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The Gyopo Experience ft Jen!

July 10, 2014

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When we were in LA, we spent a couple of days with Jen, who – by the way – is totally lovely. She asked Martina a really interesting question that really had us questioning ourselves. The question was this: do we consider ourselves Korean-Canadians or Canadian-Koreans?

It caught us really off guard. It’s not something we ever thought about. “Neither” is our first response. We have no Korean blood in us. We’re not Korean. Jen went on to say, though, that we’re in many ways more Korean than she is. We’ve been living in Korea for over six years now. We’ve been really immersed here. We have a home, a business. We eat Korean food every day. We speak Korean every day (not high level Korean, though: but more than enough to carry on conversations). We pay Korean taxes. When we were in LA, we were culture shocked by all of the things that are not like how they are in Korea.

But that’s not the point of our conversation. Though we’ve spent most of our adult lives in Korea, we still don’t consider ourselves Korean, yet we’ve adapted to Korean culture in many ways. Those of you angry Tumblrinas, please note: WE ARE NOT CALLING OURSELVES KOREAN. We were fascinated by the question, though, and what it implies.

Namely, the question of identity got us thinking. Back in the day, your language and your geographical location and your nationality and your heritage were very often all the same. A Korean person spoke Korean and lived in Korea and had Korean family. There was little mingling. But the world has changed a lot in the past 100 years. My parents are from Poland, but they have half-German grandparents. Then they moved to Canada. My first language was Polish, but then I dropped it for English. Now I’m living in Korea, and my identity and career are all based on Korean stuff. What do I identify as, then?

We hung out with Dan Matthews while we were in LA as well, who spent some time with us when he was shooting his documentary. He’s a Korean adoptee who spent his entire life outside of Korea. When he came to Korea, he hung out with us a bit, and we showed him around the area and taught him a bit about it. How does he identify?

Again, I’d like to make clear that I’m not here claiming some people are “more Korean” or “less Korean” than others. I’m not necessarily sure what I feel about the question of identity, either, because it’s something we’ve only been discussing recently, a lot more so after Jen asked us that first question. I’m not sure how much longer people are going to be able to identify themselves based on any country in the future, really, the more we travel and bring our history with us to plant in new places.

I remember when we were in Poland for our Polish meet up. It was a very difficult time for me, for reasons that I couldn’t really understand. I’ve always felt like a terrible Polishman. I remember visiting Poland when I was 16, and my uncle scolded me for not knowing Poland’s historical figures, and he stated that every good Polishman knows Poland’s history. I remember my brother not wanting me to speak Polish around him, because my pronunciation is terrible. I don’t know Polish well, I don’t speak it well, yet there I was in Poland, with a bunch of loving, Polish Nasties, all of whom I wanted deeply to identify with, but I felt deeply ashamed to. I had no right to claim any Polishness. I just had a Polish family and a bit of the language. That’s all.

A big part of this is why I’m fascinated with the gyopo experience in Korea (a “gyopo”, by the way, is a Korean who grew up outside of Korea). We’ve spoken with many who have a really difficult time here, some of whom have been scolded publicly for not being Korean enough, for not speaking enough of the language. It’s something I feel when I think about my Polishness. And it’s something that I consider while we’re here in Korea as well. What place do we have in this country? We’ll always be considered outsiders, no matter how long we live here.

I’m not sure what else to say here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, even though I don’t have any clear answers or questions. I just don’t know what cultural identity means anymore. I just know I’ll get a ripping from angry social justice warriors for questioning cultural identity, which won’t help me out much. What’s your position?

I also know that I was really happy to do this video with Jen, who could share her experience as a Korean American and touch on the questions of cultural identity as well. We hope you liked the video as well :D

If you’re looking for something more fun, though, I’d recommend checking out Jen’s video makeover on Martina. Side note: Jen’s got SUCH A NICER CAMERA THAN OURS. Ooooh look at that lighting!

And, lastly, click on this pretty button below for more TL;DRs, and for more collaboration videos. We’ve got another one coming next week with Korean Englishman, who’s, like, very similar to us but very opposite in many ways. Yay!

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The Gyopo Experience ft Jen!

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  1. I was born in Ukraine, my mother is Jewish and my father is Russian. We migrated to Israel when I was 6 years old. My 2 first languages were Ukrainian and Russian, but since most of the people that came to Israel from Ukraine and Russia spoke in Russian here, I replaced my Ukrainian with Hebrew. It is hard for me to say that I am Ukrainian anymore because I don’t know almost anything about the culture, I do not remember the language and I actually know more about Russia than Ukraine. I grew up with Russian friends and I went to a school that was about 95% Russians so I speak the language pretty well. I actually mix Russian, Hebrew and English in my daily speech. Almost every Israeli I meet or know see me as Russian, and all my Russian friends see me as Russian too, but the parents and the older Russian generation here see me as incomplete Russian I guess. Because I never studied Russian and did not read much in Russian my vocabulary is very small. Also I did not read many classics of Russian writers and poets and I did not watch many Russian movies and it is something that my parents make me feel very guilty about. In the end though, what I learned is I don’t really belong to Russian culture or Israeli culture, because I am something in the middle. But it doesn’t bother me as much because I make my own traditions, mindsets and experiences.

