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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. Ok wow that would like totally freak me out if that were to happen to me, I’m Irish German but the family has been here in the states so long that the Language is like gone and the generation that did speak it is no longer here:( there is a family that I know that could understand this though they are from Japan(born and raised came to the stats to work) they have been here for awhile and the mother my friend is pregnant like with her 9th child and they switch there religion and the family is not happy about it and all this other stuff! I think the children would have a harder time when they do go visit back to Japan but I don’t know? they are a great family and I might have just confused myself but that’s ok I do that a lot!

    5 years ago
  2. I think that the more you are exposed to other countries the more of your ‘Cultural Identity’ is lost because they all start to blend together to form your own Individual Identity.
    I was born in the US but moved to Brasil when I was three and lived there for a little over 5 years. Even though my siblings and I were sometimes treated differently because we didn’t look Brasilian, I considered myself to be Brasilian even though I hadn’t been born there. I spoke Portuguese fluently, ate Brasilian food, went to a Brasilian school and wore the same clothes that everyone wore. When we moved back I experienced a general feeling of not being ‘American’ enough, even though I looked American I didn’t act like one which caused me to be seen as awkward and weird. Even after being back in the US for over 15 years I still find that while I don’t see myself as Brasilian any more I still can’t confidently claim to be American. For a long time I felt like an outsider when I moved back to America but when I’m asked if I would like to go back and visit Brasil I always say no because I would be going back as a visitor and not as someone who identifies themselves as Brasilian. Plus my Portuguese is now awful.
    I can understand someone struggling to answer the question of identity, but I don’t think it depends on where you live/have lived or where you were born. I think it more has to do with what has influenced someone over there lifetime, whether it is where you lived, family, friends or even what someone reads or watches (I’ve realized recently that I now slightly bow when I greet people thanks to watching way to much anime). Hopefully that makes a bit of sense.
    I’ve also noticed that in the US whenever someone asks what someones nationality or culture is most of time people will say something like “Oh, I’m 50% German, 25% Irish, 24.5% English and .5% Russian” and never just say that they’re American.

    5 years ago
  3. I’m Vietnamese on my mom’s side only, but I don’t know the language at all. This is where I differ from what Jen talked about in the video, though: my mother purposely didn’t teach me. She doesn’t want me to get involved with Vietnamese culture because, well, she ran away for a reason! She has no national pride! I felt awful when I was in little Saigon last week and couldn’t talk to anyone, but my mother said it was their fault for not learning English while living in America.

    5 years ago
  4. (I forgot to add this in my previous comment, sorry!) Even my mom’s not fully Vietnamese. Her father was African-American. The thing is, he died in the war when my mom was just a baby. She was raised completely Vietnamese with no knowledge whatsoever of her black heritage. Can she still call herself black? Can I call myself black? Or Asian? Should I call myself white, because my father is totally white and I’ve grown up in a predominately white part of America?

    5 years ago
  5. While I can’t comment on the “gyopo” feelings like others can, as I was born in America and currently live in the U.S. and my parents are 100% American, I do have some thoughts on cultural identity. My first thought is: My mom’s side of the family is Native American (crow tribe), and while my mom is only 1/16th, she was born on a reservation and was surrounded by that for awhile. I was never raised with any of that culture, and really wish that I had some sort of culture to be apart of.
    Second thought: 2 years ago I studied abroad for a year in Germany, and after coming back to the United States all I’ve wanted to do is move back to Germany and spend the rest of my life there. I loved living there, and when I was there I felt like a German (part of which may be the fact that everyone I met thought I was German until they heard my really heavy accent). Obviously I can’t call myself German, since I’m not a citizen and my parents are like 5% German, but if I could I would be German, that’s how much I loved it there. So I think on that note, cultural identity is an interesting thing, because sometimes you identify more with the culture you were note raised with, than the one you were raised with (and a bunch of other things, but I think this comment is going on long enough)

    5 years ago
    • Sorry for bothering you with my reply(if you are even reading it) but as a German myself I don’t really get it.If you feel German and you want to be German than you can be German.Nobody would mind,my best friend “is” Turkish but she is considered as German because she wants to be .You can call yourself whatever you want. The most important thing is that you are happy with your decision.(sorry for my weird English and this reply (I hope I understood your point and don’t wrote something completly unrelated and senseless or something that you already mentioned in your comment)).

      5 years ago
  6. I was born in Seoul, but I immigrated to the States when I was three. I’ve lived in America most of my life, but my parents did their best to raise me as a Korean. I spoke to my parents in Korean, went to Korean school during the weekend, went to cram school, etc. So, I don’t consider myself a full-fledged Korean or American; I’m both and more.

    Cultural identity was something I struggled to understand growing up. I used to get bullied by the Korean-Americans for not speaking in Konglish and not listening to K-pop (oh, the irony). At the same time, I was bullied by the Caucasians for looking ethnically different, eating Korean food, not knowing American pop-culture, and essentially not being “American” enough. Whenever I visited Korea, I would be criticized for being too opinionated and not following Korean fashion and beauty trends. I got a lot of weird stares when I had long, straight blue hair while everyone else at the time was sporting a wavy bob. And I got even more criticism when they found out that I didn’t care about looking different.

