From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


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Spring Cleaning

As much as I love spring, I loathe spring cleaning. Last year, my Omonim (mother-in-law) and I had to scour the wood floor for hours and clean the veranda from top to bottom. By the time we finished cleaning, we didn’t have enough energy to stand, so we both perched on the sofa panting like race horses.

Traditional Korean housewives prefer to do the cleaning MANUALLY, and by manually means to crouch on the floor and wipe wipe wipe… scrub scrub scrub like there’s no tomorrow. My Omonim would not even use the steam mop hubby and I ordered on-line. She said the best way to clean the house is to do it with bare hands, which is not only unhygienic but also harmful to the skin. (I should know because eczema is prevalent among women in my family.)

This year, I am luckier to have my husband help me with the cleaning, but we didn’t do it my Omonim’s way, we did it our way. After vacuuming and steam mopping the floor as we always do on weekends, we polished the windows, and rearranged some of the furniture. Since there’s nobody else in the house, I had no choice but to help him move the furniture.

Last week, our new computer arrived, so we decided to use the empty room in the house as our computer room/study room.

Barely finished

I washed the 이불 (quilt), blanket and bed cover that we used for winter, put away some of our winter clothes, removed all the clutter from our dressers and reorganized everyday items.

My dresser... his dresser (but not quite his, because I put some of my stuff on it, too)... ^^

My husband, on the other hand, put our family picture on the wall in the living room, as well as our wedding picture that I have been bugging him (since last year) to hang on the wall in our bedroom.

Our family photo was taken on my chagun ajubonim's wedding day. In most Korean houses, you will find a big family portrait hung on the living room wall.

We were dead tired when we finished our spring cleaning, but glad that we didn’t waste another Saturday sitting idly in front of the idiot box, or fighting over who gets to use the computer.

Besides, the house, especially our room, is now cozier and fresher. Do you know that major cleaning can be a great stress reliever, too?

If you want to experience a whole new kind of spring cleaning here in Korea, you can check out Korea’s official tourism site and wait for the new schedule of the Royal Palace Spring Maintenance Experience Programs this coming spring.


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What Every (Pinay) Daughter-in-law Must Consider

Most 며느리 (daughters-in-law) in Korea regard their parents-in-law (especially mothers-in-law) with contempt… as if they are the meanest, most despicable people on the face of the earth.

It’s not surprising to hear complaints such as:  “They always criticize me!”~~~ “They never appreciate what I do.”~~~ “They make my life miserable!” The grumbling is endless, and yet nothing is done to solve the problem.

Now what exactly is the problem? Some Filipinas who marry Koreans think that the problem lies solely with the in-laws. They refuse to consider that perhaps there is something wrong with them, too, which is why they are always criticized and constantly being scrutinized.

I am not an expert on “in-law relationships”, but I would like to speak my mind on what mistakes we  Filipina 며느리들 sometimes make in terms of dealing with our 시부모님 (parents-in-law).

STOP BELLYACHING!

Before we came to Korea, we were informed about Korean culture when we attended the two-day CFO seminar. We were told what to expect from our married life and how difficult parents-in-law can be. No one told us that the life of a 주부(housewife) is going to be easy. When we decided to marry a Korean, we knew from the very beginning that we would most probably live with our husband’s parents. Some lucky foreign housewives, however, don’t have to. Either way, “the in-laws” will always be around, just like a piece of furniture in the house that you can’t get rid of because it’s too damn important to the family. ~~~ So stop complaining and ACCEPT IT… YOU’RE STUCK WITH THEM FOR AS LONG AS THEY LIVE. Whining to your husband about his parents will only aggravate the situation. Instead of antagonizing his parents, talk to him… ask him what you should do to please them.

RESPECT BEGETS RESPECT.

If we want our in-laws to respect who we are, we should respect them in spite of their unpleasantness. It’s not enough that we bow to them, use honorifics, and try to sound pleasant all the time, even when we are actually thinking of screaming all our anger out. RESPECTING OUR IN-LAWS MEANS NOT BAD-MOUTHING THEM, CALLING THEM NAMES OR TALKING ABOUT THEM BEHIND THEIR BACKS. Using your homepage to curse them or telling your friends how horrible your parents-in-law are (no matter how true) is not only RUDE AND IRRESPONSIBLE, but it also tells a lot about YOUR CHARACTER.

