Monday, June 08, 2009

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Oppa! Oppa! Oppa!

After a few serious and gloomy news, back to our regular scheduled program...

Dear Korean,


I recently dated a Korean guy who was impressed with my knowledge of Korea/Korean pronunciation/Korean culture. One day we were talking and he asked me if I knew what I would call him and I responded, "oppa." (He was older than me.) He seemed to really like it, especially because I pronounced it correctly.

My question is, what would be your/an average reaction to a white girl calling you "oppa"? (Sparingly, of course. I do not plan on running up to all older Korean men with a greeting of, "oppa~!" just because I can, haha.) Would you like it? Would you think it's weird? Would it upset you? Catch you off guard?

Megan, She Who Loves the Oppas.

Dear Megan,

The Korean has previously written that Korean men are men before they are Korean, and there is no super-secret way of seducing them. But you just might have something that disproves the Korean. For some Korean men, the term oppa is known to act like a kryptonite.

Oppa means "(a woman's) older brother", but now it has evolved into a term of familiarity used by a woman for men who are older than the woman. Because the majority of relationships involve older men and younger women, the woman in the relationship frequently calls the man oppa. Such term has carried over even after marriage, eliciting frowns from traditionalists/purists (such as the Korean). Passionate girl fans for a male celebrity are often referred to as oppa budae ("oppa troopers"), because whenever a celebrity appears, a horde of girls run after him screaming "Oppa! Oppa!! Oppa!!!!!"

Personally, oppa totally works on the Korean, perhaps because being called by that term is a rare occurrence for the Korean since he has no younger sister. (Knowing this, however, the Korean's non-Korean dude friends sometimes call the Korean oppa, stirring up murderous rage.) So far, it has not made a difference if the term came from a Korean or a non-Korean. However, the Korean has also heard from other Korean American men that hearing oppa from a non-Korean is actually a turn-off.

This probably just means that the Korean is easy, but Korean men readers, have your say at it. Does oppa work on you?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@hotmail.com.

92 comments:

  1. I'm not a Korean male at all, rather a mixed (american/filipina) female, and I call a lot of my older Korean male penpals "oppa." I'm not trying to flirt with them or anything, it just kind of happens. But none of them seem to be put off by it, rather, they like the idea that I am interested enough in the culture and language to actually try to put it into use.

    Though I have to admit, I think I would feel funny saying it in public, especially around other Koreans that I don't really know. In letters and in private is how I prefer to use it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Doesn't really work for me. My girlfriend never calls me it because I prefer she doesn't and we're both Americanized Korean-Americans.

    Some of the FOBs at my church call me oppa, but that's no big deal. I think if a girl is trying to cozy up a guy by calling them oppa, it just comes off as kind of gross. If it's a dongseng, no big deal.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm a gal whose Korean fiance's balls recede back into his body when he hears that word with more than the usual two syllables (as it is commonly whined by young Korean lasses for about five, almost invariably followed by a command like "hold my bag" or "buy me these shoes").

    I exaggerate. However, I believe that this is partly why he was destined to end up with a non-Korean, though he doesn't believe me on that point.

    Other Korean guys go absolutely wild when a non-Korean girl calls them "oppa." Watch StarKing for some fine examples.

    Personally, it creeps me out that such a familiar, supposedly neutral, term is so flirtatiously sexual. So I don't use it anymore except with one friend who is practically Australian so it doesn't count.

    Call me Nuna and you die. Hyeong-su-nim has also begun to bother me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. this one really made mi laugh non-stop!

      Delete
  5. I like my girlfriend to call me 오빠 (even though the current one is the same age as me, so I never hear this anymore), though it is definitely NOT a turn-on with non-Koreans. It's weird. To me, it's like seeing white foreign men carrying the handbags of their Korean girlfriends--it's like: Hey, you're better than that!

    That said, I didn't go to Korean church or anything, so sadly, the only person I hear 오빠 from growing up, was my younger sister. So to derive some flirtatious vibe is, well, sorta awkward.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm also a non-Korean girl with a Korean fiance,and I won't be able to call him oppa.That would be just as horrible,as to call him daddy!

    I don't know,why this is so popular in Korea...it has anything to do with confucionism?Or it's referring to togetherness,like we are all the children of one nation?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Corean American male here and, for me, context is important. I don't mind being called oppa by Corean women in Corea (provided that we are friends) or Corean American women in the US (provided that they are well engrossed in the Corean American community). But hearing oppa from anyone outside of the Corean context would be a little off-putting.

    For example, if a non-Corean woman, that lived in Corea, who I became familiar with called me oppa, I'd be all right with that, because the dominant context around our relationship would be Corean. But if I make friends with a non-Corean woman in the US and she calls me oppa (barring unusual circumstances like adoption into a Corean family), it would seem out of place and more than a little creepy.

    That said, I think that Corean men from Corea and Corean men who grew up in another country might also see the use of the term differently. For me, it's not kryptonite as I see it a somewhat neutral descriptive term, with connotations of endearment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting point you make there my friend! My fiance actually loves it when I call him oppa/jagiya/even yeobo (omgeee eeeek)... but I feel AWKWARD. Although, and reading your response and thinking about it over again, I believe I will have an easier time using those terms of affection once we move to Korea this winter... Hmmm.. Anyone else shares these same thoughts?