    5 years ago
  7. I can’t really relate to Jen’s experience – I’ve spent most of my adult life in Japan, but I’m white American, and no one is ever, ever going to suspect me of being from around here. (I agree that being an “obvious” foreigner does give you a certain amount of privilege in Asia; I’ve always thought that Japanese people (or anyone ethnically East Asian, really; people here are terrible at guessing ethnicity) raised outside Japan have it hardest here, because you don’t get any of the special passes that non-Asian foreigners often do.) But I feel what Simon said about not feeling Polish a lot. My dad’s family is Polish-American, but they came over four generations back and worked very hard on “integrating” – my great-grandmother always said there was nothing worth remembering in the Poland they left, so her family didn’t make an effort to pass their culture on, and none of us alive today know more than a few words of Polish. So I obviously don’t feel like I can call myself “Polish”… and, conversely, a whole lot of my family’s culture comes from the South, and that side of my family has been the States since before they were the States, so trying to figure out which part of Europe they came from originally is a bit of a lost cause. But I think there’s a lot of pressure to be “something”-American; you’re not allowed to identify as just American unless you’re Native, and simultaneously, there are a lot of people, both inside and outside the States, who think that there’s nothing more to “American” culture than Hollywood and McDonald’s. So I spent a lot of time growing up feeling like I didn’t really have a culture; it really took moving to another country to reinforce that I do, and that I can embrace that.

    BTW, on the shoes issue – I grew up in a house where you take your shoes off at the door, every time, no exceptions, and that was the standard at all my friends’ houses, too. But apparently the stereotype comes from somewhere! I’m kind of curious whether ethnic background and/or geographic location plays into it at all; I’m from the Northeast, and if you wore your shoes inside you’d be tracking in snow or mud six or seven months of the year, minimum, so the idea of it makes me cringe. Maybe it’s less horrifying in other parts of the country?

    5 years ago
  8. I always hope to find this question being discussed because even as a mostly-adult now, it’s still an unanswered one for me: what are you? I know now there isn’t an easy answer and I’m glad we’re all more complex than that–but peers, coworkers, sometimes people I’ve just met still ask me “what are you,” so it’s difficult to not feel divided sometimes.

    I’m half Korean on my mom’s side, but we grew up in a pretty rural area of the States so I was one of only a handful of Asian students in elementary, junior high, and high school. In my circle of friends, I was “the” Asian one: when someone made a joke about ninjas or math or godzilla, they’d look at me for confirmation or validation or I dunno maybe I had something in my teeth. But we lived sort of close to some large Korean communities, so for a couple of years I was in a youth symphony that was predominantly Korean–there, I was one of only a handful of half-Koreans, and felt decidedly unKorean, especially at lunch when everyone busted out their bilingual skills and I kinda just played gameboy. So for a long time I felt really awkward and embarrassed all the time about just sort of…existing. On the one hand, I was given attention for being this sort of exotic novelty (I was pretty shy otherwise); on the other, I kind of felt like a sham when I realized I didn’t want to identify with those dumb jokes, but that I didn’t really know enough about my mom’s culture to be much more. I didn’t really reach the “WOW I CAN BE AN ENTIRE PERSON COMPOSED OF MANY PARTS??” realization until late high school, when I went to community college and came into contact with a lot of different people.
    When I visited my mom’s family in Korea for the first time a couple years ago it was a lot like Simon’s experience in Poland–a lot of sweating, a lot of feeling embarrassed around smells and tastes and sounds that, up to that point, were strongly and primarily associated with home stuff, family stuff. I’m going back in August, this time for work, and also in the hopes of making Koreanness a part of my adult, individual identity too.

    So I dunno. My identity is, at any given point, the communities, behaviors, habits, topics, environments, etc. I commune with and am involved in. It still rubs me the wrong way when people abruptly ask what I am (as if figuring out why I look the way I look must happen before the conversation can progress??), but I take it in stride now because I’m more confident about having parts of different depth and breadth. A large part of that comes from being able to see and hear from all these other perspectives, similar and different–I didn’t really know how to find something like this back in dial-up days. So thanks to everyone who has talked about their own experiences here it is all super cool to hear about :v

    5 years ago
  9. So at first I would love to say something to Simon. Even if his Polish isn’t correct in many ways, like he doesn’t know much words or his gramma is bad, I still feel like he is Polish person :) I was in Polish Meet up and I was one of the stuff there and I felt pretty close with Simon, cuz I felt he’s one of us… hope it doesn’t sound wrong, I just don’t really know how to explain it. So I hope that if Simon comes again to Poland, he will be more comfortable :)
    About the topic, I have totally agree. I was born in Poland, I speak Polish everyday but I speak also English and German, cuz I learnt it in my school, and my school was a double language school. I learnt a lot about german culture and I got into it soo much. Also I’m into korean culture, so I feel cuz of it like I’m “lees Polish” cuz people sometimes here don’t understand my way of thinking cuz it’s not typical Polish way of thinking. So I can not imagine how weird feeling is for person, who was born and raised in another country, and then they come back to their country. This topic is a nice one but also a hard one to talk about, cuz there is a lot of things to say, but sometimes I have no idea how to explain my own toughts about it.

