Will Your Oppa's Parents Accept a Foreigner?

Will Your Oppa's Parents Accept a Foreigner?



Korean parents’ attitudes towards their sons marrying a foreigner are much better compared to a few years ago. Korea is slowly warming up to the international culture and we see many more intercultural couples, especially in the main cities, like Seoul. If you’re dating a Korean man and he wants to introduce you to his parents, first of all, that means the relationship is pretty serious.

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Meeting his parents can be extra nerve-wracking and you want to know whether they’ll accept you or not. Let’s help calm your nerves with some useful advice on how you can impress your Korean boyfriend’s parents and help them accept you.

Korean parents’ expectations of their future daughter-in-law

Korean parents expect their future daughter-in-law to fulfill certain duties, especially during the holiday season (Chuseok, Seollal). You’ll be expected to help cook and serve the food, as well as clean up after, during the holidays. You’ll also later be expected to cook for the household, so his parents want to make sure that whoever his son ends up with is able to take care of him, and your future family.

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If your boyfriend is the eldest in his family, you’ll have more responsibilities to take on so that you can carry on the family traditions. Most Korean women are aware of these expectations so no specific “training” is needed, but Korean parents are worried that they may have to teach you all the customs and duties and this will take time for you to get used to

Why don’t some Korean parents accept their son’s foreign girlfriend?

In Korean culture, there’s a stronger sense of collectivism, compared to Western culture. Koreans are more sensitive to the opinions of their community, especially in the older generation. This means that their son may be compared to sons around the same age and marrying a foreigner may cause unwanted attention to the family. They worry that about your future children and the difficulties they may face in Korea with racism and being different. They also worry about communication and how they can get closer to you if there’s a language barrier.

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When you meet your Korean boyfriend’s parents, they may ask you multiple questions about your background, career, plans for the future, children, etc., as they project how your future with their son may look like. Also, because they may not be familiar with your culture, there is that element of the unknown where they have no idea what to expect or whether you’re well accustomed to the manners and cultural nuances of the Korean culture. Being a foreigner, your mindset and upbringing is different and Korean parents worry that that may cause problems, or the cultural differences may cause strain in your relationship with their son.

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Some Korean parents have their own opinions about foreign cultures, and being more conservative, they worry about how Western culture is more liberal and think more openly about living together before marriage, or divorce and remarriage. They worry that their son may also end up in a similar situation and to prevent that from happening, they refuse to accept anyone who is not Korean.

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Korean mothers worry about how well you’ll be able to assimilate into the family and play out the roles that are expected of you. They want a daughter-in-law who they can pass their housewife skills onto, in terms of cooking and preparations during the holidays (e.g., Chuseok and Seollal).

This is still the expectation for a daughter-in-law in many Korean households and these skills may be difficult for Korean mothers to pass on if it’s difficult to communicate or there are cultural differences. Korean women are exposed to these expectations since childhood which makes it easier for them to assimilate into a new family and play out their expected roles.

So what can you do to increase your chances of being accepted by his parents?

These days, more Korean parents are warming up to the idea of their sons marrying foreigners, but there are a few things that can make meeting his parents an easier experience.

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Learning Korean will take you a long way and make it easier for his parents to get closer to you. There are many things that they may be curious about and if they can communicate with you, then they can get to know you and this will help ease some of their worries. Even if you can’t speak Korean well, just showing that you’re trying to learn it will earn you brownie points.

In Korea, status and respect are important. Knowing about Korean culture and customs, as well as appropriate respect towards elders is so important and it will show that you’re serious about assimilating well into the family. Korean parents always look out for whether their future daughter-in-law is respectful and well-mannered.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

You should also chat with your boyfriend to find out what their expectations are for you, as well as any specific ways that you can show respect to his family. One of the general ways to show respect is with clothing. Make sure to dress in something more conservative.

Before meeting his parents, make sure to prepare a gift. This can be something like a fruit basket or a flower bouquet or you can get a more personalized gift, depending on his parent’s preferences.

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Even if your first meeting with his parents doesn’t go well, you can continue to put effort in getting them to warm up to you. When you bring them a gift, including a hand-written letter in Korean may make it more personal and shows more sincerity.

Many Korean parents come around eventually, although the road taken to get there may be difficult and emotional. Especially if you are dating their eldest son, their objection to your relationship has less to do with you personally, and more to do with the fact that you’re a foreigner. But don’t be discouraged, just continue to show your sincerity, and love for their son they’ll come around. Good luck! <3




About the author: Suji was studying in London in the year 2019 and, although being separated from her family, her passion for Korea was growing. She noticed that a lot of her close friends loved Korean culture, food, music, and dramas and gradually started to fall in love with Korea, but there weren't many opportunities to actually "experience" this wonderful nation!

Suji was aware of what she needed to do to introduce Korea to her friends' lives and, conceivably, to those of everyone else who was curious about a piece of Daehan Min-guk.

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