. (Avril Lavigne‘s “Complicated” suddenly comes to mind. ^^)

Finally, we were at the coffee shop. We didn’t need a car to get there. The coffee shop is just a few blocks away from my house. We could have just walked. I knew he was trying to impress me. Besides the car, the after-shave, the gelled hair and the new look, he was being extra nice to me. He was more amiable, and he didn’t tease me at all. He used to kid around and say things that made me want to punch him in the face so hard, but that night, he told me only good things, not flattery, “happy” things, “real” things… and I think that’s when I saw him differently… and I began to like him more. (MYMP‘s “A Little Bit” is playing in my head at the moment.)

We were just getting started. The waitress handed us the menu, and we were going to have pasta, but crap, the phone… his phone rang!

540467_461004223914260_1972193959_nHis friend probably needed the car he borrowed PRONTO that he had to leave in a couple of minutes, so we decided to order drinks instead.

Until now, I don’t know why he borrowed that car… or why he kept saying, “This isn’t my plan. Sorry, this isn’t my plan.” (I wonder what his plan was. I asked him while I was writing this post, but he said he can’t remember. We spent a few minutes reminiscing our dates, though. ^^♡)

It could have been a magnificent first date, if that’s what it was, but well, there had been many wonderful dates after that, and I’m sure there will be more. It doesn’t matter if we think of them as dates or not. What’s important is that we enjoy “being together” and we build great memories out of them.




Last night, as I was waiting for the bus and enjoying my chicken in a cup, I witnessed “Romeo and Juliet” before they parted. I’m not talking about thespians staging a Shakespearean play; I’m referring to a young couple sitting beside me at the bus stop. At first, I thought it was “cute” and “sweet” how they showed their love by holding hands as they were perched closely together like a pair of love birds, and every now and then, looking at each other’s eyes with such intimacy that is familiar to someone like me who “has been there”, and “is still madly in love” with the same man I held hands and locked eyes with eight years ago. The young couple’s mawkish display of affection reminded me of those times when my husband and I were boyfriend-girlfriend. Aaah~~~ those “kilig” days never fail to make me smile every time I remember them. ^^

I wasn’t staring, don’t get me wrong, but I was sitting beside them, so I couldn’t help but notice what they were doing. I wasn’t eavesdropping either, but I could hear and understand SOME of what they were talking about. (I’m not that poor in Korean, after all. ^^) They are to meet again on the weekend, and the girl says CALL ME, CALL ME, CALL ME… I WILL MISS YOU… BLAH-BLAH-BLAH.

Then I heard a smack… and the boy tells the girl that the bus is coming. He asks for another 뽀뽀 (Ppoppo: Korean for kiss). The girl gives it to him… and he asks for more… and they started exchanging kisses. What the??? I would have been less surprised if they were kissing in a  클럽 (club or disco bar) or  나이트 (Night: Konglish for booking club) or in a dark alley that I happen to pass by… but at the bus stop in evening rush hour? They were not french kissing or anything like that, but they were smooching like there’s no tomorrow… in public, and I was not the only one to witness it! The ajumma next to me was blatantly staring at them, and as expected, she didn’t look pleased. There were ten or more people present that time. I’m not sure if others saw what the young lovers were doing. They were sitting in the corner of the shed. A few curious commuters, waiting for their ride, threw side-glances at them. Others were perhaps oblivious of the young couple’s public display of affection, because they were busy minding their own business.

Finally, the bus came, and our “Romeo and Juliet” had to part. If you think the kissing was over, they were just warming up. The couple stood up and kissed again… the intimacy of the kiss subdued this time… but the girl’s arms were wrapped around the boy’s neck… just like a Koreanovela scene. The boy got on the bus and the girl left in haste, perhaps  aware of the glares being thrown at her.

I have read an article that says PDA is not common in South Korea, because of the conservative nature of Koreans. Duh! If you ask me, having lived here for quite some time now and being married to a man who is (also) showy of his affection, I say that PDA  is VERY COMMON in SK. You can see it anywhere–in subway stations and bus stops; in bars, hoffs, cafes, restaurants; on the streets; in the malls and parks… couples holding hands, hugging, exchanging pecks on the cheeks or lips, caressing each other’s faces. Usually, it’s either holding hands or hugging, which I think is not an excessive display of intimacy, but there are those who are not satisfied with simple ways to show their affection.

Last night was not the first time I have seen couples smooching in public. The first time was at the same bus stop, and the lovers were much younger. I could tell, because they were wearing their high school uniform. Their kissing, however, was not as obvious as our Romeo and Juliet from last night, just a “cute” quick kiss. Of all the excessive PDA’s that I have witnessed so far, the worst has got to be that of an ajossi and an ajumma petting in a hoff. Well, they were both wasted.

My husband and I hold hands and hug, too, in front of his friends or other people… but NOT when there are older people around, especially his parents… and we are coy about kissing in public, except when we had our after-wedding party, and his friends persuaded us to kiss for a picture. We used to be teased a lot about showing too much “skinship” (Konglish for skin-to-skin contact: kissing not included), but now his friends got used to it.

A Korean friend warned us, though, that we should never express physical intimacy in front of my husband’s older relatives and my parents-in-law, as this is considered rude to the elders. Older Koreans won’t tolerate PDA, especially if it is extreme. Some of them would simply look dagger at you; some would curtly reprimand and embarrass you.

When my husband was still my boyfriend, and he would come to visit me in the house, he would not hold my hand nor embrace me when Mom was around. One time, we were in the living room watching TV and cuddling, and all of a sudden, Mom came to bring us some midnight snacks. My husband, who was then my fiancé, jumped out of his seat and acted really weird, as if we were caught red-handed making out, and he was expecting to be given a scolding. Mom noticed that he was embarrassed and told him to “relax”. After our church wedding and he had lived with us for months, he became more comfortable showing my family his “sweetness”, which Mom and the rest of the family members, even my conservative Grandma and uncles, “appreciate” rather than disapprove of. When we came to Korea and lived with his parents, we had to be more cautious in displaying our affection towards each other… even in our own home.

Six years ago, the first time I came to Korea, I didn’t see a lot of couples doing PDA. At times, I would see lovers holding hands while walking or snuggling as they sit on a park bench… simple romantic gestures that are not unsightly or awkward for other people to see. Nowadays, it seems as if some couples don’t know how to draw the line at showing physical affection in public. There is nothing wrong with showing the world your love for your partner, but as they say, “Too much of anything is not good.”

Holding hands, a mere hug and a quick goodbye kiss are now becoming prevalent, even in a country like South Korea that is bound by strict Confucian norms. Maybe in a few years’ time, PDA “in moderation” will be socially acceptable here in SK… but making out in public is a totally different thing.

Some things are best done in private, don’t you think? ^^