    5 years ago
    • Thank you! Everyone at the Polish fan meet made me feel very comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that I felt guilty at how nice everyone was. Ha!

      5 years ago
  10. I am 100% genetic Chinese but I’ve lived my whole life in America and never visited the “motherland” before. I consider myself an ABC (American born Chinese) which kind of puts my Chinese heritage first but it’s mainly because ABC is a the term for my situation that everyone uses over here. I can relate to a lot of what Jen is saying but it gets a little more complicated where I am. First off, I grew up in a city (specifically a certain part of the city) that is highly Asian. My high school was 60% Asian and although not all of that is Chinese (the second largest group would be Viets) you can feel the Chinese influence. Because of the large number of Asians, categorization gets more specific. There are the ABCs but you might be considered “white-washed” if you’ve adopted a lot of habits or mannerisms considered white. On the other end is “fob” and “fobby.” (In some places fob (fresh of the boat) is considered an insult but I have yet to meet anyone here that considers it that way so I hope I’m not insulting anyone.) Fob is usually limited to immigrants while “fobby” is used to describe behaviors of fobs and is often applied to an ABC who behaves the same way. Now onto my specific situation. Like I said, I’m an ABC but I don’t actually speak any Chinese. (Both my parents, though immigrants, have well developed English and that is the only language spoken to me at home.) My dad is Cantonese and my mom grew up in Cambodia so she speaks Khmer, Cantonese, Mandarin, and the local dialect of her family. Supposedly, this gives me no excuse for not knowing any native tongue and a lot of people judge me for it. (Language is REALLY important to Chinese. It’s what unifies them and gives them that national pride. Which is kind of ironic considering there’s like a bajillion dialects in China.) I’ve once had an ex-friend literally say to my face that she can’t stand the fact that I don’t know my native tongue. The immediate characterization is that I”m white-washed. The problem with that is while I do have American tendencies, I act very Chinese. All in all, I just never really fit and I felt a lot of shame for it when I was younger. My story would be a lot sadder if it weren’t for my mom. She’s raised me to be proud of the fact that I know the customs of my ancestors but feel at home in America. She’s always advocated that speaking Chinese doesn’t make you Chinese and it’s because of her that I’m completely okay being whatever the heck that I am. I still would love to learn and I know I’ll never speak like a native but that’s okay. I wanna end this with a thanks to the EYK crew. I started watching because I fell in love with kpop but I’ve stayed because you guys offer opinions I can relate to. Sometimes, you’re thinking like a North American and can’t understand the obsession with painful remedies. Sometimes, you’re thinking like a Korean (or general Asian) and adding delicious cheese to instant ramen. So thanks for being some odd combo of East-West and reminding me that I’m not the only one! (P.S. The shoe situation in our house is… complicated. It’s a general taboo to not take your shoes off but it’s not the omfgicantbelieveyoujustdidthattheworldisgonnaburnnow horrible that it is for most Asian cultures. We definitely leave them on if we’re just running in to grab something. But I still have been scolded for wearing sandals upstairs before…. I think it goes that downstairs is okay sometimes but upstairs is a definite no. And yes, almost all Americans wear their shoes inside the house and I was actually really surprised Canadians don’t do the same.)

    5 years ago
  11. This topic is more related to my father than myself, but it’s quite interesting when thinking about cultural and ethnic identity.
    My father was born in Australia, to a German immigrant father and an Aboriginal mother. Back in those days, the White Australia Policy was in effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Australia_Policy). Not long after, the Policy was abolished, and my father and his sister grew up very much immersed in the encouraged ‘Australian’ way of life, and barely participated in their father’s German way of living.
    My father would tell me that he knew enough German as a child to listen in on conversations between his father and his grandmother, but could never really speak it. He identified more with his Aboriginal heritage, and for many years worked with elders and communities to help improve the Indigenous way of life.
    He is registered as an Aboriginal with the Australian government, but made it a point to make it my choice whether I identified or not with that heritage. I chose to just be an Australian with no Aboriginal identity, as I do not physically look Aboriginal (thanks to the British on my mother’s side), and it was hard to relate to the Aboriginal community (as they are quite set in only listening to those from their own ‘mob’ or community).
    One frustrating thing about having a father that is essentially part black was when I was a child, he would be approached and questioned on whether he was actually my biological father by clueless individuals. Despite Australia having the whole ‘multiculturalism’ ideology as their culture, it is frustrating when the original Australians, Aboriginal Australians, are still considered different in comparison to those from Caucasian backgrounds.