    2 years ago
  2. This is really interesting, I’ve never really thought about this in depth before. My parents immigrated from China to Canada, whee I was born and where I grew up. I speak Chinese pretty fluently as a result of going to years and years of Chinese school (which my parents forced me to do). We visit china every few years as well, and every time we go back, it’s for at least a month. As we spend more time in china, both my and my sister’s Chinese improves very quickly and by the end, pretty much no one can tell that we’re from a foreign land even though my mom says I have a very slight accent (actually, I just enunciate like everything which make it seem forced rather than laid back). But me and my sister have very good Chinese compared to other Chinese people who were born and raised in places outside of china. Chinese (IMO) is one of the hardest languages to learn and pronounce because of the accents. Honestly, listening to some of my Caucasian friends trying to speak with the correct pronunciation is hilarious because they really can’t hear the difference between them. Anyways, a lot of Chinese Canadian friends of mine didn’t even bother to try and learn Chinese because it’s so hard. Because of this, most Chinese people that I talk to are very impressed with my Chinese, simply because their standards for foreigners are so low. Of course there is some language shaming, people still expect you to know the very basics and to have at lest a slight grasp on pronunciation.

    On general, I think Chinese people really like ‘gopyos’. I’ve had people give me things for free for a lot if random reasons (was you’re so talk here have some free stuff, wow you’re trilingual here have some free stuff, wow you’re so pretty here I’ll give you this for free) but I’m pretty sure those are just covers for the real reason, the fact that I grew up in Canada. The kids there look at me like I’m an alien princess or something and we all astounded by the level of my English. They really find it impressive.

    The way we present ourselves changes, as well. I’ve noticed that pretty much all Chinese People who live on urban areas are super pushy, for instance when walking on the streets, they will literally shove people out of the way. Because these places we so densely populated, they have to do so, or else they won’t be able to get where they need to go without wasting hours just trying to squeeze through the crowd nicely. When we first arrive, we’re politely saying excuse me and sorry and thank you while slipping in between people. By the end, while we aren’t shoving anymore, we don’t really speak, we just go. No one in china apologizes when they bump into you or shove their way past you.

    In china, street vendors pretty much always raise the price a lot because they expect people to want to bargain the prices down and this way, they’ll still get profit and the customer will feel satisfied, having gotten such a big discount. Once vendors learn that you’re from a different country, they’ll try to rip you off. They’ll usually assume that you’re rich just because you don’t live in china, and will triple, maybe even quadruple the already raised price of products.

    I’m not sure if this is what it’s like for everyone, but this is my experience as a gyopo.

    2 years ago
  3. MLE

    I’m a socio-cultural anthropology major and took a class recently on Ethnicity and Identity. These sorts of questions came up SO often, so you’re not the only ones thinking about it and academia has been pondering the question for a while now. Essentially to sum up the class, there is no theory of ethnicity, only different ways in which we identify in different situations. Ethnicity is an extremely fluid category, and sometimes a problematic term specifically for the reasons that you’ve brought up.I could write a whole essay about it (and have written several haha) but I don’t want to clog the comment section!

    2 years ago
  4. I would say that a lot of the continental U.S. wears the shoes at home. But if you travel to Hawaii, many, if not most, people take their shoes off at home. I grew up in Hawaii and that is just normal. Even now that I live in California, my husband and I take our shoes even if he didn’t grow up that way. Even we go over to his parents’ house he leaves his shoes at the door. I like to think that I married an Asian man in a Caucasian body.

    2 years ago
  5. ahhh i def know how you feel I was born and raised in NY my mother is South America my father was puerto rican. When I went to south america to visit I would always get do you speak spanish granted I understand and yes i speak but not 100% fluent. Its the spanglish that comes out but yet when I tell them that yes I can they say wow that’s a surprise.I also get the well your part bolivian how do you not know about the culture etc… while yes my mother had lived in the states for about 50 years and has adapted to american culture you sorta put aside what you grew up learning and have to learn to adapt to something new. you made the example of food,how you dress and the language barrier.
    Now as being puerto rican and living in NY as the what they call the NYerican I am the total opposite of that sterotype and when I went to PR to visit it was like wait what your part PR I don’t see it. Cultural identity is ever changing due to the fact that people are constantly changing meaning its not strange to see people move to different countries and you live there and have to learn to co exist w the culture.

    2 years ago
  6. So Martina when you where talking about pointing Korean American’s and Korean Canadians i know what you mean by you can see the difference. There is the odd time you cant till. Like my one friend she is like half gyopo. (Ban gyopo) She is looks total korean from korean. She speaks it perfectly. The only difference is she would rather speak english when she can. However if a korean person comes around she will speak 99% korean and only use a korean word here or there. Where as her sister was born in Canada and everything. She is not gyopo at all. She prefers korean, follows all the korean trends and will only speak english if she has to so to like me or her sister only if her sister speaks english first. But like i have it down to this crazy art form lol where i can till no word of a lie about what age you came to Canada; because the look isn’t just in the clothes all the time its in there facial features and the way they act.

    For me i am Ukrainian and German. My cousins all of them who are on my mothers side act Ukrainian and my dads all act German. Then there is me. My life is so Korean. I go to korean church, i speak korean, my friends are almost all korean, ill cook korean food and etc. lots of korean people ask me are you part korean. I get mistaken for half korean. My family only the elders like aunts and uncles think i am weird. Because i love both my cultures and i love korean, along with other asian culture. The biggest thing i get is my korean friends not understanding why like Japanese or Chinese culture. Like some of my korean friends think its weird i like japan and china. Its because of the whole history thing. But like Jen said its a pride thing. Funny thing is i know a half Japanese half korean guy and he doesn’t like Koreans at all but he try’s to be friend them. It makes no scene u less he is trying to like them.

    So for me i get more flack for being more korean then Ukrainian or German. But all the aunties are trying to find me a korean man lol. So the dating thing is i think only a big thing if your traditional. I have seen most Korean’s there family would not mind at all as long as you understand korean culture and practice it. Cause there ok with Canadian or American but not a lot.

