"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Now Playing: Breaking Down (Live) by Florence + The Machine (all alone, even when I was a child I've always known there was something to be found)

It's really funny how nobody can really categorize me. I mean, everyone knows that I'm Asian, but I don't act very Asian. I only bring ramen noodles to school if it's really cold. I look like a ghost in BB cream (cosmetics in Asia come in two colours: pale and paler). I am exponentially bad at maths and science.

My mother is Singaporean, but ethnically her family are from Canton, China. My dad is from forty generations of Korean blue blood. People can never really pin down where I come from, and are even more confused when I say that I was born here. I look a lot like my mum, but I don't really have the dreaded Singaporean mentality. When I was little I didn't look one smidge Korean, because I was small and dark, but now that I'm bigger and paler and I've got the high cheekbones and Korean lips apparently I look like my 친할머니.

I don't like how some people here in the Asian community present themselves. I for one am very proud of being Asian and I respect and embrace my Asian cultural background, but there are some real douches who give us all a bad name. Some people carry themselves with no dignity, no common sense and seem to lack anything commendable; intelligence, humility, grace. And as an ethnic minority, we all get branded for stupidity.

I used to be very proud of telling people I'm Korean - back in the day, when I grew up with such delightful people who thought that Alaska was in Spain, Melbourne was a state and hadn't the foggiest idea what Korea was (if she has a Korea I want a Korea too!). But now it can get a bit annoying.

I seriously hate the K-Pop fandom thingy. I hate it when people try and be Korean. Only someone like me can see how unbelievably stupid they look.

You do not know everything about a society just because you can belt out a badly-accented song in a language you don't even understand. You are not 'Korean' if you eat ramen noodles and are lusting after some K-Pop singer. And you are *definitely* not Korean if you call everyone 오빠!  

오빠 (oppa) means 'elder brother', but only if you're a girl; boys call their brothers 형(hyeong). But because in Korean society you never refer to anyone older than you by their given name (can you imagine what a nightmare grade skipping would be over there?) girls will normally call boys who are a little older than them 오빠, but only boys you know really well; close friends, and maybe a boyfriend if he's older. The above are the only acceptable contexts to call someone 오빠.

I'm one of the younger cousins in my paternal family - I think I am the youngest granddaughter. I call a lot of people 오빠. I have cousins and cousins and cousins (and brothers in law), and it's so good to have all these 'brothers'. But in Australia, I know maybe one boy who I might call 오빠. But he wouldn't get it, and the people who would get it would get it wrong.

To me, it's a title. Calling someone brother, but the term is not as defined as it is in English; it's a cross between brother/friend/sweetie/etc. In Korea cousins are brothers and sisters - my younger cousins call me 누나 (nuna), or elder sister, and my cousin's children call me 이모 (imo) or maternal aunt, and it's adorably sweet  but also very instinctual - they don't think twice about it, there's nothing else they could possibly call me. For people outside of the family, it's a term of endearment - like calling someone 'sweetie'; it's sweet and I do it all the time (all the time. I'm one of those girls who calls everyone sweetie.) it doesn't actually mean anything other than being friends. I *hate* it when people who aren't Korean try and use random words like 오빠, especially in the completely wrong context. Calling popstars 오빠 is weird, calling random boys on the street 오빠 is weird, calling people you don't know 오빠 is weird, using the word 오빠 to make yourself seem cute or imply some kind of sexual fetish is just weird weird weird. Don't do it.    

I've been to Korea three times. I have a huge Korean family, quite a traditional one, and it's fascinating, the culture, the traditions, the society. I could never live in Korea, not permamently - too much sets my teeth on edge - but I always love going back. It is an incredibly complex and diverse culture, and it's irritating that people just see one element of it - the K-Pop, which is Korea's biggest export - and think that they know everything about a very ancient and beautiful society. You don't know everything about Italy just because you ate lasagne for dinner last Tuesday.   

Australia is an immigration nation, whether we like it or not. Racial diversity is something to be celebrated, but sometimes I feel like I'm ridiculed for it. And it's because of random crap like this.

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