    5 years ago
  12. Culture identity is just a pain in the butt and is another way to put labels on people I’ve faced many problems because of it.
    I never had trouble identifying myself when it came to culture. I identify myself as Mexican through and through but I have had faced problems because of the way I look. Many people tend to identify people’s culture through their physical features and because of that I have been constantly mistaken to be Caucasian, or denied my own culture by others and even been bullied because of how I look. I grew up in Mexican family in the united states within a Hispanic community and due to my light skin people automatically tend to write me off as a Caucasian which made it hard for me at school. I faced constant teasing in middle school because people thought I was Caucasian, and later in high school had to constantly put up with people commenting on how they didn’t believe I was Mexican because of how white I was even though I spoke perfect Spanish which most of them could not even understand Spanish. it’s just one big mess but I don’t let that get to me instead I work with it and explain to people how rude and hurtful it is to be on the receiving end

    5 years ago
  13. I am a Filipino that was born in the Philippines, but my family moved to America 6 months after I was born. So most of my life I was raised in America. But my parents wanted to raise my sister and I as Filipinos and to know about the Filipino culture. My parents wanted me to speak English in America since we lived there and gave us the freedom of choosing to learn Filipino if we wanted to. They didn’t force me to learn the language, but somehow I felt it was necessary to learn since I was Filipino. I guess being raised in a Filipino home gave me the influence in choosing to learn the language. When I visit the Philippines, there is this stigma that those that lived outside of the Philippines (especially in America) are highly valued and rich since they lived abroad. But it kinda bothers me because I am just the same as them and don’t see myself as anymore special than they are. The interesting and good thing about Filipinos though is that no matter if I have lived in another country, they welcome me with open arms and don’t judge me in a negative way. Also, it doesn’t matter if someone is full Filipino or part Filipino, that person is still recognized as Filipino and treated like any other Filipino. In Tagalog, there is not a word like Gyopo, but there is a word for Filipinos who have lived outside of the Philippines and come back to visit or live in the Philippines. Those people are called “balikbayan.” “Balik” means to come back or return and “bayan” means country (but for this term, it refers to the Philippines). So it basically, means people who have returned to the mother land (the Philippines) and the term has a welcoming connotation.

    5 years ago
  14. i think singaporeans who were born here in singapore like myself dont have that kind of “gyopo” problems.

    to help you guise understand, singapore is a country with people of different races and the majority of the races here are: chinese, malay and indian. we do have other races too but this is the top 3 races of people here right now.

    i am ethnically chinese but i never considered myself singaporean-chinese or chinese-singaporean. i see people from china just like any other foreigner and i would never consider myself “visiting motherland” if i ever step foot in china.

    we were a small fishing village until 1819 where a british (stamford raffles) came here and kinda established this island as singapore and under the british control or something. that was the start of people migrating here from india and china to find work and all that. most of the singaporeans i know are at least 2nd generation singaporeans (grandparents were immigrants) and from what i spoke to my dad about my grandparents, i’m at least 3rd generation.

    i think the “gyopo” thing only happens to people whose parents were immigrants…

    5 years ago
  15. I’m Cambodian American, born in LA, but lived in Phoenix most of my life. While my parents were raising us they tried to teach us Khmer, but once we started school they wanted us to focus on learning English so I eventually forgot most of the language I learn while my sister has been trying to relearn it. I’m kind of sad that I didn’t retain any of the language, but the only Cambodian people I knew was my family so I didn’t think I needed it. My dad’s family learned English to converse with people, but speak primarily in Khmer while my parents have very good English skills and hardly any accent compared to my friends’ immigrated parents except for some grammar mistakes.

    We lived a very Asian lifestyle, but over time we became more Americanized. While we didn’t leave our shoes outside the house (we just left them at the base of the stairs to put on), my mom didn’t like us wearing our shoes inside. I used to take my shoes off at my friends’ house because I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Eventually I would just keep my shoes on after going to my friends’ house so often. Soon it became a “we just don’t wear it on the carpet” deal. And when I’m in a hurry and I need to get something from upstairs I would just sprint up taking as few steps as possible to not get the carpet dirty since we replaced the carpet on the stairs with wood.

    We’ve become a lot more Americanized over the years and you can see it. A lot of times my parents get mad at us because we want to do things our other friends can do but they don’t want us to because “we’re not like them”. So you can say we live an Asian lifestyle while having a lot of American influence on us.

    5 years ago
    • And even though my dad’s family knows I can’t speak Khmer they keep talking to me in it as if they think I’m making an attempt at learning at all even though they know how to speak in English. During family get-togethers everyone is speaking Khmer and I don’t care for what they’re saying at all so I just mess around on my phone. Eventually I hear them talking about me and I know they’re mocking me. It’s a terrible feeling being outcasted by my own family and I’ve just ended up resenting them even more.

      5 years ago
  16. I’m from the USA and I leave my shoes only sometimes. If its snowy or I just stepped in a a puddle of mud/water I obviously take off my shoes before stepping on any carpet. Although, if its a sunny spring day and I haven’t stepped in anything sometimes I just leave my shoes on (it keeps your toes warm anyways!).
    Also, I wear them when studying too due to a psychological effect it has on the brain. Typically when I have shoes on I am in school, running errands, etc which requites me to focus. So if I study with my shoes on it actually helps me keep on task and focus.

    5 years ago
  17. Martina – You asked about leaving your shoes on when entering someone’s home. As someone born and raised in the US and having lived primarily in the NYC metro area (Central NJ now) – I can tell you NO ONE I know, either family or friends, would take their shoes off before entering a home.

    Frankly, it would be seen as a sign off bad manners and disrespect to suddenly walk around someone’s home in either stocking feet or barefoot. It would be the equivalent of stripping down to your skivvies because you feel it’s “more comfortable”. It’s seen as something you might do in the comfort of your own home, but highly improper and presumptuous to do in someone else’s home.