    2 years ago
  7. Guys i feel ya. I’m Nigerian, i was born there and moved to the States when i was 8. When i was 10, i was sent back for high school because my parents thought i would get out of touch with my culture. I was only in the states for two years before i went back but whoa! apparently i had changed so much…

    Fast forward 12 or so years later, after i had finished high school, moved back to the states, finished college and now I’m in med school, I’m looked down on as not being Nigerian enough both by Nigerians here and back home. I speak the language of my people, i eat Nigerian food, but apparently thats not enough. Reasons that are brought up are because i don’t wanna get married to a Nigerian man ONLY or that i dont want to go back to live in Nigeria, or that most of my friends aren’t Nigerian and the ones that are aren’t Nigerian enough, or that i dont listen to Nigerian music….i mean the list goes on and on. People always find one reason or another as to why I’m not Nigerian enough… I have actually talked to my mom about it cause at one point i started thinking that my mom was disappointed in me because of all these things. She assured me that she was not!

    But i have come to accept who I am… and in talking to other people who came from strong cultures its nice to know I’m not the only one going thru these things!

    2 years ago
    • Sorry, I got a bit excited at your comment: my groomsmen at our wedding was Nigerian. Joe. Same as you: he left the Nigeria when he was pretty young. Damn I miss eating at his place :D

      2 years ago
      • first off, YAYE TO A SIMON AND MARTINA RESPONSE.

        Second, if u guys ever want to come to FL, i will love to host u guys and show u around the fun places….and u guys can eat ALLLLLL the Nigerian food u want, my mother loves showing off her cooking!

        2 years ago
    • I feel you as a Nigerian. I have some Nigerian friends and when we talk about guys and i tell them i am not interested in dating a Nigerian , they gasp, tsk, and shake their head. but i stopped caring a long time ago (to be honest i don’t think i ever cared.) and when we (my sisters and i) go to a Nigerian gathering it’s so awkward, like when my moms friends want to talk to us they all use English (accompanied with that look) or even worst force us to reply in our language. even when i was in Nigeria i only spoke English so i guess we always stood out as the groups of sister that don’t know how to speak their mother tongue.

      did they really send you back to Nigeria alone ?? if my parents thought of doing that i would tie myself to a pole lol

      2 years ago
      • HAHAHAHA gurl i feel ya! I just dont care anymore either…if its not this, its another thing! Gotta shake off those haters!

        No i was sent back to stay with family. My school was a boarding school so i was there most of the time!

        2 years ago
  8. Yay… I’ve finally gotten it down to continue posting replies on this site. I am just lazy.

    But this topic is perfect for me. Like Dan, I too was adopted and now live in Sweden. I’ve gotten this kind of question a million times, mainly because as born Korean I look very different from the stereotypical tall, blond and blue eyed people of Sweden. I am short, black haired and have almost black eyes (they’re brown really, but it’s hard to tell). I also get confused a lot for an newer immigrant unless I open my mouth (and speak fluent Swedish).

    But as for identity, as you say, it depends on the culture that you hold closest. I may have been born Korean, but I share sooooooo few traits of the Korean lifestyle. This was something I realised only after my first (and so far only) revisit to Korea. I looked the same as to everyone, but I couldn’t understand cultural references, language or customs. I was literally a foreigner in a Korean body, and that revelation was something I think that I needed. If someone would ask me today I’d say I am born Korean, but my inner self is 90 % Swedish. I do share a lot of things that I have adopted from Korea, that are close to my preferences, but I could never become Korean again. I still hold Korea very close, after all it’s the culture I was born from, but I can’t think of myself leaving my life and what I know to change completely. I guess what I am trying to say is that I try to be open-minded, and yet I know what I like.

    One more thing I can say however is that being born somewhere else helped open my interest for the world. It helped me be interested of other cultures than the one I live in, and I love that because it’s helped me to discover a lot of cultures that are amazing. We often tend to think from what we’ve been raised with (something I noticed when I was studying in China, and had a number of American friends who kept asking me what my Major was. For the record, I still don’t know. I’ve only gone to Universities as Colleges in Sweden are pretty much none-existant and most would go to a University (and many never finish a Major there, since Bachelors give you credits and they are first). And to get back to my point, it can sometimes be very different from what we’re used to. Hence, why I love talking to people like you all.

    2 years ago
  9. I’m a Yonsei (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yonsei_(fourth-generation_Nikkei)) so the child of at least one parent who was born Japanese in America (for me specifically, Peru. Mother’s parents and their parents were all full Japanese and immigrated, grew up and stayed in Peru) and my family moved to Australia where I was born and raised. The idea and pressure of a specific cultural identity makes me super uncomfortable, my mum always called herself Peruvian even though she was completely Japanese but she only spoke Spanish (and then eventually English of course) and never learnt Japanese (she was the youngest and never had much desire to move to Japan or learn to speak Japanese like other members of her family). My dad is full Peruvian so here’s a Yonsei who is half Peruvian growing up in Australia haha, I learnt to speak English and Spanish and my household is a blend of both Peruvian and Japanese culture (speak spanish, eat Japanese and Peruvian food). I think there’s a big emphasis in Australia for multiculturalism, especially where I grew up and I dont think I’d call myself Australian, from other foreigners’/familys’ perceptions I am Australian but it’s such a diluted term from my own perspective. And travelling to Peru and Japan to visit family, it isn’t really of a culture shock, sure they know Im a foreigner definitely but Iv’e never had that pressure to be ‘Australian/Peruvian/Japanese’. And I think its funny thinking back on my family, we’ve got sooooo much family on both sides. All my dad’s familt is easy, they all speak Spanish done. But I go to Japan (and Peru) to see my Mum’s family and its crazy, they all either be speaking Spanish or English to me and if that doesn’t work they’ll be throwing out rapid fire Japanese and Portuguese and you see these huge family gatherings of just all these languages being thrown around and these a very Japanese or Peruvian looking people just switching languages all over the place like its the most normal thing. I most likely lost the point somewhere really early on, its 2am hah. But I think, embrace everything you are or you want to embrace, do whatever, screw weird people and their uptight patriotism. My family and life are awesome and so crazy and I wish I could talk more or be more succinct but words are really hard gosh darn, I wish we could just have like autobiographies/histories on our families done bam in front of us easy.

