I’ve been asked a lot of times (mostly by Koreans) about how Andy’s parents reacted when he decided to date and marry a foreigner. Also, all the people that I’ve met here in Korea have actually asked me if Andy and I live with my in-laws or not. Now, here’s my story.
When Andy first told his parents about us, his mother asked him why he was dating a foreigner and not a Korean. She said that it would be better if Andy would date and marry a Korean woman. You ask why? Of course his parents wouldn’t have a problem communicating with a daughter-in-law who speaks the same language and who has the same cultural background. Another reason was that there were still many Koreans who thought negatively about their fellow Koreans marrying a foreigner. And there are still a lot of them until now. They think that those men marrying foreigners are on the lower rung of the eligibility ladder in a culture captivated by credentials, looks, wealth and family connections. People perceive them as uneducated, financially incapable or just totally undesirable. So they look for wives in the neighboring countries through international matchmaking agencies. Of course, Andy’s parents didn’t want their son to be part of this stereotype. It’s because of these worries that his mother asked him why he was dating a foreigner.
Andy told them that he’s serious about our relationship and that we truly love each other. He also clarified that we didn’t meet through any matchmaking agency, and that we went through proper courtship. Marriages through international matchmaking agency don’t usually go through courtship since after the ‘agreement,’ they tie the knot right away. Some women are lucky to marry responsible men but others end up having a miserable life later on due to many reasons (domestic violence as one).
Anyway, Andy’s parents respected his decision and they felt happy for him. They were happy for their son to marry the person he loves and who loves him back. His parents had a successful arranged marriage and their love for each other developed over time after tying the knot. Marriage back then was not a matter of personal choice but a matter of respect and obedience to parents. So when they knew that the feeling was genuine and mutual between Andy and I, they supported our relationship.
To show their support, they let Andy go (which was hard for MIL) and allowed him to live in the Philippines to be near me. To make it short, the acceptance was quite easy. We didn’t have a hard time getting their approval. Andy’s parents tried to reach out to me by learning English phrases to express that they care. On my part, I also tried learning their language and culture to express how I respect and honor them and how I love their son.
Living in Korea
Andy lived independently in Seoul (10-min drive from his parents’ house) even when he was still single. When we arrived in Korea, we also got our own place. We would just visit my parents-in-law every weekend. It was a good decision to live on our own because I actually felt quite stressed and uncomfortable due to language barrier. I couldn’t understand them and I couldn’t express myself well. It was just so hard to communicate and deal with them without Andy’s assistance. What was funny was that my parents-in-law loved to talk to me even though they knew I couldn’t understand what they were saying. LOL. My MIL wouldn’t mind spending the whole day telling me their family’s stories while feeding me with all the food in their fridge. It was a serious struggle for me to listen and to understand her. As time went by, our communication got better and better. Chatting and hanging out with them became a fun weekend activity for me.
Unfortunately, my father-in-law got sick and was bedridden for more than a year. He eventually died of diabetes and old age. He died in my arms. I was holding his hand and we were alone in the room when he passed away. At that moment, I promised him that I would take good care of omonim (MIL) and Andy. It was heartbreaking to see him die before my eyes. I tried so hard to practice speaking Korean so that I could have a deep conversation with him but he was already gone.
After my father-in-law’s funeral, I asked my mother-in-law to live with us. I didn’t want her to live alone. I didn’t want her to develop depression which is a common problem among old people after losing a loved one. When Andy’s siblings knew about my plan, they thanked, praised and even called me a ‘cheonsa’ (angel) for having kind thoughts for their mom. Well, I believe that it is our duty to take care of our aging parents no matter how hard and challenging it is. That’s what family is for. Our parents took responsibility of raising us well when we were young and in return, it is our responsibility to take care of them when they’re old. Traditionally, the eldest son in a Korean family (even if he’s not the eldest child) has the greatest responsibility of taking care of the parents during old age. Taking care means living with them. Andy’s older brother works and lives abroad; and my MIL disagreed to live overseas. Andy is the youngest in the family, by the way. At first, my MIL refused to live with us because she didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable. She thought that Andy made the decision alone and that I was left with no other choice but to follow. We had to convince her that it was also my desire to take care of her. Haha.
Most Korean women are against the idea of living with their in-laws especially if their husband is not the eldest son. They would make all the excuses to avoid living with them. Andy was hesitant about bringing out the idea of living with MIL because he didn’t want me to feel like he was imposing his culture on me. I know how much Andy honors and loves his mom though he is not showy of his emotions. I grew up with a family of strong values and I believe that Andy doesn’t need to be the eldest son to take care of his mom. And he will never be alone in doing so because I will always be on his side. I love and respect my husband; so I value the people who are important to him and the things that make him happy.
Though living with my mother-in-law gives us joy and peace of mind, it is quite challenging. I’ll share more about our life together in my next posts. How about you? Do you live with your parents-in-law? If you live with Korean parents-in-law, how is it? Please feel free to share your stories on the comment box below. I would love to read them. 🙂