    5 years ago
    • That’s really interesting because I was born in the U.S. but because of the influence of Indian culture on some of my daily habits I tend to take my shoes off when entering anyone’s home as I was taught to. While people have said to me, “Oh, you don’t have to take your shoes off it’s ok,” No one has ever seen it as improper or rude because it’s not necessarily something I do for comfort, but is something I was taught to do so as to keep the house clean. I’ve never experienced anyone with a particularly negative view towards taking your shoes off. :)

      5 years ago
      • Southern US reporting here. It’s the same thing for us. I totally agree, taking shoes off in someone else’s house without being asked would be improper. However, if the family is shoes off, it would be seen as almost equally improper to say “take your shoes before entering my house.” I’ve only (to my recollection) met 1 family who wasn’t from another culture who takes their shoes off. The assumption is “shoes on,” unless the homeowner shows us by some action they prefer shoes off.

        5 years ago
  18. Regarding shoes in the house… I grew up in a traditional Chinese household, although I’m “mixed” and was born in the States. Yes, we take our shoes off (but I have to add something about this later). When we visited other Chinese/Asian households, it’s automatically assumed that we take our shoes off. Even today, when I visit my “non-Asian” friends houses, I always ask “shoes on or off”? Having said all this, I have become more “Americanized” in that I will wear shoes in the house to the bedroom where I will take my shoes off. They are not on all the time (I hope my parents aren’t reading this). But going back to my parents… since they have changed out carpet for all tile and wood flooring, they are not as quick to take their shoes off in their house anymore. When my siblings and I go visit them, they insist we don’t need to take our shoes off, but we remember the scolding we got as kids, and take them off anyways (even at our age!!).

    5 years ago
  19. I grew up in an area where most people are either German, Native American, Hispanic, or Latino descent. There are many things that we do around here that have their roots in German culture. We sing “Oh Christmas Tree” and “Silent Night” in German at Christmas. Plus, the school here teaches German at the high school level. Most of us can speak a few words before then, which is why the police don’t use German to call to their dogs here. hehe ^^
    I don’t consider myself German-American, even though that is my heritage. I have a hard time considering myself super American as well. I’ve been scolded for not being American enough because I don’t like classic rock, country music, or other ‘American things.’ Also because of the fact that I am interested in foreign cultures. I’m just kind of here.
    ~
    I always remove my shoes when going into other peoples houses. I would feel bad getting their floor dirty if I didn’t.

    5 years ago
  20. Well my family is originally from Mexico but my parents immigrated to America and had me and my siblings. I guess I always identified myself as both Mexican and American though a lot of times now if someone asks me what I am I just reply that I’m Mexican even though I’ve become too Americanized to be considered a true Mexican. I have noticed that since growing up in America I’ve switched from Spanish being my dominant language to English, a lot of words I knew growing as a child I now struggle to remember what it is since I speak English outside of my home and even at home I mostly speak English and mainly talk Spanish to my parents. Also when I go back to Mexico and visit my family there have been times when its hard to speak to my cousins in Spanish cause I’ll start to forget certain words in Spanish and they think its funny because I’ve become too Americanized that I’m forgetting my own language.

    Though I’ve met people who actually don’t believe I’m Mexican and become all shocked when I tell them, they usually believe that I’m from India. It might be because I’m darker toned compared to my family(though my father is also dark like me) or I have an Indian appearance not really sure, but it doesn’t really bother me since after they finally listen to me speaking Spanish they don’t question it anymore :).

    5 years ago
  21. I’m curious about the reaction to mixed children in Korea. Are they just perceived as pretty things to look at and marvel over? To give you context, my mum is Vietnamese and my Dad is Australian, so when I go back I totally understand that pressure >///< Though tbh the thing that gets to me is everyone constantly staring at me whispering, she's mixed. In fact waiting staff, in my most recent trip, would all group together and stare and point at me (about 15 of them) =_=' Old men grab my arm and say "pretty, pretty mixed child" and then when I reply and kinda shrug them off they just laugh at me… It's okay if I'm out in the "foreigner" areas but most of the time I'm not because I'm with my family.

    5 years ago
  22. Hay there Simon and Martina :)I absolutely love watching your Tl;drs and the F.A.P.F.A.Ps!
    On a more serious note though, I plan on coming to Korea in the near future, from Canada. However it is starting to sound super intimidating! what sorts of things are there to do/eat/watch ect. in Korea that would be comforting or a little bit more like north america to help when I am homesick?

    Thanks bunches~~

    5 years ago
  23. This is actually something I think about a lot. My grandfather is from the Philippines. My mother was born in the US, where she lived for only a few years before her family relocated back to the Philippines where she grew up before moving to the US again, which technically makes her American. So technically I’m only 1/4 Filipino. However, I grew up eating a lot of Filipino food, learning to cook it, hearing stories about my mother’s life and cultural practices in the Philippines. She even took us out there once to show us the town where she grew up. I know more about my Filipino heritage than any other half Filipino I’ve met. So culturally I consider myself biracial.

