Marrying a Korean? Before you sign that marriage certificate…
Before finally deciding to marry my husband, I took the time to research about what life would be for me in his country. I didn’t really have a concrete idea on what life as a “foreign” married woman in Korea would be like since information on the net was rather scarce during that time. (And when I started blogging, I only knew of two other Filipina bloggers here in Korea – Anna Banana and Megastina – who is married to a Canadian. Both are not active anymore but I still keep in touch with Banana through Facebook. I’d never met Megastina since she was based in Daejeon and then Ulsan).
In the Philippines, women who are fiancees or wives of foreign men should attend a seminar conducted by the Commission on Filipino Overseas to “educate” them on what their lives would be once they immigrate. I found it degrading at that time (like I didn’t know what I was doing) but now I understand how important it is. While those marrying (or who are already married) to men in Western countries only need to attend a half-day seminar, those who are going to Korea and Japan are required to attend an extra two-day seminar that includes a one-on-one interview. After the seminar, the women are given a certificate.
As much as were informed on how different Korean culture is and what our chores would be, I don’t remember being told of what could happen to us if our marriage failed. What I found out are:
- The F-2-1 (foreign spouse) visa is sponsored by the Korean spouse. If the husband/wife divorces the foreign spouse, it would be almost impossible to renew the visa. One reason why one should never marry for convenience. Life in Korea isn’t as “convenient” as one might think 🙂
- A Filipino (even if married to a foreigner and is living in a different country) could not legally secure a divorce, which would prevent him/her from marrying again back home. Here’s some information on the net about “Judicial Recognition of a Foreign Divorce Decree“.
- Custody of the children is usually awarded to the father.
What a Filipina (specifically) could expect from a marriage to a Korean?
- Expect to be an unpaid household worker. It is quite expensive to pay someone to do house chores. A wife is expected to do the cooking, cleaning and anything else that needs to be done at home.
- There are three important celebrations in Korea (that most married women dread!): chuseok or the harvest festival, seol-nal (pronounced seol-lal) or the lunar new year and jesa (ancestral rite). In all these occasions, a married woman is expected to stay in the kitchen and SERVE the family (and visitors). I hated my first Chuseok (which happened on my third week here)! I felt like a maid! However, my Korean sisters-in-law had to do more chores. The biggest pressure is on the eldest (not necessarily oldest) daughter-in-law. If one is to marry a Korean who is TRADITIONAL (and non-Christian), then expect to be a maid on these occasions. Or make sure that you’re marrying into a Christian family.
- Marrying a Korean man doesn’t only mean marrying the man himself but his whole family as well. In short, there will be times when you have to give up on that special date just because his family would like you to join them in whatever they wanted to do.
- The Philippines and Korea are only four hours away by plane, but our cultures are different. To this day, Confucianism is deeply rooted in this country. It’s outdated but still, read up on Confucianism to understand Korean culture better.
- If you are going to live with his parents, act appropriately. Think of them as your own parents.
- Koreans love their food (I do too!). Your husband most likely will not eat your super-duper special adobo but he would expect you to cook and eat Korean food. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
- A Korean man’s salary might go a long way in the Philippines, but it could sometimes only get you to the neighborhood sari-sari store here in Korea. I once talked to a Filipina, on the phone, who married her husband through an agency. She wanted out. She said she just got married because she wasn’t sure she would get a Japanese entertainment visa. She thought that Koreans are as well-off in Korea as when they are in the Philippines. I thought she must be pretty. She said she didn’t know her husband is a taxi driver and that they have to live with his parents. She wanted to divorce and would like to go back to the Philippines. It’s IMPERATIVE that you get married to a man you know and not to someone you don’t even know the name of. And true enough, there are some married women here who don’t know their husband’s name. Of course, even years of dating wouldn’t guarantee that you know a man fully well.
- Career opportunities not in the line of teaching English are difficult to find if you can’t speak Korean. You’ll need the language to negotiate. My first job here, I worked at a news agency (first time I’m talking about it online). I lasted for three days – and I blame it on culture shock. Why? Next item please…
- Koreans may seem to be the hardest working people on the planet. Why? They spend so much time at their workplace. Even if working hours is from 9-7 PM for salary men, it doesn’t mean that a Korean husband would leave his office at exactly 7PM. They usually don’t leave the office until the boss has left. On our first year, my husband worked from 9AM-9PM. He’s home by 10PM. Thank heavens for Yahoo Messenger!They also spend AT LEAST one night a week to drink with their colleagues.
- If your future husband is working at a trading company and he sometimes travel, expect to do a lot of things on your own.
A Korean man marrying a foreign woman, especially someone from SEA, is stereotyped as someone undesired by Korean women – uneducated, divorcee, old, farmer, living in the boondocks. If your (future) parents-in-law are not in favor of you marrying their son, it could be because of this dilemma. They don’t want society to think that their son is undesirable by Korean standards. However, if he still insists on marrying you then he must truly want you to be his lifelong partner. When there’s a will there’s a way. Sabi nga ni Judy Ann Santos: “kung gusto maraming paraan, kung ayaw maraming dahilan.”
Also, just because our cultures are different it doesn’t mean that we have to follow our husbands blindly. Days before our marriage, my husband and I negotiated on our future married life. One shouldn’t expect everything to be all rosy after the honeymoon. That’s when the actual marriage begins. It depends on how much you trust and respect each other that will predict the lifespan of your marriage.
I might update this post later. If you guys have an input or two (violent reactions, additional information, etc) feel free to write on the comment section.