      Best wishes!
      NaNa

      Delete
    2. I like when a girl call me oppa ^^ (Im a Korean btw)

      Delete
  8. "...the Korean's non-Korean dude friends sometimes call the Korean oppa, stirring up murderous rage."

    Haha...that's just plain creepy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I absolutely love it when a girl calls me oppa. Its a really subtle word that can transcend relationship. I would much rather someone call me oppa than John, Hojin, or Mike.. blah!!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Why do purists frown on younger women calling their husbands oppa?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Adeel

    It's cuz patriarchal tradition in korea dictates that husbands are supposed to be treated with utmost respect by their wives, and the term "oppa" (big brother) insinuates too much familiarity and similar rank with the person being referred to. Of course, this formality doesn't apply as strictly nowadays anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You gotta love this one, too. When I was in Korea, many non-gyopo, foreigner guys would learn "oppa" from their girlfriends or female friends, and they wouldn't know that guy-to-guy and girl-to-girl language is different, so I'd say on three or four occasions, I got, usually after we'd share what year we were born:

    foreigner friend: Hey, so you're older than me right?

    me: yep.

    ff: So, does that mean, I call you older brother, oppa, right? (in a high-pitched tone straight out of what you'd see on a street, in a Starbucks when a girl changes her pitch when her boyfriend calls, or in any Korean movie) Oppaaaaaaaaaaa??


    Interestingly, I saw an obviously gay Korean couple in Itaewon one night and the dude look at the other, and no joke, said: onni!

    I let out a conservative, primal scream I thought had become extinct three generations ago on the rice farms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH I nearly peed myself after reading this hahaha. Priceless.

      Delete
  13. whoops:

    guy-to-guy and girl-to-guy (not girl-to-girl)

    ReplyDelete
  14. JW,

    That's too many big words. Here is a simple explanation: Don't call your husband your brother! That's disgusting!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oops, I guess that works too! I was just doing what I can to sub in for you TK, however ridiculous that may sound. =)

    ReplyDelete
  16. My girlfriend and I are Korean enough that it would probably be acceptable for her to call me "oppa," at least during about half of our conversations that are carried out in Korean. Unfortunately, Korean sentences can be completed without a subject. So the only time she uses that term is when she's making fun of me, after which she cringes and makes a vomiting motion. It's such a turn on. I wish she'd do it more. I'd even be OK if maybe one out of ten times she didn't act like she were going to throw up.

    If a non-Korean girl referred to me as "oppa," it might come off as trying too hard.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ladies, learn to say it right and you won't need money.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm a mixed Korean/White, and currently dating a Korean girl. She asked me if she could call me oppa, I said I would love it if she did. I've also been called oppa by a fellow Korean language student, and amusingly enough, by my Korean language teacher, who is a few years older than am I. I don't mind it, I think it's sweet. But then I'm not a full blood Korean from Korea, so take it for whatever it's worth.

    I did find it a little disconcerting to have a waiter call me hyung-nim in the restaurant, but I got used to it. of course maybe that's just cause I'm getting old ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. This was amusing. :)

    I've found that Koreans raised in Korea are generally ok with it, and the gyopos are usually put off by it.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hey PaulC

    Maybe you'd better find another language teacher. That really is odd. Or maybe not. What I mean is, even Koreans use these types of words in what seems to be confusing ways. For example, my aunt who runs a restaurant calls one of her younger female employees "un-ni" -- which is normally reserved as a term used by females to refer to *older* females -- because apparently it's a more affectionate way to refer to her than straight up using her name. Also, strangers I run across often call me "ajusshi" even though I don't look anywhere near as old as your typical adjusshi because I don't look young enough to be called "haksaeng" (student). I'd hate to be a first time learner of korean trying to figure these things out.

    ReplyDelete
  23. When I was in Korea, I had my hair quite long and as I walked into the haircut place, one of those ajummas distributing those little business card/candy mint packages in plastic wrapping, called me ajosshi.

    After I got my hair cut, quite short, she yelled at me: 학생 학생!

    Proudest moment ever.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I agree with t_song and the others that've said it's really "trying too hard" when an American girl tries to use it with a Korean guy. That said, despite being a white American girl, I've used it in two circumstances. However, I'd argue that I'm one of the unusual cases 장지훈 mentioned because I lived in Seoul for two years and will be moving back in less than a month.

    1. In a drunken state one night, my Korean (ex)boyfriend and I started a conversation in Korean. "Oppa" slipped out of my mouth and he nearly fell over from joy--literally speechless for a good minute before he could stammer, "Say it again, please?". Reading The Korean's description of "oppa" as Kryptonite made me snort with laughter because it so accurately described the situation.

    2. A friend asked if it would be alright with me to call him "oppa". He's a few years older than me and took interest in helping me with my fluency, so I assumed he meant it in the literal "big brother" context. Apparently, he took my agreement as a sign that we were dating, leading to an awkward situation not much later.