    2 years ago
  10. This is such an interesting topic, and one I can relate to. I was born in India, and lived there for 11 years. I’ve been living in Florida for almost 9 years now. It’s home but I remember when I got my citizenship, I struggled with the same question. Am I American? Indian? Indian-American? I did not have an answer though because when I’m here, I’m “the Indian” who has Indian food, wears Indian clothes, speaks the language etc. But when I visit India, it’s the total opposite. People seem surprised I remember the language, or that I can handle the spiciness of the food. English, in India, has the same distinction it has in South Korea, where it is impressive if someone knows it fluently. In my case, since I speak it everyday, English-speaking is a habit. But when I go to India, I have to tone it down because people think I am showing off. I completely stand out, even though, at least to me, I look the same. It’s a weird experience, one I do not really like. So even though I love my family back in India,, I really avoid visiting. I know! Bad.

    P.S – Martina, you look AMAZING!!

    2 years ago
    • have you ever experienced this in India? My Indian-American friend says when she visits her family and she is trying to get a deal or get tickets for a tourist attraction (Taj Mahal etc), she lets her family do all the talking. she doesn’t say a word. Because as soon as they hear the trace of American accent, they’ll charge her more.

      2 years ago
  11. My mother is from Asia and my father is european so I grew up with both cultures and we constantly moved between Asia and Europe. I don’t feel entirely home in either of my parents countries.

    2 years ago
  12. in my house we have to take off our shoes too and in EVERY SINGLE other Bengali house i’ve been to in England! it’s normal!
    when i’ve been back to Bangladesh, everyone can tell we’re from another country (mainly cos we wear ‘western’ clothes)and then you kinda get tested out on how you do in speaking the language when you visit relatives, which is kinda annoying!

    an interesting question i’ve had asked to me about last year was, since i’m from another country but born in England, what language do i think in? i easily said English! though i can speak Bengali, i only speak the language with my parent and my grandma! (and any other much older relatives)

    2 years ago
  13. I’m American and usually we don’t take our shoes off. But for some reason when I visited my grandma’s house when she was still alive, she always had us take our shoes off before we went onto the carpet. She wouldn’t throw a fit if we didn’t, but if we didn’t she would constantly be telling us that it is okay to take our shoes off (basically hinting that she wants them off, haha). And when I visited some of my friends when I was younger, if I was going to stay there for a while I’d also take off my shoes. But it wasn’t a requirement, it was just because it was more comfortable.

    2 years ago
  14. My parents immigrated from Poland so I grew up in the states. I remember growing up and being sent to Polish school and it was absolute torture. Our parents struggled to keep the language going in the house, but going back to the motherland every other year allowed my brother and I to practice the language.

    However, we were always the “Americans.” It literally doesn’t matter how Polish we acted, the older we got, the more evident it was. We lived completely different lives from our family. We didn’t grow up on the farm like our cousins so of course I couldn’t stand the smell in the pig sty. Our friends in Poland asked us a million questions, ones we thought were pretty stupid like, “What are black people like?”

    I put forth an effort in high school to clean up my Polish, so I learned the parts or reading I got confused with and was finally able to read and write. Likewise, I’d watch Disney movies and cartoons in Polish to further expand my vocabulary. Now, I consider myself fluent, but I still know I’m being held to this standard to sound perfect.

    Once I slip up, people will correct me. It doesn’t matter if the WHOLE day I’ve been talking perfectly, I will be corrected. I think that’s the worst. Also being asked, “Do you understand?” while someone is saying something. When I don’t understand, I ask, but I don’t like people assuming just because I’m an American that my Polish is that much lesser.

    2 years ago
  15. OOOOOOooooooOooooooOhh, I forgot to comment on the shoe thing! I live in the United States and I have to say, I always keep my shoes on in houses and our guests do the same. Unless the people have nice carpet or expensive floors or something and tell you not do wear your shoes, which is seen as kinda jerk-y but it’s generally understood gracefully. It’s viewed as taking off your shoes being dirty for your socks or feet. It’s like a male guest taking off his shirt or something; it just doesn’t feel right to remove your attire. It also seems far too casual of a thing to do if you don’t know the people well. It’s like how women talk about taking off their bras when they come home from a long day – that wouldn’t be the best or most proper thing to do at someone’s house xD

    Basically unless it’s a friends house and I’m staying for awhile, or unless the people do not wish for people to wear shoes in their house, the idea of taking off my shoes is uncomfortable and too informal. I don’t know many who tell people to take off their shoes, either. I agree with the 90% estimate Jen gave. My family – intermediate and otherwise – would find it strange if someone took off their shoes and might even take offense as the guest behaving too casually and carelessly.

    2 years ago
  16. I think everyone feels the need to fit in and one of the biggest ones is national/cultural identity. My parents are from one country, I was born in another, and I live in yet another. So I’ve had my share of cultural identity crises. Whenever people ask me where are you from. I always pause and depending on who is asking, what country I am in ,or even my mood- my answer will differ. I think Leslie Fiedler said it best: “When I’m in America, I have no doubt I’m a Jew, but I have strong doubts about whether I’m really an American. And when I go to Israel, I know I’m an American, but I have strong doubts about whether I’m a Jew.”

