Couple of weeks ago, I visited my Korean best friend from college in their house at Cavite. She has been inviting me for an overnight stay at her family’s house ever since college but because of our busy schedule, it wasn’t pushed through until then.
I was a bit reluctant at first because I was really nervous to visit a foreigner’s house, more so it was a Korean household! Despite that, I was totally excited to see her again and finally meet her family. I had a wonderful stay in their home, and I’m happy I survived.
You might also be planning to visit your Korean friend’s house, so now I want to share with you ten tips on how it is to visit a Korean household here in the Philippines – the do’s and don’t’s, what to expect and not.
#1 Take off your shoes before entering the house.
This is the number one rule in many cultures, especially in Asia, when it comes to visiting another person’s house. The visitor should always remove his shoes or any footwear upon entering the house as a sign of respect to the home. This actually also applies to when we enter our own house. The belief is that the person should not bring inside the house all the dirt, wetness, or in a sense, all the heavy feelings acquired outside. This is also done so that the floor of the house stays clean. In my case, they were all barefoot at home, and so I also entered barefooted. You may also wear socks instead or the house slippers that they will provide you.
#2 Bring with you essential Korean phrases and expression.
It’s your time to flaunt your Korean language prowess that you’ve been hiding there all along! You can now use all the aigoo’s and omona’s that you’ve learned from staying up late in watching all of these Korean dramas, movies, and variety shows. Some phrases that I found handy when I visited their house were: Annyeong haseyo (Hello), Kamsahamnida (Thank you), Gwaenchanhayo (It’s okay.), Masisseoyo (Delicious), Annyeonghi kyeseyo (Goodbye when you are leaving), and Annyeonghi kaseyo (Goodbye when you are staying and somebody is leaving). So for now, take note of all the basic Korean expressions that might come in handy when visiting your Korean friend.
#3 Observe jondaemal at all times.
You might have heard this already that in Korea, the people significantly use jondaemal or formal way of speaking to the elders, seniors, or to strangers, and banmal also known as the not-so-formal or rather informal way of speaking to friends or people younger than you. Prior to visiting my friend’s house, I was really nervous because I really didn’t know how I should act in a Korean household because I haven’t been to an actual one. Thanks to the Korean dramas I’ve seen, I got the slight idea how to properly address Korean people. Be sure to us jondaemal especially when you’re talking with your friend’s parents or grandparents. One example is by putting the suffix –yo as in Masisseoyo or Aniyo (No). This is pretty much like using “po” in the Filipino context. You may also want to confirm with your friend what to specifically call her parents, because I almost called her mom ahjumma (respectful approach to a Korean middle aged or married woman) but she said it would be better to call her imo (aunt) or samonim (a pastor’s wife). Review your Korean titles like oppa, hyung, noona, unnie, ahjussi, ahjumma, etc.
#4 Expect Korean language and no English subtitles.
You are visiting a Korean household, so expect to hear Korean language. I actually had a lot of fun hearing Korean language all throughout my stay as if I was really inside a Korean drama. In fact, this would also be a good opportunity for you to test your Korean listening skills. Although they already knew English and Tagalog (they’ve already been in the Philippines for more than ten years), my friend and her family were still talking to each other in straight Korean, especially when we were eating, and I was like “English subtitles please!” Nosebleed!! I realized that I still have a lot of rice to sow when it comes to being fluent in Hangugeo (Korean language). I understood some keywords but I couldn’t fully comprehend the whole sentence yet. So that’s how I was able to assess my current Korean language listening and speaking capacity.
#5 Expect Korean food. Spicy Korean food.
If there would be Korean language conversations, of course there would also be Korean cuisine. Korean food are so delicious and unmistakably, spicy. When they were still cooking the food, imo asked me if I was okay with eating spicy food, and I answered “Gwaenchanhayo!” The food served was spicy but tolerable for me, and kimchi (Korea’s national dish) was of course present among the dishes. Do not be surprise if they will have many viands or dishes because my friend said it’s the Korean style. We had rice, three viands and two types of kimchi as side dishes. The main dish was ori bulgogi or duck meat. It was really mouth-watering. It felt like I was really eating in a Korean restaurant, and it was like a huge privilege. I only get to eat these dishes in a Korean resto! Afterwards, we had strawberry chocolate ice cream for the dessert.