    Is that normal? To assume a relationship just by use of "oppa"? Do Koreans use that as some kind of idiomatic "Will you go out with me?" type question, or was this situation just an awkward misunderstanding?

    ReplyDelete
  25. BRB Korea

    My best guess, as a korean american thoroughly schooled in the ways of korean drama and movies, is that it was stupidity on his part. Korean dudes usually do not ask potential bedmates to call them oppa in order to signal interest. Sure, when the relationship gets going the younger girl's supposed to call them oppa, but in the beginning stages, it's just not how it's done most of the time.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Actually, BRB, now that I think about it, maybe you are the one assuming too much about the fact that he asked you to call him that. It was probably him just saying -- at the time -- "Can we move on to friendlier terms"?

    ReplyDelete
  27. JW

    Wow, prompt!

    It's entirely possible that I misinterpreted. A bit later in the conversation, he asked if we could go out on a dinner-and-a-movie date that weekend, so I might have read too much into his request, associating the "oppa" thing as a "boyfriend-oppa" instead of a "brother-oppa".

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hum, on the whole question of oppa, I'm always weird about using hoching when speaking English because it's just weird. My parents never made my brothers call me noona when we were growing up. (Ignoring the fact that I spent most of my life getting lectured about how I was a bad noona.) In Korean, it makes sense to use hoching, cos of the whole culture informing language. Calling someone oppa in English is weird to me.

    I dunno, I think in Korea, people have gotten looser with hoching in a fun way. With the gay community, there is a lot of gender switching--males couples calling the other counterpart oppa or unni. Same with lesbians. Clearly not a traditional use, but still kind of fun.

    I think I skew a little more on the traditional side about the use of oppa in a relationship. There is also a sense that if you are using oppa, there is more familiarity/intimacy. Also, I think there is a smidge of flattery, since I always feel like there is a youth component to using oppa, i.e. "You're not so old, cos you're an oppa!" Or I could be wrong and that's just my take on it. I have sort of a screwy sense of Korean culture/language anyways.

    ReplyDelete
  29. It all depends on how you say it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. As a korean, I will like a white girl calling me oppa. But if i am
    not that close with her, it will be
    burdensome after a while...so
    it depends on how you are close with your 'oppa'.

    ReplyDelete
  31. One of my ex's, who is a white girl, used to call me "oppa". Her aunt heard her calling me that and asked what it meant. Whereupon, her aunt started calling me "oppa" too. But on some days it was "oppie" and once it was "opus".

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oppah totally works for me if it comes from a Korean context. I had two yuhakseng (Koreans who came to the states with a student visa) girl friends and they said "oppah" in a very cutsy way. Totally and completely worked.

    However, when bananaish Korean American girls said oppah to me it just wasn't working for me. They were just too Americanized I guess. On the other had, I had a couple of Korean hapa girls say "oppah" to me also and for some strange reason it was totally alluring. I mean, think about it. A girl who is Korean, yet not Korean, but wanting to make that connection, totally putting in the effort to act Korean cute. It's sexy.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Diana,

    Yes I would agree. The word oppah has a bizzarly wide rage of contexts for a supposedly neutral, family oriented term. Yes, my younger sister calls me oppah and that's fine. Completely sexually neutral. However, if a girl I like says it that *special* way, wow, my blood temperature rises.

    I'd say it's kind of like catholic school girl uniforms. Not designed to illicit sexual excitement, but put it in the right (or wrong) context then it can be. A completely unintended consequence of being both cute and adolescent at the same time...

    ReplyDelete
  34. I think if really depends on the face of the girl for me.

    If she is hot and pretty enough it would work like kryptonite if she said "oppa" to me. If she happens to be a fat or ugly girl then I would be put off if she called me "oppa" even if she was Korean/

    I used to have this white girl in my class when I used to live in America that would call me "Ain" (애인) as a joke which means Lover or husband. The only thing is she probably looked up the word for boyfriend in an online translator or dictionary and didn't know that it wouldn't make sense in the context she put it in. I had to stop her from calling me that...

    Now that I live in Korea, I have had girls refer to me as oppa in neutral terms. Even complete strangers. It seems normal to me. Like I had a girl ask "oppa can I borrow your pencil?" in class and I didn't even know her that well.

    ReplyDelete
  35. i hate it when one of my female collegues -- just because she's younger than i am -- calls me oppa. it gives me goose bumps because i think girls open up the 'potential' for a romantic relationship when they call someone oppa (not blood-related ones of course)
    I don't want to go out with colleagues..