    The problem I run into is how unwilling people are to accept that, because of how I look. My siblings were born with the dark skin, dark coloring, and exotic looks. I was born looking like a pasty white American girl with green eyes. My grandmother called me their first “American” baby. While a lot of Caucasians consider me not fully Caucasian, the minorities refuse to accept me as well. I’ve been flat out told that I’m not allowed to identify as a minority because of the way I look. That it has nothing to do with my heritage, the only thing that matters is the color of my skin. I don’t know if they realize how much it hurts, to have people call you a “despicable white person” regardless of your heritage, and then they claim that they’re not being racist because no matter what they’re saying it’s impossible for a “true” minority to say anything that’s racist.

    I was also told by teachers while growing up that I was not allowed to claim to be a minority because my dad makes a decent amount of money. So I don’t know what people are trying to claim makes someone’s heritage theirs. I say it’s a load of bullsh** and people can get off their high horses they use to justify hurting other people in order to make themselves feel good. I think that you can claim whichever culture you identify with as your own, because it makes you happy and you love it and the people in it, and that’s all that matters.

    5 years ago
  24. I’m a third generation German-American. So I don’t really have much in the way of cultural identity struggles. My mother chose not to pick up the language and so it was never passed down to me. What was passed down though was wonderful delicious German cuisine via my grandmother. So even though I don’t identify as German-American, I can’t say I had a 100% “American” upbringing. I celebrated Christmas differently than most of my friends (Christmas Eve presents instead of Christmas Day) and I eat “strange” things like vinegar soaked fish/vegetables.

    What I did want to comment on the most though is the question of shoes in the house. We wear shoes in the house if you’re not planning to stay long (an hour or less generally). That’s why a common phrase here is “Take off your shoes – stay a while!” This sounds terrible, but if I’m visiting someone who I know I’ll want to make a quick getaway from, I’ll even leave my shoes on for a few hours just so I can get out the door as fast as possible when the time comes. What usually happens if someone suggests you take them off is you either agree happily or you say something like “Oh, I actually can’t stay long… [insert excuse]” Almost everyone I know doesn’t care if you have shoes on in the house except if the carpet is new or if you’re obviously about to track mud into the house. I have come across the occasional friend who will have us take our shoes off at the entrance, but that was a rare occurrence in my life. So yes! America is a pro-shoe country. That’s not a drama thing. That’s a real life living thing. Hope this helps demystify American shoe culture. :)

    5 years ago
  25. It’s a very interesting TL;DR to begin with. It made me understand more about people struggle over this cultural identity. I, myself, never have this kind of problem because I’m a native Indonesian and live in Indonesia in my whole life. The most cultural identity crisis ever happened to me is because my mixed ethnicity. Since Indonesia has so many ethnicity, you can say that it can be divided into small areas with certain ethnic living exclusively in them and talk with their own local language. Even though I’m Javanese (I’m identified myself as Javanese) but maybe because some Chinese root I had on my family, I born with more Chinese feature rather than Javanese. The thing is, because I’m a bit pale people tend to ask if I’m Chinese. LOL. I don’t really understand though, because as I grew older I become more Javanese than Chinese. XD
    But the question pops up every single time tho, I’m not really disturbed about it just, you know, amused with these judgmental people. Although the most ridiculous question is that if I’m from Arabic descent. I don’t know why people recognized me as Chinese and Arabic, because this two races have a very very very different feature from one to another. -_-

    5 years ago
  26. This was a great TL;DR! It was very interesting to learn about Jen’s experience AND I can’t wait until next week – The Korean Englishman is awesome!

    Simon mentioned Dan in the blog post, and like Dan, I am a Korean Adoptee. My experience as an adoptee is definitely summed up in Simon’s words – “We’ll always be considered outsiders, no matter how long we live here.” I was adopted as an infant and have spent (nearly) my entire life in America. Even though I speak English fluently, I am always singled out as a foreigner. My daily life consisted of ignorance and even racism towards me because I am Korean. Meh. Fortunately, I am 99.9% of the time able to realise that these people are being ridiculous haters and won’t let them get me down!!

    I won’t deny that my cultural identity has be shaped by the haters who like to point out my “differentness” all the time, but my cultural identity has been affected more by my lovely mom who showed me that I didn’t have to choose America or Korea because I could have both. Plus, she always made a huge effort to show me how awesome Korea is, which I looooved/love. Whilst in America, I identify as being a Korean not American actually, although I do have a lot of Kentucky pride!

    Now that I live in England, I’m considered an American by the British people! Whenever they hear my accent they ask, “Are you Canadian or American?” and when I say, “American” there are no more questions. No one laughs and says, “No, really! Where are you from?!” It’s quite an experience and a privilege to finally be able to just say, “I’m American.” So…for me, I’ll always be Korean but in the UK, I’m going to rock that I’m American because I can!

    5 years ago
  27. I’m an ABC in Pennylvania, and I think my experience is very similar to what Jen described. Where i live, there’s a pretty large caucasian population, and most of my friends are american. However, my parents both grew up in china and are chinese citizens, and my house is very different from my friends’. Differences I’ve noticed not only include taking off shoes in the house, but also quirks like having a stash of plastic bags, using the dishwasher only as dish storage, and saving all kinds of containers for future use. I’m fluent in speaking Chinese, but when I go to visit relatives in china, I don’t really know how to act because the culture is very different from how it is in america, and I’m not very familiar with them. If I’m ever asked my nationality, I would say chinese-american because I am a chinese person who is an american citizen.