    2 years ago
  17. As an American, it really depends on the home I’m in! Like in my house, I always take my shoes off. (Or my mom gets angry.) If I’m going to my friends house for more than half an hour or so and it’s clean, I’ll take my shoes off. But if I’m just stopping by somewhere, or my friend’s house’s floor is dirty, I’ll keep them on! Another thing that a few Americans have are house shoes. My dad will change from his “outside” shoes to his “indoor” shoes, which are a pair of really old tennis shoes. I think this is more of an older generation thing though. I notice that older Americans leave their shoes on indoors more than younger Americans.

    I read an article in high school that’s related to this topic (“Blaxicans” and Other Reinvented Americans by Richard Rodriguez), and I think it’s really interesting. Racial identification is pretty black and white, but I find cultural identification to be a really gray subject!!! In a book I read called Sarah’s Key, a woman moved to France in her early 20s, and had lived there for 25+ years. She had lived in France more than she had lived in America, yet she was still identified and labeled as an American. Racially she was not French, but she lived in France and was immersed in their culture. What is she then? (American-French?? lol)

    I think that a lot of people assume that racial and cultural identification go hand in hand (ex. You are Chinese, so your culture must be centered around a Chinese culture), in the past, I myself have assumed that because someone was one race, their culture had to be the one most centered around that race. I know in the United States, we tend to put one’s “original” culture/race before their “current” culture/race. Like, African-American, Polish-American, ect. I usually follow off of that? So a Korean person living in Canada would be a Korean-Canadian, and you two would be Canadian-Korean. …But even then, I don’t know if that’s the correct way to identify someone.

    It’s fascinating that our world has become so diverse, I love it a lot, but I feel like as we become more and more diverse, we run into big questions about how to identify. And because we don’t really have historical insight on how to answer this question since it’s a new issue, it’s difficult to answer.

    2 years ago
  18. I never identify myself as an American especially when I’m overseas. I’m Puerto Rican. Lol Puerto ricans are Americans. I’m in South Korea right now and I have people ask me where I was from I told them Puerto Rico that’s an island close to the Bahamas . Its not a lack of pride that I do this but the US have a bad rep overseas and I’m more proud being a Puerto Rican. As for the shoes in the house in the US. Yup everyone wears the shoes in the house. The floors are Cold!. In Puerto Rico no shoes in the house you walk mainly barefoot. I love it lol.

    2 years ago
  19. This is actually a topic that has been brought up around me quite a bit. I was born in Korea but raised outside the country for most of my life. Now I’ve been living in Korea for 6 years now, going on 7. Technically, I am a Gyopo. Though when people ask me what country I identify with most, I have a hard time answering. In Korea, even though my Korean has gotten much better and I have a pretty solid understanding of the culture, I am still considered ‘the American.”

    While in America, I have had almost everyone I meet ask about my heritage because “I don’t look white.” It was extremely confusing to me in my youth. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell, half Scot and half Korean. I’m the kid that had a foot in two different cultures but never really was ushered into one or the other.

    I would agree with you that after some time, culture may almost be irrelevant due to people moving to other countries and implementing their own ideals into the mainstream culture. In essence, yes, there will really be no “one pure country” anymore. Yes, I’m sure many will fight it. Say that “these immigrants are trying to erase what our country is,” but it’s an inevitability. I mean, look at culture history. There’s multiple examples there.

    I will say that I hope Korea will be a bit more open towards foreigners though. Sure, there are MANY that are very accepting and curious of outside cultures but there are just as many that have ill-conceived notions of the outside world. Will a foreigner ever really be Korean, whether or not they’ve lived there for years on end or completely comprehend the culture? Probably not. Not at this point, anyway. I’m afraid to say, and am slightly hesitant to, that Korea is one of the many countries that hold their country pride over acceptance of others and their cultures.

    2 years ago
  20. we don’t walk in our house with shoes on, but that’s cuz my mom [rightfully] doesn’t trust most of us to not get everything filthy nasty if we did :P shoes are only okay in like the kitchen and back room because there are doors in those rooms to the outside, and kitchen chairs provide a shoe application station that is often lacking in the usual ‘take your shoes off at the door’ policy of everywhere in japan when i have lace-ups on =w=;

    2 years ago
  21. You know what you are? You’re Human! No matter what color/race/religion you are the one thing that no one can take away from you is the fact that you’re Human. Why put yourself in a certain category? Why feel bad or awkward because your not Polish enough or Korean enough of whatever. Just be yourself and let the others deal with it. Screw them if you’re not enough of something to please them. Establishing your own identity and being proud of it is all that matters because in the end that can can make you truly happy. At least it works for me ;)

    2 years ago
  22. Fascinating article. I totally see where you are coming from that even though you are Polish you have adapted (If that’s right) to Korean/Canadian ways so therefore you are more Korean then you are Polish. Yeah cultural identity is changing, Ugh i can’t explain what i mean but i understand.

