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With just a month left in Korea, my boyfriend, Yongguen, turned to me and in a no-nonsense tone announced that he wanted me to meet his parents. We had only been dating about 5 months or so and this was the last thing I was expecting to hear him say.In Korea, the institution of dating is far more black-and-white than it is in the West.Still, I had agreed I'd meet them so there was no turning back now. Each had something different to say, some of their advice contradictory."Wear a cute dress and ." "Wear something casual so you're not trying too hard." "Bring them a gift." "Don't bring them a gift." "Don't talk unless they ask you questions." Well, I knew I could follow through with that last bit of advice, seeing as my Korean skills aren't the best.Knowing that they were devout Catholics, I knew I had at least had the same-religious background thing going for me.I started to assure myself that it would be fine but I soon found out that I'd be meeting them at my boyfriend's dad's 60th birthday party (a big deal in Korean culture), which didn't help settle my nerves.Knowing this, I made sure to explain to my boyfriend early on (the first date) that we do things a little differently in the West.Knowing that I'd be leaving Korea, I also told him that I didn't want anything serious. So, when he asked if I would meet his parents, I got a bit worried.
I could tell they were a bit uncomfortable and uncertain about what to do.The Korean race is a pure one and older generations often believe that Westerns are culturally inferior.Over the next couple weeks, I worried that I didn't have a chance to begin with.Yongguen's parents soon saw the same thing and got a kick out of it. Fortunately I had read some books so I was partly aware of why Koreans worship their ancestors and are consistent in (tidying up their grave sites).We started enjoying our meal and things were going very smoothly. About half an hour passed before the awkward interview began. And I'm sorry," he noted before relaying what his parents asked. Without a beat, the sorority president in me came out with the perfect interview answer, "I believe that if someone marries another from a different culture, she should respect that culture's traditions." I also casually mentioned that I didn't want to get married anytime soon. He explained to me that in Korea, when women are pregnant, either they or close female relatives or friends may have dreams that predict the birth of their child.Eventually, I agreed, but I was not looking forward to it.Even in the 21st century, many Korean parents are not open to the idea of their children dating foreigners.There's none of this "It's complicated..." "We're talking..." "We're texting"..."We've been dating for a year but we still haven't had the DTR (defining the relationship) talk..." No. After two or three dates with someone, it's automatically assumed that an exclusive relationship has been formed.Well, one thing lead to the next and before I knew it, I was going on trips with him to cliche couple spots around Seoul, like Namsan Tower and Nami Island. Like in the West, meeting the parents of a significant other often means that things are quite serious and is commonly indicative of a forthcoming marriage.Yongguen assured me that this was not the case and simply wanted his parents to meet me before I left, as he didn't know when there would be another chance for this to happen.