    ReplyDelete
  36. Haha, I'm a non-Korean/non-Asian girl, and my Korean friend/love interest pretty much told me to call him oppa, which he really seems to enjoy. I actually find it funny that it's so special. Who every knew that a suffix could make such a big difference. Oh well, if he likes it... :D

    ReplyDelete
  37. I'm a German/Irish/Arab-American female married to a native Korean and he absolutely HATES the term "oppa", especially when uttered by non-Koreans. He let me know that not long after we met. And frankly, I don't blame him. Too many skanky non-Asian girls with Yellow Fever use it to flirt.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm a Scottish guy living in Seoul, right now. I've dated a couple of Korean girls, both older than me. One of them would call me "oppa" whenever I was cross with her because she knew I thought it was cute. Most of the Korean girls dating Korean guys I know call them by English endearments. I teach at a university and the only time I hear "oppa" is between platonic friends.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I'm a Korean-American who lived in Seoul for 10 months. I knew that the appropriate word to call older male hu-baes was Oppa, but I couldn't do it. It felt so darn awkward to me. I only associate the word, Oppa, with my real, genetically related older brother. So I just gave my older male hu-baes American names and called them "Kevin", "James", and "David." They didn't care and I felt a lot more at ease.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I am, therefore I think:

    "Oppa-loompa"?? I love it! I snorted from laughing so hard!

    ReplyDelete
  41. I've been teaching Koreans for 9 years and started teaching when I was 21. Since most of my students that time were graduates or in college; they were older than me. I'd have classes with them everyday, usually an hour per student for a 20 day program. I would have the same students for more than 6 months or so. (Students request for their teachers...)
    My point is, I spent a lot of time with my students. On weekends, we would go around town and have lunch dates or drinks with other teachers and students. My older male students sometimes would ask me to call them "oppa". I think it's because we consider each other friends but the fact is, for Koreans, friends should be of the same age. They told me, it's quite disrespectful for me to call them my friend or my "chingu" so they ask me to call them "oppa".
    I've noticed that, they feel more comfortable in group classes, especially if it involves a lot of debate, presentation and speaking. In specific lessons like those of IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL and grammar, the class atmosphere is quite serious and stressing for them, but I would see them break a smile and feel more relaxed when I address them with a respectful "oppa" than their English names. I've gotten good evaluations that would have good comments related to this.
    I don't think calling them "oppa" bothers them in situations like these. I don't flirt with them and vice-versa. We joke around and have fun. I guess it's just a way for us to say "we are friends"... even now that we're older...BUT they're always going to be older than me. ;p
    Btw, I'm a Filipina and had those students in the Philippines. I am now in Jersey but I still talk to my good ol' "oppas".

    ReplyDelete
  42. Coming from a Korean female who uses the word "oppa/오빠" for any Korean male who is older than her but not too old (which would then be replaced with "ajuhssi/아저씨" instead), it's weird to think that that word has such strong effect on Korean males...

    I just think it's a form of respect for older males, like "unni/언니" is for older females..............

    ReplyDelete
  43. This is the first time I have heard any Korean guys being turned off by nonKorean girls calling them that. My Korean guy friends at University used to make me call them "oppa." (It was weird for me at first, because I am not Korean, but they insisted so I got used to it.)
    I am a Taiwanese-American married to a pure Korean husband, and he loved when I called him "oppa" since we first met, even though he has 2 younger sisters. My mom asked me once what it meant, and was disgusted that boyfriends and blood-related older brothers are called the same.
    Now that we are married, he still prefers it when I call him "oppa," saying that he finds me calling him "yuhbo" awkward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your mom's reaction is silly; Chinese girls' use of 哥哥 is very similar for couples...

      Delete
  44. I feel rather awkward now.I knew of the word Oppa before but me being non-korean wasn't fully familiar with the word.So I wasn't sure if I used it right away for males older then me or what. So when I was talking to my korean friend who is 25(I'm 17), I asked him if I call him Oppa. He was really happy I knew of the word and was really happy I asked and said "Ofcourse!".I have also not talked to him for very long either.

    Reading many of the replies from people, I'm really not sure what to take from that. ._.

    ReplyDelete
  45. My Korean girlfriend calls me oppa, but it feels so weird because I'm German and it means Grandpa.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I used to date a nice Korean guy who wanted me to call him oppa (oh is it rare for Korean guys not to smoke? either way I'm was glad he didn't.). He was only elder than me by 6 months. Sure enough (after learning from a few episodes of korean drama- personanlly I never caught on to the fad) I learnt to say it the way that makes his knees buckle. It was quite amusing as he was a well built guy with a black belt in taek kwon do. Kryptonite on the spot.

    In malaysia the Malay community has the same culture as well. calling BFs or husbands "abang" or literally translated as brother. It's a term of endearment and can be as lethal as oppa. perhaps that is a reason why korean drama fever is on the rise in these parts. Interesting how different cultures have certain similarities.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I prefer Chagiya whispered by my romantic interest with a shaking of the shoulders. Very sexy...

    ReplyDelete
  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  49. oppa? Do you mean oppa as in "daddy"? In which case, I'd puke if some girl called me that with romance on her mind.

    Incest anyone?

    There is no way to separate Daddy/Daughter from incest and sexuality when talking about romantic relationships.