    2 years ago
  23. I definitely know where the both of you are coming from,I was born in Guangdong,China, but grew up in Peru , I live here for more than 18 years already and speak spanish more fluently than chinese. The thing is, I went back to China when I was 18 years,more than 15 years from when I left, and there was a ton of pressure or even shaming for not speaking chinese, in the chinese airline that we travelled in, the chinese stewardess almost yelled at me for not knowing, saying things like HOW CAN YOU BE CHINESE AND NOT KNOW CHINESE?, even when I tried to communicate with her in english, which I learnt in a cram school. In my family, they also didn´t let me speak chinese because it wasn´t uderstandable, BUT even then, they inforced the asian pride, of marrying another chinese guy at all cost.
    On the other side, here in Peru, there is not much asian population , so it is very common to point out that you are the exception, or rather ´not so included´, having all those kinds of asian stereotypes put on to you.
    And still , my customs are very chinese, I still feel very chinese, but I also feel peruvian. IT IS ALL SO CONFUING BUT INDEED INTERESTING.
    PD:THE MAKE UP LOOK LOOKS AMAZIIIING!! GOOD JOB JEN &MARTINA! LOVE YOU BOTH!

    2 years ago
  24. I am never sure how to identify. I don’t want to identify as American because that typically means you are Native American or you are a mix and you don’t identify as any of the other things you are or you don’t know what you are. XD I guess when people ask I identify as German/Irish since those are what I mainly am. But I do also identify as Native American because I am that too. If you ever see my mom’s dad he really looks native american. but my mom’s mom look super Irish and the German is all from my dad’s side of the family who all look really German to me, broad shoulders and such. I guess I really am all of those things. So that’s how I identify. But I also really do love Korean Culture, Language and Food XD and music so I identify as a Irish/German/Native American/ Korea Lover! Yea! <3

    2 years ago
  25. I love you guys! :D

    Your videos make me want to do an exchange program in Korea (Sookmyung Culinary Academy actually).

    I have a question though, I know you did the TL;DR on homosexuality in Korea but what about those who are transgender in Korea. As a transgender and possible exchange student (should my paperwork and everything go through and I get accepted) I’m curious to know what kind of obstacles I may or may not come across. It would be so awesome to have this discussed :D

    2 years ago
  26. I was born in the Philippines but grew up in the States. I haven’t been to the PI since I was a baby, about 20 years. Went there for vacation recently and dressed to fit in. I hung out with my cousin and her friends. They talk mostly in English so I join the conversion, her friends quickly discerned that I was a foreigner. They said I had a slang in my English that was easily picked up. I was surprised because I thought English is English, is there a different way Americans speak English?

    2 years ago
    • Of course there is, theres different ways/dialects/nuances of English all around the world. A person who grows up in one country and speaks english would speak it differently than someone else who grew up speaking english in another part of the world.

      2 years ago
  27. My parents were both born in Puerto Rico, but I was born in the states and I don’t speak Spanish. I get judged for not speaking Spanish ALL.OF.THE.TIME. It’s really quite annoying. Also, sometimes Puerto Ricans from the island will get snippy if you weren’t born on the island and call yourself Puerto Rican. To everyone else I say I’m Puerto Rican, but I’m to other Puerto Ricans I say,”My parents were born in Puerto Rico.” because there is no handy term like “gyopo” to use instead. I’d say most don’t really care about the semantics of it, but some do, so I err on the side of caution rather than get a big speech.

    2 years ago
  28. Simon, I don’t think you guise should worry about what to be called! You’re simply Canadians, with Polish/Croatian heritage, who have lived in Korea for a good chunk of your adult lives, and therefore are expats! You don’t have to fit into one word – you maybe can with a sentence but xD I personally don’t think there’s one word to refer to such multiculturedness (it’s a word now, dang it) and that there doesn’t have to be.

    It was so nice seeing Jen on here! This is my first time seeing her! She’s seems so nice and sweet! I really enjoyed this video and seeing Martina and Jen speak with each other. By the way, I love her little dog a lot! :)

    2 years ago
  29. Jen did a wonderful job with the makeup! Wow~
    And about the shoes in house, I guess it’s my bad to think that all westerners wear their shoes in the house. I didn’t know that Canadians take their shoes off too. LOL. I blame the media.

    2 years ago
  30. About the leaving shoes on: I never did that the first 19 years of my life, couldn’t stand it at all. But since I live at my own place I only put them off when I go to bed or to shower o.O …. then again a lot as changed … Like: My laziness reached a whole new level with University o: I don’t even bother to wear a pajama at night anymore.

    2 years ago
  31. Jen is so nice!

    One of my biggest pet peeves in Korean dramas is when there is a Korean American character and they act completely Korean! They will have apparently grown up in the states and then they arrive in Korea and besides from one weird sentence or misunderstanding to show they are “Korean American” they then effortlessly fit into Korean culture! Whhhhatttt. Even just being outside of Korea for a few years can be difficult for people and there are mistakes they make when they come back. One of the times we came to Korea and got a hotel and Hugh was checking the room and walked straight in with his shoes on and was quickly told to take them off. He apologised and said he has been in Australia (yes many Australians wear shoes inside, just how things are but I think also due to our climate we do a lot more outdoor living and have outdoor living space and are going inside and outside a lot more).

    One of Hugh’s pet peeves is some types of Korean Americans, or other types of Koreans… basically those who were born in other countries/grew up in other countries, speaking on behalf of all Koreans. You see this type of thing on certain websites…. you might have mentioned one in your blog post… He doesn’t like someone who didn’t grow up in Korea tell a wider audience that “this is how all Koreans are” or “Koreans think like this”. He doesn’t think he speaks for all Koreans either, but as a Korean who grew up in Korea, his opinion may not be the same as someone who grew up in another country. Another big factor is that someone who grew up as a minority in a country may have a different outlook to someone who grew up as part of the majority. Most Koreans grow up as part of the majority. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but lets just say that Hugh doesn’t appreciate… lets just say… some Korean Americans online… speaking on behalf of him, especially when it’s criticising anyone who has an interest in Korean culture.