    5 years ago
  28. This has always been an interesting topic to me because I am a mix, and people have been trying to categorically pre-judge me forever. My heritage is pretty much everything in Europe, and 2 Native American tribes. The genetic dice roll made me come out with relatively fair skin, dark curly hair, brown eyes, and my dad’s werewolf curse (ok not really that bad, but I have become a relatively hairy dude in adulthood).
    I have sprinkled red and blonde hairs all over my head, but my beard grows in half flaming red, half black.

    Growing up in the Salt Lake City, Utah, USA area (full of white European-descended Mormon / LDS people primarily), most of them think I’m Mexican. ‘real’ Hispanic people say I’m too white to be one of them. Lots of European friends have thought I was possibly Italian or had some Middle Eastern blood.

    All of these have led to some pretty amusing double-takes when I don’t have whatever assumed accent they were expecting, and when they learn that my ‘other language’ skills are comprised of beginner German, 1 semester of Japanese, and beginner-intermediate Korean.

    I have not yet made my first Korean trip, but having been to Japan once I can say that as a gaijin there, everyone was EXTREMELY polite and friendly everywhere I went (around Tokyo, and in the countryside in Iwate prefecture). More than anything, they seemed very grateful and impressed that I made the effort to learn about their culture, and to learn some of the language to get around while visiting.

    So far, the local Korean community here in Utah (as well as most of the older folks in LA’s Koreatown) have been at least as warm and inviting if not moreso, so I am curious how things will fare once i’m actually in their homeland next year.

    5 years ago
  29. I’m a chubby Asian-American who is ancestrally one thing, but b/c of my family’s upbringing I identify with another Asian group… So yeah, I am forever a foreigner in every country LOL

    5 years ago
  30. I am so happy with this Tl;Dr!
    My father is a german who was born in Russia and grown up in a village full of germans. My mum is russian, me and my sisters were born in Russia too. But for the whole village we where “german” what totally distract me, because I didn’t know anything about the german culture or even the language, but we where kinda outsiders for the kids in our neighbourhood. When I was 9 years old we immigrate to Germany, where suprise, we suddedly where “russian”. Even when I first though that it didn’t bother me I feel more and more “homeless” because I didn’t fit in none of the cultures. Therefore I answer the question “Do you feel more russian or more german?” with “I feel like I human, thanks for the question” :)
    I think a lot of immigrants or their children, exspecially their children have that kind of fealing.

    5 years ago
  31. Oh my gosh, I live in a suburb of Kansas City too! What she says is true though, most of the people around here are Caucasian. So about the whole shoes thing- as a Caucasian person who has lived in the States for my entire life, I hardly EVER where my shoes around the house, and most people I know don’t wear their shoes inside usually. It’s just a stereotype, but it’s not completely false. There are certain times that I DO wear my shoes inside: If I’m getting ready in the morning and I’m just waiting for my family, I might get my shoes on and do other things in the house so I’m ready to go. My mom used to have certain shoes that were her “indoor shoes” that she only wore inside (so she wouldn’t get the house dirty) because she really needed the support for her feet or else she would be in pain. If we have a BUNCH of guests over, then they usually don’t take their shoes off when they come in so they don’t leave a clutter by the door. But if a small amount of guests are visiting, they normally take their shoes off. If I come inside really fast, like if I forgot something, I definitely wouldn’t take off my shoes, because that just wastes time. So basically, I might wear my shoes inside for certain reasons, but if I’m just hanging out around the house, I would NEVER wear my shoes inside. I think most of my American friends would agree. You can’t believe everything you see on TV!

    5 years ago
  32. With the whole shoes on/shoes off thing….I have lived in California my whole life (17 years) and everyone I know take off their shoes in the house and it’s common courtesy to take off your shoes unless they say you can leave them on. I guess in other states they must leave them on…

    5 years ago
  33. To start, I am Puerto Rican and Guyanese. I culturally identify with my Spanish side of the family, and I also consider myself American. Growing up, I wasn’t taught to speak Spanish by my mother, and in some ways it hurt me. My grandmother speaks English, but is more comfortable speaking Spanish, and I felt like I made it hard for her to speak with me. I also had a lot of trouble when visiting Puerto Rico, because my family there all speak Spanish. It was hard for me to communicate with them, and they never really understood what I was saying. I should also mention that in Puerto Rico, many people do not speak English, and if you ask them questions in English, they usually ignore you.
    Now, it has all come back full circle, as I am a line cook at a Spanish restaurant, and I have difficulty speaking with my coworkers. Most of the people I work with speak Spanish, and though I do speak a little bit of Spanish, I never feel like I am really getting my point across. They are helping me learn to speak spanish, but I feel like I may have waited too long. I really am trying though, and I’ve heard lately that if I didn’t tell them, people believed I was fluent in Spanish.