    To each his/her own I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Oh how did I miss such a gem of a topic. The comments are great, especially the German one. I prefer to focus on English and avoid talking to anyone older than me in Korean as I might say something disrespectfully. If I'm close with the girl it's fine, but usually we'll be out and about and I know the night's bill just landed on my card. If it's a Hispanic friend calling me it, then I find it charming and amusing at her interest and we have a good humored relationship going back to high school. Luckily I don't look Korean so around K-town no one expects me to speak Korean and usually I'm safe from Korean terms, but my gf's friends say it in that annoying voice usually when impatient and throwing a tantrum. If I hear oppa I usually think I'm in some sort of trouble.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I also don't like calling my husband "oppa." My mom once asked me what I was calling him, and after hearing that it means "older brother" found it disgusting that I would call my boyfriend my brother. My mother-in-law also mentioned once that after marriage, I'm supposed to call him "yuhbo."
    However, despite all that my husband doesn't like being called anything but "oppa." (Maybe it makes him feel younger.) =P
    Ultimately, I think the most important thing is to do whatever works for you and the person you're talking to.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Is it any more okay to use "oppa", as an 20-something American woman to a.. maybe 50-something Korean man.

    We're living in Korea and our downstairs neighbor, Han Sam (who is also our building manager), is very, very nice. My husband works during the evenings and I'm home alone, so when something breaks, it's usually me to let him in to look at it/fix it, etc.. His wife is also very nice and they've frequently invited me to dinner, or I'll go downstairs and sit in their ginseng shop and knit with his wife. They've become pretty familiar, but my Korean sucks (totally my fault), so I don't have a good grasp on what's okay.

    I think he tried to tell me I should call him, "oppa" once, but it was a confusing conversation -- as our most of our conversations, which consist mostly of us talking slowly and loudly in our respective languages, using lots of hand motions. I don't want to be disrespectful by calling him "oppa", but I'm also not sure I should call him by his name.

    We live in a particularly old part of town and they are a very traditional couple.

    Also, I know this post is old, but I thought I'd ask anyway..

    Any ideas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should call him ajeossi. He might only be offended if he thought you were much older? His wife can be ajuma.

      Delete
  53. Personally, if a non-Korean person were to call me that I'd find it to be patronizing.

    It'd be like calling your black friends Homey when you aren't black.

    Oppa and Homey are in fact harmless and non-derogatory words, but only certain people should have the right to use them.

    ReplyDelete
  54. I have many Korean Friends and those young korean girls used to call their elder male Uppaa.. or Ooppa.
    I later know the reason. In Tibetan culture, we call chola or chocho to elder men and Ajala, to elder women.
    I think it has similar thing in other Asian coutries. So its no wonder. But its lack of culture exchange.
    If you happen to come to Tibet and meet a Tibetan man, you can call him Chola( respect) chocho to him instead of name.

    ReplyDelete
  55. I use the word oppa all the time but it's not in any romantic sort of way. My father hates when I speak in foreign languages so I call him oppa. It's hilarious to hear him threaten to kick me out of the house after using the word.

    In a relationship wouldn't using an American word like Honey or Sweetie make more sense. I know I would feel weird if they called me his boo.

    ReplyDelete
  56. How is this any different than when Latino women call their lovers Papi?

    ReplyDelete
  57. I appereciate to ask you :)

    Korean has respect words which depend on age.

    Also it has special title like Mr and Miss. This title depends on
    age and gender.
    In Kor, friend means friend with same age. Even they are friends, they have to use this title among friends.

    - Woman to Older Man : O BBa
    (Korean doesn't have double p sound. Actually it is double b!)
    - Woman to Older Woman : Un Ny
    - Man to Older Man : Hyoung
    - Man to Older Woman : Noo Na

    In many case, girlfriend is younger than boyfriend in Kor.
    (Not all, but very common)

    So, many girls call their boyfriend 'OBBA' which is used when an younger sister calls to an older brother and an younger female calls to an older male friend.

    So, OBBA sometimes soulds honey or brother.

    from Shaun.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I find the comments very interesting to this post. I'm a white American female who's been in Korea for a bit more than three years. I found, and sometimes still find, the word "oppa" to be a bit uncomfortable. I've made the effort to learn Korean while being here but every Korean guy I've dated and all ex-boyfriends wanted me to call them that. Even my Korean guy friends have asked me to call them "oppa". Perhaps this isn't something that can be generalized as everyone has their own personal preferences. Even gyopo friends here have told me to call them "oppa"...

    ReplyDelete
  59. My experience with "Oppa" used to be in reference to "OPPA" becoming "APPA." In short "older brother" then "someone’s father." You get the analogy??
    If the word comes from familial relationship, it is strictly used to provide honorific relationship to someone older. But if it is used in other context, it is flirting that can get some guy very amiable to girls command.
    It used to be common for working girls to use it to entice the patronage, even to those close to father’s age. It just makes men feel – just manly. I personally liked it before I was married, when younger female would request my attention with “OPPA!”
    By the way, this Korean American has never discriminate when it comes to female as to racial background.

    ReplyDelete
  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  61. ok this is going to be an ackward question but; What if you are an spanish-American guy who's dating a Korean guy and you want to call him oppa just for fun and affection.. does it sound/looks weird?