    That said, Jen seems amazing and it was so nice to see her acknowledge that there are differences between Korean Americans and Korean Koreans and the struggles Korean Americans face while in Korea. I’d love to see more realistic representations of that in dramas.

    2 years ago
  32. I really enjoyed this video!^^
    I myself am German. I was born here and lived in Germany until I was 9 and then my family moved to Canada. And now five and a half years later(that was in December, I was 14 at the time. I’m 15 now) we moved back to Germany. Honestly, all this moving sucks haha.
    Anyways, what I’m trying to get at is that I feel quite different from all the Germans here, despite the fact I’m German. It’s like I’m a foreigner of some sort. I know German though not quite as well as I’d like to know it, especially with all the slang. Some people would say something or pronounce a word a certain way and I have no idea what it means.
    In Canada I felt proud of the fact I was German and now that I live in Germany again I feel proud of the fact that I lived in Canada. It’s like I feel like a Canadian despite the fact I never was Canadian, just an immigrant. It’s like I don’t quite know if I consider myself German or Canadian, though technically I’m German xD it’s hard to explain, I just hope this wasn’t too confusing haha^^’

    2 years ago
  33. So this is going to sound insane; but my experience with being “outside my mother land” is actually not that I have left my country. I grew up in Colorado which is a liberal state in the western US and about a year and a half ago I moved to Alabama, which is in the deep south. Holy cow, you guys, let me tell you, I spent my first three months of work asking people to repeat themselves four or five times ands sometimes they had to write things down for me to understand. Ebonics and fast talking southern are 100% a completely different languages from what I grew up with, and I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked where I’m from. In Alabama, if you aren’t from Alabama you are an outsider. I might as well be from a different planet. I went into culture shock and it took me forever to make friends.

    2 years ago
    • This comment also made me think of the “Polish history” remark Simon made in the blog post, about how he was chastised for not knowing enough Polish history. I’m from Michigan, and from an area where knowing your town’s history is completely unimportant. The fact that there’s even a book written about the town I grew up in is weird to me. Now I know a bunch of east coast people and they are CONSTANTLY relating everything to how things are done where they’re from, or to events that happened in their towns, either during their own lifetimes or during the town’s history. One day I was waiting to turn left at a red light and my passenger from MA commented that I’d have pulled up further if I were an MA driver. I was….bemused. Maybe it’s because the US started on the east coast so there’s just a lot more history to be had out there, but I found it really interesting because none of that is all that important where I’m from.

      In other news, I am a shoes-off house. My family’s house is sort of half and half. We mostly take our shoes off when we come in, but it’s not a huge deal if, say, I put on a pair of dress shoes in my bedroom and walk out of the house wearing them.

      2 years ago
    • Depending on where you are in Alabama sometimes you still have to ask people to repeat themselves. I’ve lived in south Alabama all my life, and sometimes it happens. Alabamians don’t really enunciate well xP

      2 years ago
    • Ha! You know, whenever we think about the United States, we don’t really think of it as one country, but – like – 50. There are so many different cultures and – thanks to us watching the Daily Show – different values that each state has. It’s hard to understand how it’s just one country, really.

      2 years ago
      • It really is crazy how different we all are across the country. While we have our American pride, we also have pride in our regions and individual states and cities.

        For example, I’m from the city of Cincinnati in the southwest of Ohio, right around where it meets Indiana and Kentucky via the Ohio River. So I live in the midwest and there is definitely a pride attached to that. We have our opinions on the east coast and the south, etc. There are also commonalities between the midwest states that I’ve heard from people who aren’t. Like, people from the midwest are polite. I know from a couple trips to New York City that, at least in the urban area, people aren’t quite as friendly. That midwest personality is so ingrained in me that all I could think was that a huge chunk of people from NYC are just plain rude.

        Then we have state pride. Even where I live, where it is only 10 minutes from my actual house to cross into another state, we tend to think the other state sucks. The Ohioans have things to say about the people who live in Indiana or Kentucky (though Kentucky seems to be picked on the most), and vice versa. Especially when driving. I will admit that, on occasion, I’ve yelled at stupid drivers to go back to Indiana or where ever. Heck, just yesterday I was stuck behind a car from New York and dude could not drive at all.

        There is the city pride. We have our opinions about the other cities in Ohio, even though we all band together supporting Ohio. My city Cincinnati and Cleveland don’t tend to get along. We both have professional baseball and football teams, so we’re automatically rivals. The things I’ve seen online, it is crazy the amount of dislike we have in each other.

        And in my city itself, there is the east side/west side pride. My city is pretty much divided in half by highways and the people in this city have such stereotypes about those who live on each side. I’m guilty of this, I’m a total west sider, the attitude has been ingrained in me since birth.

        There are so many little intricate things that divide us, and yet at the same time unite us. It is a really weird and complicated mess. That is why, when I’ve had people ask me about how things are done (or even just said, the way we speak across regions/states/etc is another tricky mess) in the US, I have to specify that my answer is about where I live, in my city. So in a way, it is very true to say that each state is a country in and of itself.

        2 years ago
      • i’m going to steal this explanation if you don’t mind. whenever i get asked questions about america, especially with the context of “it’s like this in my country; what about your’s?” i end up starting with uhhh america is stupidly huge so i can only answer for a small part of it…. which never really conveys the problem to people who haven’t been or live in very homogenous? idk countries where customs and whatnot are identical-ish throughout the country…. i mean damn we have different legal marriage ages depending on what state you’re in!
        at this point i think we’ve only remained a single nation through stubborn pride :P

        2 years ago
        • Absolutely! linguistically and culturally the United States of America makes no sense. When we get down to the very core of it, each state has state pride the way many countries have national pride. We identify a lot more regionally than we do as a country. When someone asks where I’m from my first reaction is Colorado not the United States. My mother was an international flight attendant for much of her young adult life and she always compared our moving from state to state the way people go from country to country on vacation in europe.