#6 Don’t forget your table manners.
Aside from getting very excited about the food, please also keep in mind the table manners. In my friend’s house, similar to a Filipino home, they would not start eating unless everyone’s already present in front of the table. They would also always start the meal with a family prayer led by the father. And of course, they would finish the prayer with “Jal meokkessseumnida!” (I will eat well). Prior to eating, my friend asked me if I would use chopstick or spoon and fork. I was hesitant to answer because I was not confident with my chopstick skills and so I answered “Both!” She just laughed at me because she knew I was just going to use the spoon and fork in the end anyway, and she was right. I knew how to use the chopstick but their chopstick is way thinner than what I am used to. Make sure also that the elders get their food first before you dive in. After eating, don’t forget to say “Jal meogeosseumnida!” (Thank you for the meal. I ate well!)
#7 Yes, you would also see some Filipino products.
I wrote this article for the purpose of sharing how it is to visit a Korean friend’s house particularly in the Philippines, so when you visit their house, don’t be surprised if you see a Mang Tomas or Nova chips. Most of their kitchen products were of Korean brands. They even had Korean branded refrigerator and other appliances (I’m sure you already know which brand I am talking about) which I’ve usually only seen in Korean dramas. Filipino households typically use a different brand. My friend told me that they do grocery in a Korean supermarket nearby. I asked my friend if her mom also cooks them Filipino dishes, and she said her mom sometimes cooks adobo, menudo, and bicol express.
#8 They don’t have tabo and timba, the Last Supper, and Chinaware.
Although you would be seeing some Filipino products, you won’t be seeing any small figurines, wedding souvenirs, or unused porcelain Chinaware plates being displayed. There would be also be no The Last Supper or large wooden spoon and fork displayed on their kitchen wall (Nope, no large wooden chopsticks as well). These are the things you usually see in a typical Filipino house. When I went to their house, I was also looking for their graduation pictures, or cross-stitched artwork displayed on the wall of their living room, but I couldn’t find one. What I saw instead were abstract Chinese paintings and characters. Although they did have framed family pictures, these were not displayed ostentatiously. Don’t also look for a tabo and timba when using their bathroom. They do have shower head!
#9 Don’t expect them to know every Kpop group/Korean drama.
Not all Koreans would know the comeback song of your bias group, or the birthday of your ultimate bias, or even the word “bias” at all! Honestly, majority of the Koreans I’ve met here in the Philippines are not Kpop fans, which is contrary to the belief of many Kpop fans. My friend herself does not like Kpop and prefers ballads instead. Please don’t go bombarding them if they know *insert rookie Kpop group here* or *insert bias group hit song* because 80% of the time they wouldn’t. Although of course they would know a couple of the old popular groups such as Super Junior, Big Bang, or Wonder Girls. You might find it ironic because a typical Kpop fan in general would know the names of all the members of BTS, SHINee, A-Pink or Twice, but some Koreans don’t. However, her family and I mostly talked about Korean dramas and Hallyu top stars which is something they are more familiar with. At that time, Descendants of the Sun was their favorite, while imo is a big Kim Soohyun fan!
#10 Just have fun!
Lastly, just enjoy your stay in a Korean household. Be comfortable and make them also comfortable with your presence. The most important thing is you say “Thank you!” in all the things that they do to make you feel at home. Respect their customs and be mindful of your manners. There might be a lot of differences between a Korean and a Filipino household but both are very much the same when it comes to the presence of respect, love, and piety among the family members. My Korean friend’s family is also very hospitable just like Filipinos, and they welcomed me with open arms and big smiles. You might feel like you are in a Korean drama but do not fantasize too much about it. Just relax, and have fun! 🙂
-Photo credits to the owners-
Written by Krew Member Mary Joy Padilla. Follow her personal blog: https://maryloveskorea.wordpress.com/