Sunday, 7 September 2014

Why My Korean Friends Don't Like The Chuseok Family Reunions

I thought family reunions are supposed to be fun. As one's siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents hardly see each other, Chuseok, or the Korean Thanksgiving, would be a happy occasion to see everyone in the family again.

Well, that was what I thought.

Over the years, my Korean friends told me about their stories of their family reunions during Chuseok (or even during Seollal). Although they said that seeing their grandparents brings back childhood memories of growing up under their care, it's the 'Q&A portion' of the family reunion that's irritating and stressful.

Usually, it's their parents' cousins and a few relatives who would always throw those disliked questions. Here are some of them:

1. "When are you getting married? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?"
2. "When are you getting a job? Your cousin now works at Samsung." 
3. "Why don't you have children?"
4. "Where do you study? Your cousin is studying at Yonsei University."
5. "Do you have a car?"

Although I always get a laugh when my Korean friends recount to me their ordeal of trying to answer these questions with civility, poise and a smile just like the remaining five contestants at a Miss Universe pageant, I also realize that this Q&A portion of the reunions adds pressure to anyone being asked the question. It's the pressure to conform to what the family (and of course, the society) wants of you and how it wants you to live your life!

No wonder Korea has one of the highest suicide rates! Some people just couldn't handle the pressure, I guess.
But one 'happy-ending' story I lately heard was from one of my best Korean friends. (Sorry, I can't write down his name. He's reading this! Ha-ha-ha!). He said his father didn't get much respect from his own family as his father's job was not as respectable as those of the rest of his siblings. So, my friend studied and worked hard to make good. He went to one of the top three universities in Korea (he's very smart), he finished his post-graduate studies overseas and he now works in the financial investment services industry.

And when he attended the last family reunion, he drove to his hometown with his wife and baby, and impressed everyone with his success....and with his new Mercedes Benz! His relatives' jaws must have dropped when he and his family stepped out of that German luxury car.

Well, I guess that's how you should show up at a family reunion. Ha-ha-ha!

So, if you're traveling to your hometown during these Chuseok holidays, I wish you're able to dodge some of those questions. And whether you're driving to your hometown in your new expensive car, or simply taking the KTX, do have a safe journey.

And try to have fun! It's the holidays, remember? And don't forget your presents for your grandparents!

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