I’ve been living in South Korea for almost 14 years now, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my life here. I’ve observed many cultural differences between my country, Canada, and South Korea. I admit that I don’t always understand why the South Koreans do things very differently, but I try my best to accept this as a cultural difference.
Among the cultural differences I’ve gotten used to are the weddings. As I grew up in Canada, I only knew Western-style weddings at first. Every wedding I went to in Canada was more or less the same. On a Saturday morning, I would dress up and then head to a church. At the church, there would be an usher who would seat people. During the wedding, everyone would sit quietly and watch the wedding, except maybe when there was a church hymn to sing.
After the wedding, people would congratulate the bride and groom, and the newly married couple would then be whisked away for a wedding photo session. All the wedding guests would disperse during the photo session, but they would gather again for the dinner banquet at around six or seven in the evening.
At the banquet, there would be a nice dinner and many, many speeches. There would also be toasts offered to the bride, the groom, etc.... After dinner and all the speeches, there would be a dance. A DJ or a band would come and play varied music for all age groups. The dancing would usually continue until about one in the morning.
Shortly after I first came to South Korea, I went to my first Korean wedding. My new friend, Mark, was marrying a Korean woman. Oddly, it happened to be a traditional Korean wedding. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it gave me a new cultural experience.
As it was the middle of summer, it was too hot to wear a suit, but I still dressed up the best I could. After getting ready, I went to the designated area to get on a bus that would take some of the guests to the small town where the wedding was to be held. The first new thing that I saw was my friend, Mark, wearing a hanbokand not a tuxedo.
A few of my other new friends had to dress up in some traditional clothing to participate in the wedding. Once they were dressed, they had to carry the bride, who was in a wooden box, to the area where she and Mark were to be wed. After the carrying of the bride by the men, the men had to do much harder work: they also had to carry the groom.
When the wedding started, it was all in Korean (of course I should have expected that, but it still came to me as a bit of surprise). I admit that I don’t remember all the details of the ceremony, but I do remember that the bride and groom did a lot of bowing to each other, to their parents, and to the man presiding over the wedding ceremony, and Mark bowing to a wooden duck (although it was a mistake)! Towards the end of the wedding ceremony, two of my friends had to release some chickens. One of my friends just tossed the chicken a few meters in front of himself, but the other tried to launch the chicken into orbit! You see, he imagined that the chicken was like a white dove that would fly away, but as we all know, what goes up must come down. The chicken thus came crashing down, landed on an older woman’s lap, and ripped a hole in her stockings! I know I shouldn’t have laughed, but it was such a funny sight!
When the wedding ceremony was over, we had a very simple lunch. I remember eating rice, soup, and some vegetable side dishes. For dessert, we were given this very colorful dish and were told that it was ddeok, or Korean rice cake. I was excited to try this new treat,which looked a bit like donut holes from Dunkin’ Donuts. When I bit into one, however, it was nothing like donut holes! It wasn’t the sweet-tasting dessert I had expected. After living in South Korea all these years, however, I have to say that Korean rice cake is now one of my favorite desserts when I go to weddings. After lunch, we all got back to the bus, were driven back to Daejeon, and were dropped off where we were picked up in the morning.