If you watched the 2018 Olympics in South Korea,* you might not have noticed what everyone was wearing, let alone known that there’s a popular slang term for it. Because puffy winter jackets don’t tend to stand out when everyone is wearing them. Especially when it’s really, really cold. But if you go back and watch old clips of the 2018 Olympics on YouTube, suddenly you’ll see them. You’ll see them everywhere.
Talk show/debate format mimicking a UN-style summit
Features non-Koreans who are conversational or fluent in Korean
Each member represents a different country
The summit is headed by three Korean MCs
Korean celebrities appear as guests that present a weekly topic, usually social/cultural/personal issues of their own or that are submitted to the show
Members vote if the agenda is normal/abnormal and then debate
English subtitles easily available
Very popular in Korea
Many of the original summit members have become foreign celebrities in Korea with CFs and their own businesses
If you like watching non-drama shows and are a foreigner, chances are you’ve already heard of this. Abnormal Summit gathers Korean-speaking male foreigners from various countries who are living and working in Korea and engages them in dialogue over cultural differences. Generally, a celebrity guest appears on the show and represents the person who submitted the issue, or they sometimes bring their own problems. The members vote on whether the person is “normal” or “abnormal” and then debate from their respective cultural perspectives.
Naturally, having a single person represent the perspective of, say, all of the United States, or Malaysia, or the UK (shall I go on?), is an enormous simplification. But the show’s concept is fascinating and it is immensely fun to practice Korean by listening to a group of foreigners and three Korean MCs discuss cultural differences and their personal experiences. The foreign members are non-Koreans who are fluent or conversational in Korean. Their pronunciation isn’t always great, and when they make a mistake, all the agony of language-learning suddenly is validated. I’m not the only one who makes mistakes!
Sorry for reveling in the mistakes of others for a moment, but it’s always nice to know you’re not the only one. And if these guys can go on Korean TV and debate difficult cultural conflicts without being fully fluent in Korean, why not you? Why not me? Let’s learn all the Korean! This show has English subtitles available on different sites, so never fear.
This show is comedic much of the time, but also can offer truly intense and in-depth debates and insights on current global issues or national issues, so you won’t just be practicing Korean but also learning about current events.
And yes – only men get to be permanent guests on Abnormal Summit. There was another show, 미녀들의 수다 or “Beautiful Women”, that featured foreign women, but it ended in controversy.
미수다 was known by various names like “A Chat with Beauties” or “Global Talk Show” and was fairly popular until its ratings crashed and burned in 2009 when a panelist said that men under 180 cm were losers and she would never date them. Ah, is that so? Great, thanks for ruining the one show featuring foreign women. There was controversy over whether she was forced to say this per a script or if it truly was her opinion, but regardless of the real culprit, the show stopped airing after that.
미녀들의 수다 Talk Show Poster
But still, can we get a show in this intercultural debate format that features foreigners who speak Korean – but not limit it to only men or only women?
Each episode or set of episodes focuses on a different mixed couple
All episodes available for free on the EBS website
Korean subs available but no English subs
Not as popular as 비정상회잠
Commentator’s 아저씨 voice is fantastic
Global Family is a documentary-style show from EBS that goes into the homes and lives of international couples living in Korea – where one of the couples is native Korean. The other may be from any number of countries ranging from Canada to Ukraine, and the non-Koreans vary in their Korean ability and their years living in Korea. Some are married, some engaged. All the episodes that I have seen address the relationship between the foreign-in-law and their Korean in-laws in a way that challenges the stereotype of fierce in-laws and prejudice against foreign wives or husbands.
This show is a great way to see the interaction between different cultures in terms of relationships and establishing a family in Korea. For me, it also has become a source of encouragement like Abnormal Summit because while some foreigners are fluent in Korean, others stumble in their pronunciation and make hilarious mistakes on camera – but does that stop them? No!
Nor should you or I stop. We will make mistakes. We will laugh at our mistakes. Learn from them. And move on and make new mistakes but not make the same mistake twice. That’s what shows about foreigners in Korea can teach you. Not just cultural differences and intercultural communication, but being fearless in your efforts to use Korean.