    Ps: I date Asian guys and I'm an spanish guy lol

    ReplyDelete
  62. For this Korean American, there definitely is something to that word. I've never had a non Korean say that to me. But I've had many of my Korean American female friends/ girlfriends call me that, but only in a teasing, joking sort of way, and it's true, that gets pretty annoying. I know the KA girls think it's hilarious, but seriously, the KA guys I know lost the humor of it after hearing it the first 100 times or so. I've also had a few Korean Korean female friends say that to me, in a very natural way, and I found it really endearing. But there was this international student from Korea for whom I was developing these feelings. She asked me one night if she could call me oppa. I said, Yes. The first time she said it... seriously, I turned to butter. Even before she said it, my heart was beating uncontrollably. It's like she's saying, I feel close to you, but I want to get even closer. So yeah, the word can be annoying, or endearing, but if the right woman says it, under the right circumstance, it can be kryptonite.

    ReplyDelete
  63. This post is hella old! But I thought I would tell a story:

    There was a drunk ajusshi at my friend's bar -- really fall-off-his-seat drunk. I tried to offer him some water, but he kept refusing it. Then I thought for a moment and repeated what I had been saying with one difference: "드세요...오빠."

    He suddenly sat up straight, eyes wide open, and said, "오빠?!" with a grin on his face. Drank the whole glass of water.

    ReplyDelete
  64. @penniesforposies

    lmao, if I could like your comment I would!! XD

    And since I'm here, I guess I could add my own 2cents.

    I'm a non-Korean, 21 year old girl who has a large pool of Korean friends from Korea as well as Korean Americans at her college. Out of my friends from Korea, only one guy do I refer to as oppa.

    At the time, I was hanging out with him and another girl who is older than me. I referred to both of them with the appropriate terms and both were quite ecstatic by my knowledge of their language.

    To this day I still refer to both as oppa and unni and our relationship is that of oppa/dongsaeng and unni/dongsaeng. Neither have expressed dissatisfaction with my use of the word oppa.

    For me when it comes to speaking to Koreans in English, I personally feel awkward saying their Korean names. It's not that I have difficulties with Korean names, but more along the fact that calling my unni "Hyejin" without adding unni sounds slightly rude to me because I know I'm younger than she is and its the same with oppa.

    But I'm also not in the situation where using their last names is appropriate either. If they were Korean Americans it'd be simple to just use their given names because KA's are, at least in some respects, as American as I am. But with Koreans, it's not considered respectable to refer to someone older than you by only their given name and I don't want to inadvertently insult them.

    Therefore, when I speak with Koreans I call them by their full names until we are to a comfortable level that saying unni or oppa is acceptable. With Korean Americans I just naturally use the American approach to the situation unless otherwise instructed by said KA.

    On a side note, the caterwaul of "OPPA~~~~!" by girls wanting something from the guys just irritates me.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Ah this post is quite old huh ...haha~

    Reading the previous comments, I couldn't help but laugh at some of the posts~ (Kinda awkward sat here at work...) xD

    From a non-korean person like me, saying oppa to another korean male may seem slightly intimidating. Maybe its simply because here in england we don't have such a term...But from my experience, 'Oppa' isn't as off-putting as people may think. My ex was an american-korean, and personally he preferred the approach. Kryptonite, haha...spot on! The boys knees would buckle when said right! Though I'll admit, for me it was awkward at first.
    But now, I have a korean tutor whom I don't know particularly well. We seem to get on pretty good, and he's dropped the use of the word quite a few times now. Again, I love the korean culture and language...but the effect a simple word can have on a korean male is still so intriguing. My tutor can't help but grin everytime ...

    xD

    ReplyDelete
  66. Hi, I have a question as a Korean girl. This Korean guy I'm interested in is older than me and since I have sufficient ability in Korean, he types all his messages to me in Korean. I'm good with that, and I don't even mind the fact I have to call him oppa. He even referred to himself as oppa, but recently, he stopped doing that, and just says "na." ...Is this a good thing? Does this mean he's more comfortable with me now, or does it mean he doesn't want me to have any romantic attachment to him (~referring to all the aegyo-filled innuendo behind the word "oppa")??

    ReplyDelete
  67. I'm Chinese-American. But after I jokingly called a Korean guy "Oppa" he paid more attention to me. Now he's my boyfriend. Haha!

    There are other Korean guys I'm friends with, but I don't refer to them as "oppa". I feel like because I'm not Korean, I don't need to call them that. But since my boyfriend likes it I only use "oppa" when I'm talking to him. However, if I ever want to get a Korean guy's attention, the "oppa" card comes in handy. ^_-

    ReplyDelete
  68. First and foremost I'm not Korean, my boyfriend is. Despite my EurAsian (European-Manchu Chinese) ethnic flair, nothing is worse than a non-Korean, calling another, especially in 'public,' Oppa. OMG, it's not only strange but it makes me cringe. It's like this... o.k. I know that we, China, Taiwan, Korea or Japan, each have fascinating cultures but seriously, stay real.

