Monday, June 24, 2013

Meeting The (Korean) Parents

I had already met Jihyeon's parents on a few occasions, but since we have decided to get married it was time for an "official" meeting. A couple of weeks after purchasing the couple rings (click here) I met with Jihyeon's parents to get their permission to marry their daughter. Before I could meet with them though, I needed to buy some gifts for them. What does one buy a Korean father to convince him that you are suitable for his daughter? It turns out alcohol is all that is required.

And for her mother a nice flowering orchid did the trick.

Finally the day arrived. Jihyeon had told me I needed to wear a suit which I wasn't looking forward to since it was a stinking hot humid day. I decided it would be best to throw on some shorts and a shirt to make the trek from Daejeon to Iksan (about a 2 hour journy of walking/catching the subway and then the KTX). Once in Iksan I met Jihyeon at a Paris Baguette store (the things are freaking everywhere in Korea) and got changed in their toilets..... they wern't particularly clean, had no air circulation and were hot, small and stuffy. 

The toilet was in a secret room between floors.

Then down some steep stairs into the dungeon. 

How delightful.

We then jumped in a taxi and made the 2 minute trip to her house where here mother was waiting nervously. I found it amusing watching her mother run between the kitchen and the window every minute to see if Jihyeon's father had arrived home (he was picking up Jihyeon's sister at the station). 

Once her father arrived home, Jihyeon had her parents sit on the floor so that we could do what is called a "big bow" to them. It involves getting down on your knees and putting your head in the floor. I didn't feel terribly comfortable doing this because I felt it was humillating, but for the sake of keeping the peace and earning mega points with her parents I did it. Once that was done (it took all of about 15 seconds) I gave the alcohol to her father and the orchid to her mother before sitting down to the feast her mother had prepared.

After eating is when things got serious. Her father fired off some questions at me which Jihyeon translated into English. "How much do you love my daughter", "How long will you stay in Korea", "Where will you live in Korea", "Where will you live in Australia", "How much money do you earn", "Will my daughter be happy with you in Australia, a long way from Korea, her family and her friends".... There were more but I can't remember them now. Her mother, father and sister would have a short discussion in Korean after each answer before her father fired off another question. I must have said and done the right things because her parents gave us permission to get married. 


  1. Hi Phillip! It's really interesting to read about this from a man's perspective. I'm about to meet my Korean boyfriend's parents for the first time and I'm so nervous I could cry. Any advice to keep a cool head?

    1. Hi Angela,
      It really depends on a lot of factors. Is your boyfriend the oldest (this may mean he (and you, his wife) have to shoulder certain responsibilities like chuseok)? How long have you been dating? Can you speak Korean? Can he speak (fluent) English? I could go on. A couple of pieces of advice I would give you is:

      1) A bad reaction does not mean the end of the world. They may need time to adjust to the prospect of a foreigner as a daughter in law. Even if their requests seem idiotic, don’t get angry or upset. Try to be polite and discuss it with your boyfriend later in private.

      2) Dress conservatively and don’t wear too much makeup.

      3) It’s ok not to eat something, but don’t poke at the food with your chopstick asking “what’s this”. It’s kind of rude. If your boyfriend is on the ball, he should suggest a food you like to his mum.

      4) Be nice to the mother and smile a lot.

      I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes.

    2. Oh, and
      5) Wait for the father to start eating first.

  2. Hi Phillip,

    Great advice. I am prepping to meet her dad. I will buy the same bottle of alcohol you did. Thanks for the tip