Unfortunately, I don’t know of a site that has this show subtitled in English. The EBS site does offer Korean subtitles, which can help you catch words you don’t hear correctly, and improve your reading along with your listening, but it presents a challenge for Korean-learners who aren’t ready yet for subtitle-less shows. Start with Abnormal Summit, and try out Global Family when you’re ready for more of a challenge!
If you like other shows that feature foreigners speaking Korean, or know of English subs for Global Family, let me know in the comment section below.
I created a list of 25 Christmas-themed vocabulary words in honor of December 25th – it’s already less than a week away and I’m not done with all my shopping! Before I finish Christmas prep, I wanted to share some fun words and culture tips for Christmastime in Korea. But first, a tiny snow-person to brighten your day:
You may have heard that Christmas Day in Korea is a notorious couple holiday. Few people seem to celebrate unless they have small children or are Christians, so there isn’t much of an uptick in traffic, shopping, or general business. Instead, couples are everywhere, in the bars, restaurants, and walking the streets to take cute pictures in front of decorations. I’ve even heard that many people date just for the holiday season, so that they have someone to do couple things with. You can read more about the Christmas experience from this amazing blog.
What if you’re not celebrating with family and you don’t have a date for the holidays? This is where the movie Home Alone comes in. Remember Kevin’s misadventures when he’s abandoned at home for the holidays and has to fend off thieves all by himself? If you’re home alone like him, with no date to kiss under the mistletoe, you can tell your nosy coworkers and classmates that you’re spending Christmas with Kevin. I’m not making this up.
Without further ado, some simple and wintry Christmas vocab! Note that a lot of words are just the Korean pronunciation of English.
Merry Christmas 메리크리스마스
Christmas Day, Christmas Eve 크리스마스날, 크리스마스이브 (전야, 전날)
White Christmas 화이트크리스마스
Snow fight 눈싸움
Santa Claus 산타클로스 (some children call him 산타할아버지 or Grandfather Santa as well)
Christmas tree 크리스마스트리
Decorations and ornaments 크리스마스의장식
Christmas lights 크리스마스등불, 전등 (전 – emphasis on them being electric Christmas lights)
Sledding 썰매타기, to go sledding 썰매를지치다
To go skiing 스키를타다
Mittens 벙어리장갑 (not gloves, which are simply 장갑)
Scarf 목도리 (to wear a scarf 목도리를하다)
Tinsel 장식용반짝이조각 , 금은사
A sprig of holly 호랑가시나무가지
크리스마스케빈이랑보낸다 I’m spending Christmas with Kevin (but basically I don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with so I’m home alone)
I compiled these myself so this is my disclaimer on accuracy. If it’s wrong, please let me know! And if you want more Christmas-themed Korean, try out these:
Recently I found out about what really is going on with all those middle-aged Koreans in their stylish hiking outfits and every-weekend trips to hike mountains in Seoul. Hop on the subway early in the morning on Saturday or Sunday and you’re bound to see the flocks of 아줌마들 and 아저씨들 moving en masse to the foothills where the hiking trails begin.
But apparently all is not as it seems, as my language partner informed me – “불륜이 (affair, adultery, unfaithfulness) 많아.” Whilst hiking in the densely forested mountains, alongside a man from a hiking club who has aged but still has the signs of the handsome features of his youth, an ahjumma might think of her husband on the couch at home, drinking, and she starts thinking some more…and perhaps this is how these affairs begin.
To be honest, I’d rather not think too deeply about it. I will leave it to you to imagine (or not) as you desire. Instead, consider doing this next time you go hiking in Korea and see if you get the same reaction:
“Bro, shall I teach you how to distinguish cheating couples?” “???” “HONEY! WHO IS THAT PERSON?” *couples swiftly separate, sweating nervously*
I’ve started using hashtags more frequently on Instagram (though not really on Twitter) because it has this amazing effect of making at least 20 more people see what I posted than I’d usually get. Or at least 20 more people “double tap” what I shared.