    Ex. my bf has this friend, who's Caucasian, no big deal, he's "alright"... but when I hear this guy call him 'Dongseng,' omg, I want to punch him. I mean, the homeboy doesn't say it but I know he has a freakishly weird Asian fetish, which makes my skin crawl. If he's dating an Chinese girl, he's Chinese, a Japanese girl he Japanese and so forth... you get the picture. I know American's don't have similar terms of endearments but let's keep it on the level.

    Btwn my bf and I, since day one, our common joke of Jagiya has turned into our literal name for one another. I guess because we back-up the term as soul mates or have a reverent respect for each other, the term Jagiya is deemed apropos. In the beg. I thought it was a little 'out there' and I have spoken openly with my bf about this, he actually agrees that the term is appropriate for both of us, therefore we use this and often. Albeit when we are in Korean establishments in Los Angeles (Koreatown), I'm cautious as to not offend others (older Koreans)... I mean really, some do get offended by foreigners. Then again I don't come off as one of those know-it-all Americans whom tend to want to show their hubris-tic knowledge about the Korean culture, it's relatively tacky.

    All in all, per "Oppa," my guess, use it with respect, know the meaning, don't try to be cute, less is more.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I know this is way late bur I just though id say, im african american and my korean friends die on the floor blushing and grinning when I call them oppa.they absolutely love it and u wouldnt believe how much they smother me when I call them that. Its like an immediate mind control keyword. I wish that worked on all my guy friends

    ReplyDelete
  70. I am a 35 year old Caucasian woman living in Korea. Every so often I gather with a group of my jiu jitsu teammates and one of the older Korean guys--he's 42--introduced himself to me and I was trying to remember his name and he said OPPA.

    Every time I see him I call him Oppa and he grins in delight. His wife has me call her Unni :)

    I've never initiated the "oppa" but if a guy asks me to call him that I certainly will. :)

    ReplyDelete
  71. I'm Korean-American that lives in Korea. I can't complain if someone wants to call me that. I do have a younger sister but she never called me oppa since she was americanized. Actually my younger brother never called me hyung either. So for me personally, its nice to hear.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Let's say a married woman meets a new (slightly older) colleague and starts calling him "Oppa." Let's say both are Korean.

    Does this imply something inappropriate is afoot? Would a Korean husband object?

    ReplyDelete
  73. Haha, I call my boyfriend/spouse "Oppa", while he calls me "Yeobo/Yuhbo". Before we went out he loved me calling him "Oppa", and even during the first couple weeks, he still went a little crazy from it. I usually have to switch it up sometimes, as I think it flows better, since it would weird to call each other the same thing over and over.

    I personally think that the word has been 'dirtied' because of the context of how it has been used thus far. I don't think it has to do with 'non-Korean' or 'pure Korean', just the way it is used and has been used in the past.

    ReplyDelete
  74. I personally would love it if a non korean girl called me oppa. Add some aegyo to that and i might become a purse buying maniac!

    I think a lot of guys say they dislike it but secretly love it. It's not really macho to admit that you like being called oppa cuz it's a cutesy thing, so guys try to shake it off as if it's annoying and gross. And it can be annoying indeed when used too much.

    ReplyDelete
  75. I'm white, and only use the term as a joke. I've had webcam chats where some Korean guys wanted me to call them oppa, and I almost had trouble saying it out loud, as I've heard that dragging the last syllable may have horrible consequences. They just smiled widely and complimented on my pronunciation though, haha.

    Oh, and as I've had a somewhat romantic relationship with a girl, we found it funny with the terms oppa and yeobo,
    me being somewhat of a tomboy, being called oppa was kind of a turn-on. She still calls be oppa and I still call her yeobo, though she has a new boyfriend now, haha xD

    All innocent fun for us ;)

    Though I'd be careful with using oppa with actual Koreans, especially in an "aegyo" kind of way.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Totally want to put in my two cents as this topic is great.

    I'm a white europaen girl and was in Korea for three month, knowing a little about this oppa/unni/hyung/nuna stuff. I did a practical training over there as an intern at a language school but my students were more like my friends (I didn't really 'teach', I just helped out and motivated my 'students' to speak) - anyway:
    I had two male students, both older than me. Mr. A. came to my class one time and introduced himself, of course with his age, very Korean... - And I (knowing little) said to him, "ah: so you' be my oppa, hm?" And with this he was blushing like crazy and my girl students started giggling: "He totally likes it!" I never called him oppa again...

    Mr. B. was a great student who helped me in return for my teaching with my Korean and questions about Korean culture. I don't know how anymore but I came to call him oppa and he was totally fine with it - cause for us both it was the brotherly sense. Until today we keep this relationship even though I'm far away again from Korea. And I still call him oppa - and he's probably the only person I would be able to call "oppa" today.

    So, and then there was Mr. C. The guy I really liked! Korean of course. In a mail I told him about that "oppa" going to a foreign place and I#m invited to the goodbye-party. Well, Mr. C. then thought I had a boyfriend (even though I made it clear, that I liked him...) and after that the most awkward and most silent month followed. Because of an "oppa"-misunderstanding.

    Thanks again to this word (and my own stupidity) I have experienced things I never thought I would... ^_^;

    ReplyDelete
  77. Kryptonite... absolutely...

