International Dating: My Story

Chester and I have been busy, even though K is now spending time with his family in Korea. Last night, Chester and I wrapped most of the gifts I bought for family.

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Amazingly, he tuckered out pretty quickly, not before attempting to sleep on the wrapping paper several times. I guess he just gave up because I wouldn’t let him sleep there.

Being alone for weeks on end without your significant other of 7 years gives you a lot of opportunity to think. I like thinking time, usually, and it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.  Our relationship has had a lot of ups and downs, as is probably true with most couples who have been together as long as we have. I attribute a lot of this to our cultural differences. K has been in the US for a long time now, about 12 years, so he is used to the culture in the Midwest, but there are some things that I feel are deeply ingrained in him that have not been influenced much by my culture.  It’s funny. We see each other every single day, except for when he’s in Korea, so we both rub off our personalities and mannerisms a lot on each other.  We kind of have our own secret language and we know what makes the other laugh. We have tons of inside jokes, mostly related to our favorite shows (The Office & Family Guy) or things our cat does.  I have changed the way I speak to mimic him, not intentionally, it just happened, and vice versa.  He is in every way my best friend and partner in life.

When he’s gone, it’s almost impossible for me to imagine him somewhere else and in a country that is foreign to me. I’ve never been to Korea, so I have no idea what it looks like! He sent me these pictures a few days ago:

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Pictures don’t make it real, but it helps to think about him there a bit. I worry about him being so far from me.

There are things I’ve noticed about our relationship that are unique in terms of the mixing of our cultural ideals. I will try to list some of the things I’ve noticed over the years. This list is by no means a generalization of every Korean/American relationship and is only true of my own life and relationship with a Korean man.

  1. PDA is a no-no. K is super uncomfortable with public displays of affection (PDA) and this, at first, was weird to me. I had only ever seen couples on TV or among my friends and family and they’ve never been reserved about PDA.  K was and is my first and only boyfriend, so I’ve just grown accustomed to only hand-holding or the occasional embrace in public. Never kissing.
  2. In Korea, it is popular among couples to show that you are a couple by wearing similar clothing. I’ve seen tons of couples shirts on different sites and always thought they look dorky. It’s not something I would do seriously. When we first started dating, K tried to get me to see why couple-things were cute and “necessary” for serious couples. Well, 7 years later, he has totally changed. We see these two Porsche Cayenne driving around town, one is a Korean man and the other a Korean women, who are a couple. Their license plates say CCXX (campus couple female) and CCXY (campus couple male). We now both laugh our heads off when we see this, knowing it’s something we’d never do.
  3. I’ve been more attracted to his culture and he has been more drawn to mine. I knew almost nothing about Korea when K and I started dating. Now, he always says I know more than him! I read a lot on the internet and do a lot of “window” shopping online, so I know what’s new and trending in Korea much earlier than he does, if ever. He loves to have the latest American tech and dress in “American” style clothing. He always says it is much easier to live here and he likes having fewer people to be around.
  4. He teases me a lot.  It took me forever to realize that it’s common for Korean men of his age to express their love in this way. It is often different among American couples, from what I’ve witnessed. The men are more likely to shy away from teasing a woman about something she does or how she looks. K, on the other hand, teases me about my “imperfections.” At first, I would cry when he did this, and he would feel really bad. It took years for me to realize that this is how he joked around and showed close affection with me. Now, I tease him in the same way.
  5. Sometimes, he is intimidated by me. He is a bit old-school and for men his age, it is difficult for them to view women as assertive. I’ve seen this a lot with Korean men his age. That view is certainly changing with younger generations. Sometimes he tells me I’m “so scary,” when really, I’m just trying to be assertive. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sassy much of the time though 😉
  6. The language barrier is slight and much less of a barrier between us than in the past, but it’s still there. Sometimes and very rarely, do we have difficulty understanding each other. Sometimes I will get frustrated with this and snap at him and it’s not fair, I know, but it’s very difficult when he can’t catch what I say. I can’t believe he doesn’t’ understand my mumbling! 😉  We’ve grown accustomed to the way we both talk and he is one of the few Koreans who I’ve met who can understand me in my everyday speaking voice, meaning I don’t have to slow down my speech to a mind-numbing, turtle speed.

That is the list I could come up with now on the spot. I know it is much longer than that, but my hands and brain are getting tired. Do you have any interesting couple experiences?

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday season and enjoys time with family and friends!

Best,

Megan

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18 thoughts on “International Dating: My Story

  1. I loved this, I learned so much! It really made me analyze my first “real” relationship and why it turned so seriously (verbally and sexually) abusive. He was from Argentina. I am not saying thay every man from that country is abusive to an American woman. Lord no. But thinking back to my relations with him and the in laws, I thought they were just “weird” and him “cruel.” I viewed a lot of cultural stuff from their side as condescension toward me. As you can see most of my experience with international relationships has been negative (due to the individual) but I do not mean to rain on your parade! This post made me do a lot of much-needed forgiving and understanding. No, I won’t be calling him anytime soon, and I really can’t bring myself to say anything nice about him, but was it perhaps a cultural difference that led him to view me less, as a force he had to control? Maybe. So happy for you and your positive relationship. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your differences.

  2. Have a Very Merry Christmas Megan. It kind of saddens me that you are separated at Christmas. Perhaps next year you might look at taking your vacation at Christmas time and making the trip along with K. All the best for the New Year!

  3. My cultural change has been a little less drastic, coming to the midwest from the east coast, and where I live now, there are no forests of pine trees, and hills and valleys, covered in a foot of snow. (More than that in Buffalo!), and I no longer get the same ‘feel’ of Christmas, since the loss of my mom two years ago, but I celebrate in the best ways I can, surrounded by the love of friends. 🙂

  4. To be sincere, all I really know about Korea is that the best cars and the best phones are from there.

    Seven years is a lot. But there are 70 more to live together. You’re not exactly done 🙂

    Have a very happy new year! May 2015 bring your projects together.

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