Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Marriage and Christmas Trees!

As my 5 readers know, Ive been taking private Korean lessons from student at Washington University in St Louis. I'll have to say that I am very surprised at how well it is working. I "found" my tutor on the internet, and I was a little skeptical because I had no clue what I was getting myself into. "Jackie" is her American name, but she was born and raised in Korea, and her parents still live in Korea. However, she is technically a US citizen and has a US passport. But she insists that she is not a "gyopo", she's only a "FOB"...lol. I find it funny that Koreans find the term "gyopo" offensive, but don't mind being called a "FOB"..lol

What I like about our lessons is that we discuss grammar, pronunciation, and culture. Since we meet twice a week, we usually do grammar one day and on the other we practice speaking and pronunciation. Culture usually gets tied in with speaking.

I had a lesson last night. It was grammar night, but we got onto a culture topic that I found interesting. She told me that tomorrow (which is today), would be her 300th day. I was pretty confused. I knew Koreans celebrated their 100th day anniversery but I never knew of 300. Then she informed me that they even celebrate 200th day! I asked what was the customs for each of these days. I had seen on Korean dramas that guys sometimes get the girls 100 roses. Now that could get pretty expensive on 200 and 300th day anniverseries!

She told me that on their 100th day, her boyfriend gave her a ring. I knew this was a custom in Korea called "Couple Rings". She asked me if Americans do this. I had to laugh. I told her guys usually will not give a girlfriend a ring unless he is asking her to marry him. She didn't understand why. I had to explain the whole engagement and wedding thing and how in the US a ring is usually meant for engagement and most guys will stay clear of that until they are ready to get married. However in Korea, "couple rings" is I guess the equivalent of a guy giving a girl his school ring to wear? It doesn't mean they are agreeing to get married like in the US.

After this she asked me if I was going to ever get married. That caught me by surprise! "well, yea eventually, someday..." I stammared as I recovered... Then she asked how old I was, and I told her I was 28. She explained that, that was probably too young still! I was surprised by that! From what Ive seen in Korean dramas, Korean girls are really pressured to get married before 30, because after 30 its as if its too late! I assumed it was similar for guys. I asked her about this and she explained that its different for guys. She said for guys in Korea, getting married in the early 30s is good. This is because he can finish school, his military service, and be well grounded in his career.

However, apparently for girls its a lot younger. And here comes where the title of this post ties in. Jackie then made a statement which she had to explain: "For girls and marraige they are like Christmas trees"!!??!??!?!?!!??? What???? I was totally confused. Then she went on to explain. Apparently in Korea the perfect age for a female to get married is 25.

The analogy with the Christmas Tree? Well before December 25th people want to buy a Christmas trees and decorate them up, the 25th (Christmas Day) is perfect and the purpose of a Christmas tree, and each day after Christmas gets more difficult to sell a Christmas tree because no one wants one. So this is saying, marrying a girl younger than 25 is like "eye candy" and used to decorate. Marrying a 25 year old girl is perfect and is the perfect marrying age. Then each year after 25 is more difficult for a girl to get married because guys don't want to marry a girl that is past 25!

All I have to say is "THANK GOODNESS IM A GUY!!!!"...Otherwised I'd be the "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree with brown needles that no one wants to buy! I would have missed my prime marrying age! lol. Luckily since I am a guy, there is still hope for me, I still have several more years!

I asked Jackie if this type of thought is changing in Korea since more women are working and having careers. She said no. That hasn't seemed to change the belief about women getting married by 25.


  1. It's interesting to read what you are learning from your student. I've lived in Korea for more than six years.I am well immersed in the culture. Korea is much more complex than what you'd deduce from your student. Everyone is pressured to marry; however, I know heaps of single professional women in their 30's - they are called "Gold Miss."
    The analogy of a girl and a Xmas tree must be your tutor's own. She must have gotten it from the American analogy of women and a Xmas cake "both too old after the 25th." I have never heard that expression, nor any of my Korean friends.
    But she's right about couple rings. the first kiss something that is planned ahead and celebrated with a cake. And, yes, cake in Korea complete with candles and blowing is used at many occasions -Xmas, office party, any party - there's bound to be a cake with candles.
    good luck with your korean studies. I'll be taking Level 3 at a Korean university.
    Oh, and I am neither Korean nor Kyopo, but feel deep connection with the country and the people

  2. Hi Magistra,
    Im glad you found my blog! So I can bump up my reader numbers to 6! lol. I hope you find it entertaining and come back to read more!

    FYI. Technically I'm the student. Im a banana trying to re-learn my native language...lol

    I think maybe the purpose of this analogy is being misunderstood. The analogy was only used to describe the mentality about the relationship between age and marraige in Korea. The fact that there exists "heaps of single professional women in their 30s" means nothing except maybe to confirm the reason why Jackie used this Christmas tree analogy.

    I was going to make a huge reply, but I think I'll just write it under another post because it is a very good discussion topic. I hope you come back to read it and give your thoughts on it!

  3. The first kiss, something that is planned? Wooooahhhhhhh....!!

    I've probably been watching to many western movies!