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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. It’s so recognizable!

    I’m a half-dutch half-indonesian guy born and raised in the Netherlands, but we used to go back to Indonesia quite often for lengthy periods of time so I understand the culture very well and I speak Indonesian fluently. My accent, in fact, is such that Indonesians think I’ve lived in Jakarta for a long time.

    However, since I was primarily raised in Europe, my mannerisms and the way I wear my clothes is completely different from what people over there are used to, so I stand out a huge amount. I also feel the added pressure of looking like an Indonesian and people assuming I know every little cultural detail (etiquette etc.), but luckily I have my family most of the time who can tell me what to do, or why people responded the way they did.

    What is also interesting is how my actual behavior is different in Asia compared to when I’m in Europe. To the point where my accent changes. For example, my accent when I speak English while I’m in Indonesia is that of an Indonesian speaking English, whereas I have a Dutch accent when I’m in Holland, and interestingly an American accent when I’m in English speaking countries. But more generally I automatically bow when thanking people in Asia (or Asian settings, such as at an Indonesian family’s home) and I sit differently and all that kind of stuff.

    6 years ago
  2. 10 yrs ago when I visited Seoul, an american gyopo told me how he got scolded for not being korean enough. After that, every time I met someone, I would quickly explain, I’m not Korean. I’m from Canada – Chinese Canadian. I don’t speak Korean well. I’ve never been ‘judged”. Even if my korean now is elementary school level, people are polite & welcoming even now when I visit. It’s the fact that I attempt to utter the language. I always get mistaken as Korean or Japanese by Korean people. I must not look Chinese at all?? My gyopo gfriend worked in an english speaking environment in Seoul. During one visit, i didn’t hear her utter a single word of korean. But she translated an entire movie for me while we were watching it in the theatre. Sometimes i think it’s a choice of how you want to assimilate.

    6 years ago
  3. Martina, you were in Croatia?!Wow!Where?

    6 years ago
  4. Ok so lets start with a little background. I am Mexican-American which means both of my parents were born and raised in Mexico and I was born and raised in Los Angeles,CA. My home was very Mexican and both my brother and i were raised with Mexican values and norms but we lived in America. When i was in kinder and first grade my classes were in Spanish and English. I learned Spanish first and to this day always use it at home. I have a lot of family in America and Mexico but we mostly use Spanish to communicate. It is only with my cousins and in school that i use English. In first grade they decided i was ready for an all English classroom and i did pretty well. So technically I’m an English teacher in Korea but i guess it’s not my first language?? lol I usually just say i learned both at the same time which is kinda true. My English education is definitely better than my Spanish, though.

    When I was growing up and would go back to Mexico i would always be treated like a “rich American.” My parents town is very poor but because i was born in America i was “rich.” That was not always true. When i was 5 my family was homeless and we lived in a van for 2 months. When i spoke English with my brother, people in Mexico would stop and stare at us and then say look at the Americans or we would get called “pochos.” Pocho/pocha is the gyopo equivalent for a Mexican descent person born/raised outside of Mexico. In America, especially when i left LA, i was treated like a Mexican never fully American. America and their current status on Latinos and immigration is not good. Even though i was born in America there have been many times when I have been treated like an immigrant. At first it was so confusing for me. I was raised very Mexican and if you asked me what i was, up until middle school, i would say Mexican, never American.

    As I grew up i realized I wasn’t completely American or Mexican. I grew up with many American values too and that sometimes clashed. Like when i decided to move across the nation for my University. That was seen as a very bad thing to my really Mexican family. According to them i was abandoning my family and being selfish.

    Also there was a question you asked Jen that reminded me of something. When i was in high school my grandma and aunt from Mexico moved in with us in America. Keep in mind my grandma is from a very old generation where a women didn’t study and prepared to be a housewife. By that time i was so focused on studying that i wasn’t doing house work and staying late in school. When my grandma saw this she went a little crazy and told off my parents. She said they were raising me “badly.” She told my parents and me “how can she be a good wife to her future husband if she doesn’t know how to cook or clean.” My parents kindly told her that education would be my key to a better life and that it was more important. I am thankful for my parents support because up until me no one in the family had gone to a university. My grandma since then has changed and seen what education has offered me.