What is this magic?
Korean hashtags, my friend, Korean hashtags. What, you ask, are some of these hashtags?
#먹스타그램 #맛스타그램 #냠냠
This is the food trifecta. Looking for pics of delicious food to salivate over? Just search these tags and you’ll be dealing with intense plate-envy and wasting your life away looking at the amazing skills of amateur food photographers (which are, in my opinion, the most prolific type on Instagram).
먹 comes from the Korean word 먹다, to eat. Stick -스타그램 (-stagram) on the end and you’ve got yourself an eat-stagram. 맛 is for taste, and 냠냠….well, you can figure that one out.
#글스타그램 #글 #시스타그램 #좋은글귀
These ones are for the readers and writers, the feelers and thinkers. 글 is a piece of writing, and so 글스타그램 is essentially someone uploading their own writing or someone else’s. 시 is poem, and so there is the respective tag for poem-stagrams. As for 좋은 글 귀 or sometimes 명언, these draw attention to a wise quote or some just deep-down good/thought-provoking words.
You know what? If you like poetry and are learning Korean, stop reading this post and just go follow mot_mal on Instagram. He’s amazing. His poems are also fairly simple. You can read ’em, I promise.
#일상 #데일리그램 #셀스타그램 #몸스타그램
Love sharing selfies? Your #ootd? These tags will show you the Korean Instagram-land of selfies, visuals, and daily photos. You’re going to see a lot of people with perfect makeup and a lot of muscular bodies posing as proof of their hard work. Especially with the 몸스타그램 one, as 몸 means body and so it’s precisely what you’d expect if you search “body-stagram.” Continue reading →
Sometimes at big family reunions, you might find yourself staring at a relative and wondering who on earth they are. Hopefully not in English, but you’re wondering this in Korean. 누구세요? Who are you? What do I call you in Korean? Or perhaps you think you know what to call them but apparently you don’t and you should just give up because you brought tears to everyone’s eyes when you called your older sister by the wrong title. Not that I’ve ever done that…
Ahem. So, go ahead and start learning all those titles. I have two sites to get you started. Firstly, here’s a site with a list of major relative titles, from close family members to your eldest brother’s wife and your younger sister’s husband. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include titles for cousins and such, so you should also check out this site, which includes a lot more! Like a video, which is almost always awesome.
While you may tell yourself that you’re only interested in South Korea, Confucius Lives Next Door by T. R. Reid is my number one book for learning about Asian (not just South Korean) culture. Maybe there’s a better book out there that I haven’t read yet, but this book really takes the cake. Or the kimchi.
Kimchi. Yum. Awful attempt at making an image of kimchi spell the word kimchi. Not yum. My apologies…
Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West is primarily written about the author’s experience with the culture in Japan; however, as the author spent time living in places throughout Asia, including South Korea, I find this relatively inconsequential, because there’s a lot to be learned about Asian culture in general from this book. The book is a goldmine of information about the reasons why Asian culture is the way it is -and how America can benefit from it.
So who’s the incredibly wise guy whose social, economic, and cultural influence is still going strong throughout China, Japan, South Korea, etc.?
This guy. Confucius – The Greatest Thinker and Educator
T. R. Reid knows quite a lot about Confucius, yet the book doesn’t talk about Confucius’ life. The book details Reid’s experience and afterthoughts on moving with his family to Asia. It explains how Confucianism is pervasive to Asian culture and how it has helped create not only the incredible “Economic Miracle” of rapidly modernizing and prospering Asian countries but also the lesser known but equally important “Social Miracle.” It even explores comparisons between Asia and the United States, and, though the book is more than a decade old, it remains useful to the reader seeking cultural understanding.
Pick up a copy of Confucius Lives Next Door and start understanding why family is so important in South Korea, why honorifics, formal language, bowing, deferral to elders, and general social stability are a common element to much of Asia. Yeah, yeah, Confucius is part of the reason. But the other reasons are discussed in the pages of T.R. Reid’s book. Read it. You won’t regret it.