BE A GOOD GIRL.

In the Philippines, most Filipinas are well-mannered. I don’t know why when we come to other countries like Korea, SOME OF US become the “bad girls” that our parents warned us not to be. There are but a few married Filipinas who act as if they’re still single. (I don’t want to be too specific on this, but if you have seen a married Filipina you recognize, holding hands with a Filipino or exchanging words of affection with another man in her FB homepage, you’d know exactly what I can’t bring myself to say.) How can you expect your in-laws to trust you when in actuality, you can’t be trusted?

YOUR HUSBAND IS NOT A LIVING ATM MACHINE!

In a mall, while I was shopping with my husband, I overheard two Filipinas. (I know, eavesdropping is nasty, but I couldn’t help it.) One of the women was buying a really expensive MCM bag. It appeared that she didn’t have enough cash to buy it, but she was willing to use her husband’s 신용 카드 (credit card). The other woman commented: Baka magalit si ___ nyan. (Your husband might be angry with you.) The reply was: Hindi ah, mabait yun. Nanay lang niya ang kontrabida! (Of course not, my husband is kind. His Mom is the villain!)

They filled the shop with their girly laughter. I also thought it was funny at first, until I  realized that those women, with all the shopping bags they were carrying, couldn’t have been merely “eye shopping” (window shopping in Konglish), they were shopping like there’s no tomorrow.

If you’re a woman, shopping is not a sin. If you’re a housewife, you deserve to treat yourself for all your hard work once in a while, but puh-lease… DON’T OVERDO IT. Your husband might not say a word about your spending too much, but your in-laws will. You don’t want them to carp at you all the time, right? Then show them that you are responsible. My father-in-law used to lecture me about how important it is for Koreans to “save money”, so when the wife spends too much on clothes and other “less important things”, the in-laws don’t favor it.

OBEY, OBEY, AND THEN DO WHAT YOU WANT.

Just because we are bombarded with house chores, it doesn’t mean that we are being treated as “katulong” (housemaids). Even if our mothers-in-law do not oblige us to wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean the house, cook, etc., we’d still end up doing the housework, because in Korea, it is not common for a family to hire an “ate” (house helper). Even our own mothers-in-law had to do all the cleaning for their husbands and sons before we came along. Korean housewives in Korea do the same thing.

Wash. Clean. Cook. Do everything your 시어머니 (mother-in-law) tells you to do. After that, you could sit on a sofa and watch TV for the rest of the day, go out and get some fresh air if you don’t want to be with your in-laws the whole time, or do as you please… as long as you don’t go overboard. ^^

LEARN:

KOREAN LANGUAGE… so you can communicate well with your parents-in-law. Most of them can’t or won’t speak with their foreign daughters-in-law in English or any other language besides Korean.

My first Korean Language lessons…

YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW’S COOKING… and her ways around the kitchen… so that she knows you can cook her son’s favorite dishes and take care of him the way she does.

My very first kimchi shige (kimchi stew) that didn’t turn out so bad… my father-in-law always requests I cook it for dinner. ^^

WHAT TO DO ON ALL THE IMPORTANT DATES… 추석 (Thanksgiving), 설날 (New Year); whether your in-laws celebrate their birthdays following the Lunar or Gregorian calendar. As a 며느리, you should know that such occasions are NOT simple celebrations we only have to attend, they’re the days when we ought to work harder: help in the kitchen, help with the cooking, help with the serving.

Just this year, my 시아버지 (father-in-law) had his 61st birthday, one of the most important years of a Korean man’s life when he gets to have a big birthday bash. We are three 며느리들 in my husband’s family, so we were expected to prepare everything with our 시어머니. On his birthday last year, I woke up very early to cook 미역국 (Korean birthday soup made from the sea vegetable miyeok) for him, and I did the same thing for my 시어머니. Simple gestures like this help soften your in-laws hearts towards you.

Being a foreign housewife, it is our duty to embrace our husband’s culture and learn his family’s ways, but by fulfilling our duties alone, we can never survive life in Korea. We should be more tolerant of the challenges we face everyday, and our greatest challenge is how to get along with our parents-in-law. They may be harsh sometimes, but if they see that we are exerting effort to build a good relationship with them, we can win not only their respect and trust, but their love as well.

Enjoying the night  in the 노래방 (karaoke) with my husband and my in-laws