Wednesday, April 25, 2007

When are YOU getting married?

Dear Korean,

Is there a graceful, mature, yet honest way to answer elders' never ending question - 'Why aren't you married?' Or, from my grandmother on this New Year's Day,"There's nothing wrong with meeting someone and getting married. That's the last thing I am waiting to see before I die." The answer, if communicated truthfully, is very complicated. I'm not even quite sure what their point is in asking, since they don't seem to want an explanation. I am going to Korea for a month in the spring and anticipate most of my energy spent justifying my marital status.

Sunny K.

Dear Korean,

I'd like to ask you about why Koreans put so much emphasis on marriage AFTER graduation from college or grad school? It's so funny to see Korean parents force their kids to study all their lives and then wonder why their son or daughter has no marriage prospects at all. My family members (they're Korean) are pushing me to find a wife but I guess I'm driving them crazy since I've decided like many other men, to live a bachelor by choice lifestyle - I don't date and I don't care. Am I causing them to go insane since there would be zero gossip about me?


Dear Sunny and Slasher,

You remind the Korean of a Korean joke: "How is a woman like a Christmas cake? They sell like crazy on 22, 23, 24; they slow down on 25, and after 26 they are half-priced." But it's not just women - it's the same for men, although men can afford to be late by about 2~3 years.

The marriage question is seriously the most pesky thing for young Korean people - even young Korean people in Korea have no idea what to do about that. Elders ask that because it's just a requisite step in life. First you go through school, then you get a job, then you get married. There's got to be something wrong with you if you miss one of the steps.

Sadly, the Korean really has no idea, although he empathizes 100 percent. Plenty of Korean elders ask the Korean the same question, the Korean simply replies "it will happen sooner or later," and they generally let it go. Like you suggested, it's not like the elders really want to know what's going on - they just ask because it's what they are supposed to ask.


  1. I don't know if you'll ever see this, but this 100% non-Korean girl finds this post very funny indeed! (I swear the same dialogue has been fed to about half my friends, and is soon coming my way too :) Funny how some things remain the same across countries..

  2. I'm not Korean but my Mom told me there will not be a "vieille fille" in her house. Square. So I have the choice between
    1) finding a man
    2) finding a house next year
    3) keep the same attitude; ignore her when she says that and do some remark about something in the neighborhood. ;D
    I understand why parents want their children to marry while they are still here; mymom knew a girl at her office who never got married and lived her whole life with her mother. When the mother passed away, the daughter was devastated; she spent years crying! Her reason for living was gone...
    I think no parent want their child to stop living when they die; it's like saying they didn't do a good job raising you. Having a family of your own would mean that you have less time to be depressed and you have someone to help you stand up.

  3. After having worked with Koreans for a year-plus (and having many Korean adults as students / clients), I feel privileged to state that it's simply a cultural difference. Where Westerners marry when they find 'the one', Koreans tend to marry when they're the right age. Whether they agree with it or not, the pressure exists - just as it does with the other gender.

    A recent student of mine (a 40 year old male) remarked how he recently got married to a thirtysomething Korean woman - yet fretted about being 'too old'... Whatever the case, I had the chance to explain the difference between the cultures, which was good enough for me.

    1. I'd say it's more a difference of generations than of cultures. Trying the "I'll wait until I find The One" line up until at least the 1960s in Europe or the US would probably result in you being slapped. Worse for women, but true for men too.

  4. hahaha that was rlly funny joke thx

  5. I found this post amusing. c:

    My Korean boyfriend (I'm white) that we couldn't get married until after he graduates, as a half-joke.

    Made me think of that after reading this post.

  6. just sharing my thoughts here...
    i think this "question" is quite common in asian countries (or that's how i see it >.<) i mean, i've heard this question asked to my aunt many times but we're not koreans. then, i saw this malaysian movie having the same scenario: the elders asking a bachelor/bachelorette/single on when he/she would tie the knot. i've also read a manga about this situation of marrying age. and from these, i have concluded that this is quite common for asian countries. I think this also comes from the traditional culture incorporated in asian lifestyle even though we are living in the modern age...

  7. I agree with the comment that it's common in most asian countries, which is why I find this article interesting, since I thought it was just an 'Indonesian' thing (I'm Chinese Indonesian). Every time we have some kind of family event (Eid-ul Fitri, weddings, Chinese New Year, etc), it's basically the MOST asked (and most annoying) question... The last Eid-ul Fitri, I remember there was a trending topic here on ways to response to it, some of them were really hilarious. If only I can remember any.

    But I think it's the old eastern tradition... In the same mindset with the 'traditional wife' whose place is at home and in the kitchen; simple, polite, fully devoted to the husband. Anyway, Asian cultures seem to always have this classic clash between these 'traditional values' the older generations hold, and the modern ones the world 'requires' the younger generations to adapt to. But maybe that's the same with ALL cultures.

    Anyway, my OWN parents never ask (thank God). It's the aunts that are nosey :P

    1. I'm African American and MY AUNTS question why I'm not dating or getting married. It's so annoying. XD I think it may be a global thing.


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