    Sorry if this is long guys! lol

    6 years ago
    • I totally feel where you are coming from! Although if asked I would say I’m more American than Mexican. I grew up in a Mexican household in the U.S. My parents were always working and so I slowly lost some Spanish knowledge. I learned to read and write Spanish by watching novelas. Whenever we would go visit family in Mexico I didn’t feel at home. It was obvious that I wasn’t true Mexican, especially my Spanish. I’m sure I also got that oh they’re rich look from my cousins. The thing is that wasn’t true. I’m more comfortable with English than I am with Spanish. Growing up with 2 different cultures makes you feel like you don’t completely belong to either side. Although it may have been difficult at times, I am still grateful to have grown up bilingual.

      6 years ago
      • Yay There are more like me! lol Yeah Chantel even after all of this i am happy and grateful.

        6 years ago
    • Trust me I went through something like that and it is true people in Mexico also believed that I was rich just because I lived in America most of my life.I normally talk to my brother in Spanish also and we both got a bunch of stares especially when we went to the market place.

      6 years ago
  5. 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.

    6 years ago
  6. 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)

    6 years ago
  7. 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.

    6 years ago
  8. 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.

    6 years ago
  9. 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! :)

    6 years ago
  10. 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.

    6 years ago
  11. 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^^’

    6 years ago
  12. 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.

    6 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

      6 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.

      6 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.

        6 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

        6 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.

          6 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.”

        6 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.

      6 years ago
  13. Go Twinkies!

    6 years ago
  14. 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~

    6 years ago
  15. 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.

    6 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

      6 years ago
  16. 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.

    6 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.

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

      6 years ago
  17. 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~

    6 years ago
  18. 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.

    6 years ago
  19. 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.

    6 years ago
  20. 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?

    6 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.

      6 years ago
  21. 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.

    6 years ago
  22. 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.

    6 years ago
  23. 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.”

    6 years ago
  24. 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.

    6 years ago
  25. 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.

    6 years ago
  26. 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.

    6 years ago
  27. 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.

    6 years ago
  28. 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=;

    6 years ago
  29. 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

    6 years ago
  30. 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

    6 years ago
  31. 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 ;)

    6 years ago
  32. 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.

    6 years ago
  33. 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.

    6 years ago
  34. Hey guys! So, a little backstory, my mom is Korean and my dad is Irish. I was born in Ireland and I moved to the U.S. when I was 7. My Korean grandmother, who doesn’t speak much English, and my Korean aunt live near us so In the U.S. I grew up with a lot of Korean culture along with American culture. The result was a very unsettling feeling of never belonging anywhere. I was too foreign to really be considered “American” by my peers even though I am an American Citizen, I was too Korean-American to be Irish any more even though I was born there, and I was way to Irish-American to ever be considered Korean no matter what the circumstances are. Being uprooted when I was so young and the inability to “fit in” to any specific group of people has left me with the strange feeling of not having a home country, or even an extended family. Imagine a tiny Asian girl going to an Irish family gathering where everyone is white. And when I go to Korea, like Martina and Jen were saying, I’m the American girl even if my face looks Korean. It can be a struggle but it’s also kind of liberating, my Korean family doesn’t expect me to be Korean and my Irish family doesn’t expect me to be Irish, I’m free to do what I want even if it that means I don’t have the comfort of a place or group of people I feel at home with.

    6 years ago
  35. While I don’t have any experience with Korea, as I’ve never visited the country, or really known anyone who is korean (besides my mother) I must say that I find this to be interesting.

    I live in Denmark, I was born a dane, and my father is as pure danish as they get. My mother is Korean, adopted when she was 4, so she neiher speaks the language nor really cares much for going back. So no one really questions her nationality. Me however, is quite another story. Now I don’t know if my mother struggled when she first started school, but I’ve had to stomach quite enough rude commentary on my looks.