    5 years ago
  34. I never knew people in Canada took their shoes off! I’ve lived in the Philly area my whole life and we NEVER take our shoes off at the door. I mean, when we come in, sit down in the living room or whatever, then we take them off if we’re gonna relax and be home for a while. It’s actually considered rude if you go to your friend/family’s house and take your shoes off without them telling you that you can. Kinda like, you’re going to your friend’s house and take your shoes off, they get all, ‘OMG What are you doing? You don’t live here, why are you making yourself at home in my house?!’ I have been friend with a Chinese family and a Puerto Rican family in Philly, and they both always took off their shoes and we had to do the same when going to their homes, so it might be a cultural thing too. We’ve never done it though, like I said. Unless y’know, you’re going to your Grandparent’s house for a while. It’s always cool to take your shoes off at Grandma’s house. :)

    5 years ago
  35. im a korean american adoptee and returning to korea was so tough! at first glance i look korean but i dont speak korean and i am very westernized since i grew up in a caucasian family. native koreans would speak to me in korean until they realized i didnt understand them, and then i’d feel ashamed. i always stood out, but to still feel like i didnt belong in korea was hard. returning again in a few weeks with my husband and son to meet my birth mother. crazy. i hope she isnt disappointed that i am as “white washed” as i am. thanks for all the videos, simon and martina! its pretty sweet getting to know a little more about korea from a western perspective!

    5 years ago
  36. omfg, I’m like Simon. I barely even know my dialect T-T I’m Chinese and I can’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin but I can somewhat understand both. I speak Taishanese btw but I can’t speak it without a little bit of English. I wanna go back to China so I can improve it so I don’t have to feel embarrassed about it. I swear, my whole family picks on me for it =( (or at least all the adults who aren’t my cousins)

    5 years ago
  37. In California you dont take off your shoes…unless they tell you which is really really really really rare…You even have to ask permission to take off your shoes…and it has to be a friend…Like I had to ask my best friend’s mom to take off my shoes and she was like……………………………………………………..fine. But when you do, your socks get dirty because everybody else is wearing shoes and the dirt from outside gets inside. Thats why I have to mop everyday and my socks still get dirty. but in your house you know you walk in with shoes and if you want take them off. or change into sandals or just socks. but me if I go to a friends house a neighbor’s house especially DEFINITELY DO NOT TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!! YOU ARE NEW TO THEIR HOME AND IT IS RUDE BECAUSE ITS LIKE EW WHAT IF YOUR FEET STINK YOU DO NOT LIVE IN THIS HOUSE DO NOT BE SO ARROGANT AND COMFORTABLE!! AND GOOD SHOES NOT SANDALS…ITS LIKE WHAT ARE WE A BEACH HOUSE! but you know friends dont care. you even fart in front of them so its fine!!! take em off. 

    5 years ago
  38. Definitely have the same experience. I’m Korean-American born and raised in the States and recently visited Korea after 11 long years since my last visit. I felt so underdressed and honestly unattractive bc basically everyone in Seoul who’s in their 20-30s are very nicely dressed, makeup and hair perfect, both women and men. While there I was in my jeans and t-shirt and ponytail like ehhhh……. When I was at a mall with my cousin one day, one saleswoman noticed me browsing, came over, and asked “ahh, you must be from overseas!” without me having said anything. Even though I am Korean, I definitely stood out as not the typical native Korean and yes, it was kind of frustrating and sad. In the states, I’m representative of Asians and Korean. In Korea, I’m too American.
    I speak Korean without a noticeable accent and understand 75% but have very limited vocabulary and my grammar gets mixed up often. However, I consider myself half-and-half in my identity bc I’ve grown up in a traditional Korean family with strict Korean parents.
    This is all really interesting, hearing about other Korean-American stories =] Jen is gorgeous. I relate to her growing up in a place with few Koreans, I grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area. And YES I take shoes off in the house but all of my American, non-Asian friends, do not and it’s so weird. When we have inspectors or plumbers or whatever come to our house to fix stuff and they do not take their shoes off, it annoys my mother to no end haha

    5 years ago
  39. I’m Caucasian. My family is entirely Caucasian. My boyfriend is Korean-American. We live together. When I grew up, my mother preferred shoes off because she wanted her floors to stay cleaner. My father didn’t care. My extended family all wear shoes inside.

    I take shoes off at the door, so does my boyfriend in our home and in others’ homes. Most of our friends are shoes off except for a couple, and it isn’t pressured to take your shoes off. For instance, if the owner of the house has their shoes off, and as a guest, you leave your shoes on, it isn’t rude, but it does give the impression you aren’t staying long. It’s like leaving your coat on inside.

    5 years ago
  40. About the SHOES’ issue:
    I’m Portuguese and in Portugal most people walk into their houses with their shoes on. Usually you take them off as soon as possible and change into slippers, but it’s pretty normal to walk around with the shoes still on, if need be. Guests are never asked to take their shoes off (that would be a little rude and odd) and in presence of guests (especially if it is a special day, like a party or holiday) everybody wears shoes (you are all dressed up, what you wear on your feet should compliment the outfit). And now you ask: “But doesn’t this mean the floor will be always dirty?” Well… one cannot live without a vaccuum cleaner :p

    5 years ago