Please welcome guest poster Michelle from Wife and Mommy! I met Michelle at Blogher '09 and knew immediately after having lunch with her that she needed to tell us her story. She shares an aspect of her Korean-American life here and I am sure many of us can relate. —Stefania Pomponi Butler
Of all the areas in which I feel insecure about raising my children, exposing them to their Korean culture is the most worrisome for me. I am uncertain how to teach them the traditions and nuances of the beautiful, rich culture that my own parents taught me.
I’m a first generation Korean-American—I was born in the U.S.A., effectively beating out my entire family to citizenship. Growing up, I felt split between two cultures. At home, I was a dutiful Korean daughter. I served my father Korean meals that my mom prepared. I did as my parents expected, studying hard and bringing home good grades (for the most part). I played the piano and violin. I followed my father’s rule, even though I internally rebelled against my father’s attempt to have us speak only Korean in the house.
My American persona emerged when I was at school and with friends. I eschewed Korean culture and did everything I could to forget my Korean-ness. I was embarrassed by my parents’ odd Korean manners. I didn’t want to bring my friends over lest they smell our kimchi kitchen. I was timid in asking my friends to remove their shoes upon entering our home. I ignored Korean peers at school and went out of my way to not be associated with them.
My exposure to the Korean culture was simply what I absorbed in my day-to-day living. I managed to avoid the dreaded Saturday Korean School that my sister was made to attend, but now I can’t read and write Hangul. I made no effort to learn Korean customs nor have Korean friends despite my parents’ desire for me to do both.
I married a white-bread American guy and we now have three beautiful multicultural children. My desire to know more about Korean culture has increased in an effort to teach it to my kids. Since they aren’t immersed in Korean culture in their home as I was, how will they ever learn about it? I am not Korean enough to adequately educate them. I lean on my parents to show their grandchildren, but they live overseas now and we only see them once a year or so.
So I try. We go to the Asian grocery store as often as we go to the regular supermarket. I attempt to make my favorite Korean dishes so their young tongues can develop an appreciation for the delicious flavors of my childhood. We have dolls dressed in traditional hanbok. We read Korean folk tales and eat a lot of rice.
For now, I hope it’s enough. Maybe I’ll see if I can find a Korean school for them to attend once they are older.
Michelle is a Wife, Mommy, former school teacher, writer, and procrastinator (among other things).
Michelle's parents immigrated to the U.S. a year before she was born, thus giving her the distinction of being the first American citizen in the entire extended family! She grew up in the DC Metro Area, where she still lives with her white-bread midwestern boy, The Husband, and their three children: Bito, Cupcake and BabyMuffin.
She writes about her life at Wife and Mommy.