    I personally don’t think I look very different, even though my closest friends say they envy my eyes and hair, I still just think it’s who I am – and there is no changing that. But when I started school, from grade 0-6 there were no problems. Sure, I had the whole stigma of being smart because I’m part asian, but other than that, everyone saw me as a dane.

    Then I switched schools, and moved from the country side to the capital. And boy did I hate it. On my first day people came up to me and asked me, in english “Do you speak danish?” looking at me like I was some thing on display at a museum. They asked if I was japanese, chinese, and tried making me speak the languages – which I couldn’t at the time (now I speak at least some conversasional japanese)

    and for the first time I got the “You don’t belong here, you are different go back to asia” comment thrown at me. And it made me sad. I wasn’t a real dane, but I couldn’t go to korea, since I’m not a proper korean either. So lately I’ve chosen to stand inbetween. I am a dane at heart, and I am proud of that. But I still get sad whenever people tell me to GTFO, because where would I go?

    I’ve started learning more about korean culture, because I almost felt pressured to by the people I ended up hanging around, listening to kpop and such because I felt like that was expected of me. My mother thinks it’s weird, my dad is indifferent and everyone who has told me to GTFO and go back to asia thinks it’s weird as well. So I almost don’t know what I’m supposed to do anymore.

    Anyways, I guess my point it, while I’ve been living in the same country my whole life, I still don’t feel like I belong. So I understand this issue, but from a different experience I suppose

    6 years ago
  36. Well, I can totally relate. I’m american but I’ve lived 10 years in Colombia. I’ve consider myself Colombian now. Here in Colombia if you’ve spent more then six years here, then you are considered Colombian. I must say it was very hard for me to fit in here. Colombia is known to be a very cultural country, with their dances, their saying, etc. So I know what it feels like to not fit in at first. I’m bilingual but I have a small american accent. Here in Colombia an american is called Greengo. Although I pretty much blend in here, my accent still gives me off and if I say one word in English I’m considered the most awesome person jejej. Here in Colombia you leave your shoes on to enter the house.(except if you have a rug). I think it is harder for a forneer to adopt a Korean culture because of the fiscal differences. But I think you guy shouldn’t worry about it. I say that if you’ve been there more than six years you are a korean, maybe not citizen by birth, but a korean non the less. Especially if you are paying taxes to the country, you are doing what every other citizen is doing and that counts. Stay happy guys and tell your korean friend that if they move to Colombia they will be idolized because of the kpop blast that is happening over here.

    6 years ago
  37. Just want to say that in Norway (Which is in Scandinavia AND Europe), we take our shoes off. Good day ~

    6 years ago
  38. Well, here is a funny story:

    The country I was born in, and grew up in up to my mid-teens, no longer exists. Its culture no longer exists either. There is no nation, country or group that could be said to have inherited that culture.

    But that’s not even the funny part yet. The funny part is that the last 3 generations of my family have moved a lot and married outside of their ethnicity, so I am a very crazy ethnic mix, and as I was growing up my immediate family spoke 5 languages to each other. For example, my father would speak one language to his mother and another language to his brother. (Try to explain that to an average person who’s asking about your background in an effort to make small talk!)

    As I was growing up, I couldn’t really associate myself with any group, but because I had a little bit of their culture in me – and then some – most groups in my immediate surroundings were ready to at least tolerate me, if not really accept. And I am not even talking about ethnicities, since my family was different culturally too: they had travelled more than most people around us, many of their close friends lived far away, they had experiences unknown to most people in our immediate circle. As the result, the education I received at home was different to what was taught at school, not even better or worse, just different – I just had a different mindset and cultural framework.

    And then the country started falling apart, accompanied by “ethnic cleansing”, which eventually developed into a civil war. That was a very bad time and place to be an ethnic mix. Luckily, my parents found protection from the US embassy and our family fled to the US.