And if you’re afraid it’ll be boring, Reid’s humorous yet cuttingly informative writing style will keep you interested to the very end.
(Link updated 6/23/14; please comment if links do not work! Thank you.)
One of my favorite Korean variety shows is Family Outing (패밀리가 떴다). It’s a hilarious two-season show that aired several years ago and still provides fantastic information on life in the Korean countryside. A core group of celebrities – from singers like Kim Jong Kook, Yoon Jong Shin, BIGBANG’s Kang Daesung and Lee Hyori (a solo artist originally from Fin.K.L) to models and actors like Lee Chunhee, Kim Sooro, and Park Yejin to the “Nation’s MC” Yoo Jae Suk – along with celebrity guests go to different rural villages and small towns throughout South Korea and spend about a day and a half living in the home of an elderly couple. They take care of the couple’s chores and house while the elders are sent on a vacation.
Note: The core group changed during the show; Kim Jong Kook was unable to begin immediately, Park Ye Jin and Lee Chunhee left to pursue solo activities, and Park Haejin and Park Siyeon filled the empty spots.
And sometimes they do things like creating a “family band” and then perform personally composed songs for the local villagers.
Family Outing is a gold mine of language-learning and culture exposure. Each episode is full of interesting activities – ever wondered how kimchi is made? Ever seen a really old machine heat up and pop rice so explosively that it make Yoo Jae Suk want to run away? Ever learned how to prepare squid after catching it yourself? Ever seen a pretty, delicate Korean actress named Park Yejin pop an eye out of a fish? (These celebrities have to get the ingredients and make the meals besides performing the chores and playing games. I’ll be honest – there was a scandal about how real their ingredients-gathering was, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the show or learning Korean!) This is just a tiny peek at what you’ll see in Family Outing.
“One Man” Kim Jong Kook catches “One Fish”
Family Outing wouldn’t be Family Outing without lots of ridiculous and hilarious games.
Family Outing has the trademark subtitling of a Korean variety show, too, making it so rich for the language-learner. Much of what is said is also subtitled or rephrased in Korean. When a celebrity is surprised, the screen flashes a huge “SURPRISED” in Korean. When someone yells SHIMBATA – translated basically as eureka or a cry of victory – it’s subtitled in big, easy hangul. Don’t ignore these and only read the English subtitles – absorb all the Korean you can. Reading Korean subtitles will help with your language comprehension.
Chunderella and Step-mother Sooro choom choom chooming…clumsily. 바보야~!
This show is funny. It’s so funny that you might want to warn others around you before you watch it, or else you’ll startle them with fits of maniacal laughter. You’ll love everyone on the show so much that by the time you finish the first season, you’ll feel like you’re saying goodbye to an actual family that you’re a part of. You’ll begin to understand the social interactions between old and young, male and female, in Korea. You’ll pick up slang, vocabulary, quick phrases. You’ll appreciate Korean culture for its tradition and its beauty. And you’ll find that watching Family Outing – while being a great learning experience – gives you that smile and that laugh that you need after a long day.
Yoo Jae Suk, the Nation’s MC, endures a lot of burdensome moments for the sake of the audience’s laughs…and because he’s a really, really nice person in real life.
If I were speaking in person to you rather than writing this, you would have seen me bow to you along with the greeting, “안녕하세요!” (For spoken greetings in Korean, see this post.)This tradition is definitely something you should learn if you ever intend to go to Korea or talk with native speakers in person.
As there are all kinds of bows and they’re used for different situations or occasions – for example, you don’t bow the same way to a coworker as you do to your parents on New Year’s Day – it’s a good idea to know the difference. Also, there are some people you probably wouldn’t bow to at all – like your really close friends. Do you shake hands with your best friend each time you see them? Unless you have a super awesome secret handshake that involves dancing, eyebrow wiggling, and complex hand movements, you probably don’t. Koreans don’t usually bow to their best friends either (unless they have a super awesome secret bow…?).
There are lots of great resources on the web that provide pictures, videos, and explanations of what each type bow is, when to do it, and how. Why not greet people properly in Korea? Look at these articles and videos to learn how.