    Mr. C. just turned to butter... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  78. I have a Korean boyfriend and pretty early on, he made it quite clear that he didn't want me to call him "oppa." Since I am a little bit older than him, I never even thought of doing it, but he said if older girls call him that, they sound slutty and desperate, and if younger girls do, he feels uncomfortable unless he is very close with them.

    Of course, at the same time, he doesn't want me to call other older Korean guys "oppa" and straight up told me that if I did, he would feel very jealous.

    I don't really have a problem with it though, because I come from a Dutch background and I call my grandpas "Opa" which sounds the same. It wouldn't be awkward for me, but many of my friends would raise their eyebrows as to why I'm refering to him as my grandfather.

    ReplyDelete
  79. I'm non-Korean, never been to Korea, but I used to date a Korean girl. She had come to my country -Albania- with her church and had started learning our difficult and confusing language. I, on the other hand, did try several times to learn the language, but hell was it hard. Now she has returned to her mother country and we still chat from times to times through Skype and Facebook.

    Now, although you did ask how a Korean would feel if a non-Korean girl would call them oppa, let me state the opposite: how a non-Korean guy feels when a Korean girl tells him that.

    So, at first, before we started being romantically involved, she threw me the oppa honorific right out on my face. When I asked what that was, she told me it meant older brother. Without previous knowledge of the Korean language, culture and customs, I thought she turned me off. Long story short, we were later romantically involved, I learned how the family titles are used -although I lack pronunciation- and she still would call me oppa (among other things). At first it wasn't a turn on for me. Not at all. Being a guy that fought all his life against discrimination of all sorts, I didn't want a girl to refer to me as something better than her in any way -even if that thing was age.

    But, as time passed, I got used to it and it stopped being a bug. Nowadays, I also miss it being called that. But I don't think I would be comfortable by being called that by some other girl. Or I wouldn't feel comfortable calling an older girl "nuna". I works differently for us non-Koreans, I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
  80. Oppa (ole-pa or old-pa) is a global word. Oppa means grandpa, and noona means grandma. Globally the world languages speak of older Pa (grandpa or grandfather) as oppa. Your boyfriend during world war 2 was called your daddy because he spent money on you. It is a term the soldiers bring across the world, especially in Asia where girls service men. As oppa (old pa; ole pa) means big daddy (grand pa) so does noona mean nanna or nannar (Grand ma) or nanny (hired), but in Korea theyve lessened this to big brother and big sister. The sexual spenders (predators) in societies do this, because they want to feel you need them as a mother or father, but they dont wish to be tagged with old age. They dont wish to be called your old man, or your old lady (in the USA my ole man & ole lady is a 1960s term for parents, but in the 1970s for husband or wife). So they presume OLDER brother, the word around the world is defined as Great or Grand or Big such as big brother instead of old brother. But it comes from Pa or father (Patar), not brother.
    In the video of Gangnam Style it is clear that if a man is iffeminate (gay) that he calls his lover Oppa the way a girl would do who is sexually kept by a man. The video shows him in a sauna with his naked legs crossed, laying on the fat old man his oppa, while he looks at the young muscle boy. Obviously the singer laying on his Oppa is the sexy lady in the sauna. So its not just what a girl would call her sugar daddy (1940s term), it is like America where they say You Go Girl to iffeminate passive bottom men.

    ReplyDelete
  81. I find it kind of similar to hispanic girls calling their boyfriends "papi". I dated a hispanic guy when I was younger, and if I said that to him, it caused an immediate reaction. I dunno, just an interesting parallel I've found,

    ReplyDelete
  82. I lost my 15 years relationship during December. My husband left me with so many pains and since then i have been heart broken and shattered. I have contact 7spell casters and 7 of them has rip me off my money without no result. I have Emailed so many sites online looking for a good spell caster untill i was directed by a 20 years old boy to wiseindividualspell@gmail.com: wiseindividualspell@gmail.com At first i never believed him because he was requesting for some amount of money to buy items to cast the spell, it took him 4 weeks to convince me and something occur to my mind and i said let me give him a trial. I was very shocked when Nichasin called four days after i sent Dr.Zack Balo the items money. He apologies for all he has done wrong and i am very happy that we are together today now because he proposed to marry me. I will advise you contact wiseindividualspell@gmail.com because he has done wonders in my life and i believe he can help you out in any problem.

    ReplyDelete
  83. im white, & I have two male friends (2 years older). One is african-american and one is phillipino and every once in a while I use oppa, in the friendly big-brother way, and I don't think they even know what it means

    ReplyDelete
  84. Wow, very old post, but maybe someone can answer. What if both the younger woman and older man are in their 30's or 40's? Is oppa inappropriate because of their age? The woman wouldn't call him ahjussi then, would she?

    Also, what about the term yeonhanam, which I have heard to be a word for older women to use for a younger man, if they are in a relationship. Is this word actually used?

    ReplyDelete

To prevent spam comments, comments left on posts older than 60 days is subject to moderation and will not appear immediately.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...