    When we landed in NYC I felt like I could finally breathe – for the first time in 3 years. Unfortunately, one language nobody in my family knew at the time was English. Still, even not speaking the language, for the first time in my life I found a place where I felt I belonged, because cultural diversity in NYC is just a part of everyday life – accepted and even expected.

    In NYC, my usual attitude of not caring what skin/eye/hair color people had, or what language they spoke, or where they were born, or what ethnic background they came from, was no longer setting me apart from everyone else around me – in fact, it almost felt like the mainstream one, because neither did people around me – in school, in college, at work. Sure, we were all curious about other (and each other’s) cultures, countries, histories and beliefs, but we judged each other and others based on actions alone. And that is a cultural environment I could finally and fully be part of.

    Of course, not everyone in NYC shares this attitude. But I think the ubiquitous diversity prepares people’s minds for this mental leap. Some choose to jump and others resist and retreat further into racism and nationalism. Perhaps the same environment makes these racist and nationalistic tendencies more violent when present, because the reality of a diverse society constantly confronts and challenges such attitudes.

    NYC is the place where your taxi driver could be a UK-educated Astrophysics PhD from Pakistan, or a medical doctor from Uganda who speaks fluent Russian and conversational Mandarin. Where your dentist is a German born and raised in Chile, and your local deli owner is an ethnic Korean born and raised in Uzbekistan, with a degree in urban engineering.

    These days when people ask me where I am from, I say New York. And if they ask what my accent is, I say it is from Brooklyn, which is true – many people here have accents similar to mine. This is the only place with which I can identify myself, and the culture of vibrant diversity is the only one where I have any hope to fit in. Therefore, New Yorker is the only cultural identity I have.

    I think you have pointed out the exact cause of the modern cultural confusion:
    “Back in the day, your language and your geographical location and your nationality and your heritage were very often all the same.” – and now it is no longer the case. Your country of origin, your language, your ethnicity, your current address and even your social class are no longer clear indicators of cultural affiliation. I think the only remaining relevant cultural indicator is the mentality and philosophy of life – a set of values and beliefs, which drive one’s decisions and behavior. But these factors are not easily labelled or categorized. We can no longer describe ourselves through easily recognizable and universally accepted terms. I hope that it’s a good thing and that through this process more minds will open and fewer stereotypes will prevail.

    6 years ago
    • On a somewhat different topic: Thank you guys for these TL;DRs and for the interesting and often controversial topics you bring up and discuss. I’ve been watching your channel and reading your posts for a while now and this is my favorite series, closely followed by FAPFAPs.

      This TL;DR and especially Simon’s post was inspirational and powerful enough to force me out of my hiding and leave my first comment here, but it’s most definitely not the first time of me loving your videos and discussions. I really appreciate the level-headed approach you take to discussing sensitive topics, your positive outlook on life, and your sharing of the experiences and successes of your life and marriage with the world. I understand that drama and conflict are the main selling points of entertainment, but I often feel that honest happiness never gets the stage limelight it deserves – to remind us what it’s supposed to be like, what we should aim for. I think you are doing a great job of reminding us all what happiness, playfulness and constructive attitudes look, sound and feel like. Thank you! :)

      6 years ago
  39. I think most people feel confused being a country’s gyopo. I know i am D :
    There weren’t a lot of people in the past generations that had to experience the things we do, and keeping up with 2 or more cultures is tough.
    It’s awkward for now but i think over time we’ll figure it out : D

    6 years ago
  40. Identity is actually something I’ve always thought a lot about, particularly the last couple of years while I was in graduate school. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Middle East when they were young adults, so our household had a combined culture. Whenever I have visited an Arab country, I am questioned as to why I don’t speak Arabic well enough or why I didn’t hold onto the culture. In the States, because I wear a headscarf, I am never accepted as an American. “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” is something I get all the time. And let’s not forget “Your English is so good.” Couple that with some of the Islamophobic rhetoric that people will sometimes spew, and I am left even more confused and lost. It’s an on-going process for me, and I’m trying to accept the fact that it’s going to continue, probably for the rest of my life.

    6 years ago