          2 years ago
      • OH my gosh! It’s so true. I’ve been to seven states, and lived in three-they’re all completely unique and people judge each other based on where they’re from. Each state has its own dialect and slang. The cultures are VASTLY different. The fashion and make up and style. For example, I have a giant lion tattoo on my chest, which in colorado and california was absolutely fine, people were always saying they loved it. Out here in alabama, I have literally had people walk up to me and say, “Why would such a pretty girl want to ruin her body like that.”

        2 years ago
  34. I am Korean-American living in California. I was two when I moved to the United States. I have been back a couple of times to visit family. And I always immediately stood out in terms of fashion and just hundreds of little ways. I can speak the language, but my honorifics are all messed up. When I was younger, I used to use it as an out card to speak less English. Or I’d always be apologizing, oh, I’m sorry, but I don’t know the proper way to speak English.

    It would also upset me because they are so outspoken in Korea about being even a tiny little bit overweight. They’re always trying to “fix” it. It’s tough.

    I do appreciate being Korean and Korean food more now than when I was growing up. We used to eat Korean food every day, and I always wanted to eat “America” style or be like other kids growing up. I moved to Tennessee when I was 2, so it was not at all diverse. Then we moved to California which is way more diverse.

    The other thing is that I don’t look Korean. No one thinks I look Korean. They’re always like are you Chinese? Are you whatever? Anything but Korean. So I feel like I have a double whammy that even if I spoke perfect Korean, I do not look Korean although both my mom and dad are Korean.

    2 years ago
    • I’m in the same boat, Kyung. I think that it’s easier for some Koreans to think you are Chinese instead of an overweight Korean (ie. not stick thin). The topic of Korean identity is something I think many Korean-Americans think about. I’m glad you guys talked about it here.

      2 years ago
    • I’m in the same boat, Kyung. I t

      2 years ago
  35. My parents are from Guangzhou, China and growing up, I spoke Cantonese at home, but similar is Simon, I dropped it for English. We actually have a word for us American born Chinese, juk sing (竹升) and there’s the stereotypes that we can’t speak the mother language at all, don’t like to eat Chinese food, only like Western things, etc. It is hard to say what my cultural identity is. As a juk sing, we’re all very different, some may entirely embrace the Western culture, while others want to embrace both.

    By the way, love the makeup look, Martina~

    2 years ago
  36. Hello! I’m an Persian-American. My parents had immigrated from Iran. I grew up in LA in a big Persian family. I speak Farsi well, but I have an accent and my reading/writing skills are terrible. I understand the culture and I love learning about Persian history. There are, however, some things that irk me about Persian culture. As a girl, I’m supposed to dress “modestly”, speak quietly before my elders, and serve tea about every five minutes. My family has modernized, and they don’t really expect much of that anymore. Occasionally, I’ll get a great-uncle ask me what’s wrong with me, why can’t I act like a good Persian girl, etc. I’ll say that I’m American. But this isn’t just an Iranian-American problem. I have friends in Iran who complain about that too, so I guess it’s more of a traditional vs modern problem.

    Occasionally people will bug me about not reading Farsi well, but I always respond that I don’t need to read well. I rarely visit Iran, and never by myself. Besides, I speak and write in three other languages, so that usually shuts them up.

    It’s easy being an Iranian-American though, especially in LA. There’s so many of us! Iran’s political situation isn’t one that many of us wish to return to, anyway.

    2 years ago
  37. I haven’t watched the video yet (I like to read your blog posts first because they’re so rich with details) but I agree with your writing here Simon…what is cultural identity? I’m half Indian and half Black but I live in Jamaica. I can’t identify with my Indian family here because they like to remind me that they’re “more Indian” than me because I’m part black. I can’t identify with any family I may have in India because I don’t know them because my family has been in Jamaica for generations. I have cousins that are British, Canadian and American…they identify as Jamaican and black because of their parents, but also as British/Canadian or American because they’re citizens of those countries. They have biracial children who are half black and half white…who identify as Jamaican and a citizen of whatever country they’re living in.
    What is cultural identity? In the future, I think these borders we’ve established won’t matter any more…well…I hope they won’t matter.
    I know you and Martina get a lot of flack from people online because you haven’t learned Korean to the high level they expect of you, but I think that’s ridiculous. I have friends who are expats in other countries and can’t speak a word of the language but like you eat the food daily, pay taxes, participate in English speaking community and contribute to the country in different ways.
    Are you guys Korean? Mmm, I don’t think so, but are you guys committed to creating a life in Korea, oh definitely. I love how unique your experience is because you’re creating a niche…expats who are contributing to the economy while sharing your perspective with foreigners who are interested in learning about Korea.

    2 years ago
    • I’m glad you like the blog posts! I like to write (actually more than I like to talk on camera). I actually wanted to be an author for a while, until I realized that every literary genius was miserable. I chose happiness over immortality, though I still do enjoy writing a bit from time to time :D

      2 years ago
  38. Growing up in America, I remember that wearing shoes inside the house was quite common. After traveling Asia, visiting Korea and living in Japan for 13 years, I can’t imagine leaving my shoes while entering someone’s home. Seems so wrong and dirty for some reason.

    2 years ago
  39. Go Twinkies!

    2 years ago
  40. I hate leaving my shoes on! My fiance does it all the time and I really don’t like it! If you want something on your feet then wear slippers. Or let them be freeee, freeee as the wind~

    2 years ago
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