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Raising small kids in Korea
« on: September 16, 2011, 02:28:32 pm »
I've tried searching the forum but haven't found much on this topic. I'm wondering who else has a little one at home. There are just some things I'd love to bounce off of other parents here.

My family has been in the country for 2 weeks. I brought my 33-month son and my Mexican husband, both on F3 visas. Husband stays home teaching son, even though he was actually an English teacher prior to coming here. No E2 visas for Mexicans! Anyway, we're settling in as well as we can considering that we can just barely read Hangul, hardly speak any Korean at this point, and are still awaiting our ARCs.

So I'd love to hear from some others on
  • What you do when the little one cries for favorite people and places in the former country
  • Potty training? We are crazy, and decided to just start attempting this three days ago. Any tips on doing this in an urban Korean context?
  • Any cultural tips we should know when we're out and about? We've already been yelled at by many a Korean grandma for not covering his head in the sun. We're fine with random strangers coming up and squishing his cheeks or whatever. Mexican culture says this is OK and we're used to that. But anything else we should do/not do to avoid offending people?

If this topic has been covered before, I apologize, and if anybody can help me find the thread, I'd appreciate it. Thank you!


Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2011, 02:50:03 pm »
Seriously, that was a very helpful answer. I avoid Dave's (it drove me nuts when I taught in Mexico found it too negative to be helpful) but I guess this is a case where I should go there. I didn't know if it would be OK to let him pee in public, even though he's a little one, but now I know we can get away with this. Awesome.


  • teachermc
  • Super Waygook

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Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2011, 03:32:40 pm »
My wife and I came to Korea two years ago and have a 3-year-old son and a 14-month-old son.  My second son was actually born in Korea and my first son was too young to have any home-country attachments.  So, I do not think I can give any suggestions about your son's homesickness, besides assuring you that you and your husband are the most important people to him.  We sort of went through this earlier this year after having gone for a 5-week visit between contracts to see our family.  Even though my son was almost 3, he handled everything (the move within Korea + travel both ways across the Pacific) extremely well.

Potty training is a nightmare here, IMO.  Public restrooms, if present, are disgusting.  Some gazers at this thread may take issue with that blanket statement, but I am sure that any parent here who has assisted their child in a Korean male restroom will agree with me.  This issue alone has kept us on a pretty short leash from our apartment, unless we have scouted out an area previously and know how to plan a restroom stop.

As for cultural tips, it seems that the ones I would have given you already mentioned as similar to those in Mexico.  We hate for people to touch our children, period.  You cannot even be rude enough here to make people stop.  People do not even acknowledge you as they run up and grab your child.  My sons have been slapped, pinched, hit, taunted with candy, picked up, etc by random strangers here.  Of all ages.

I would suggest becoming as familiar as possible with the common day schedules for families here in Korea.  Many parents here send their children to daycares and so many parks/playgrounds can be quite empty at certain times during the day (especially during the Korean mandated lunchtime).  Taking our children to playgrounds at other times has been hit and miss - basically the same problems you would have anywhere between your children and children you do not know.  The difference here is that many children (even ones that seem to barely walk) will be left to fend for themselves.  Older children run around and bully without any parental supervision at all.  In fact, these bullies are often entrusted by parents to govern their "younger brothers and sisters" (which in Korean means any child younger than them). 

That's all I have for the moment.  Perhaps I will add to later.  If you have any other questions, feel free to message me.


  • Jrong
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Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2011, 03:55:09 pm »

You cannot even be rude enough here to make people stop.  People do not even acknowledge you as they run up and grab your child.  My sons have been slapped, pinched, hit, taunted with candy, picked up, etc by random strangers here.  Of all ages.
 

Hey Thaddeus, I can definitely agree with that one. Yesterday a lady pinched my sons nose hard and he started crying. We were on the bus and I was tired so I didn't catch it in time. I put my hand up afterwards and told the [self edit: nice lady] to back the f$#@ off. For a second I thought it was going to be "see these rocks???" number 2 :-). Just kidding, mostly....Anyways, she looked really ashamed afterwards which is sad but sometimes necessary.

To the OP, feel free to message us too. We've had good and bad experiences (with our kid + Koreans), mostly good. We've learned that Koreans are very predictable so once you can predict someone coming to pinch your kids face you can just step in their way and politely physically prevent it (unless you're too tired and don't notice what's going on around you). We're adjusting and feeling it out one step at a time but we've seen some patterns that work in dealing with K's. We have a 1 year old btw.
"When in doubt...ask Troglodyte" ~0mnslnd


  • madison79
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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    • October 19, 2010, 01:26:04 pm
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Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2011, 05:30:28 pm »
Dave's ESL Cafe would be a better bet for baby stuff (I think). There are more long termers on that forum, Waygook seems to be more for noobs.

I can't really help for any of your stuff except my experience watching Koreans raise their kids. If he needs to go in public pull down his pants and let him pee or poo in the gutter. If you are in McDonalds, let him pee in a drink cup.

This isn't 2plus2 Rusty so why don't u save these comments for that forum.

A. I don't know what that means and;
B. Do you have any baby advice for internationalmama?

If not, mods feel free to delete this comment and Madison's. This thread could actually be useful and it doesn't need clutter.

A:  Well somebody post with the same name and avatar on their too.
B:  Yes, I do. 
OP Try posting in the local section or website where you live to meet up with other people.  On Jeju we use rthymeswithjeju as local contact.  Try and find out about yours.  That way you can talk with other parents in the area for local attractions. 
Cheers
It's -ev to deal with some people.


  • teachermc
  • Super Waygook

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Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2011, 07:02:50 pm »
This forum for expat parents may be helpful to you.  You have to register to read or comment within the forum, though.  The community is largely Seoul-based.

We have found several answers to specific questions on the forum, but we never lived quite close enough to other members to get much use out of the meetups they organize. 


  • teachermc
  • Super Waygook

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Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2011, 11:15:25 am »
My wife adds:

Yeah, first it's worth repeating that interactions feel fairly predictable, and knowing or suspecting what might happen before you go out is kind of nice.

I think somewhere between 70% to 90% of the times people speak to us in public it is to say "몇살?(myeot sar)" in some form. How old is he? Sometimes the question is in English but seems addressed to you because it's "what is your age?" (and a tilted head indicating that the subject of the question is the baby).

Or they will guess, or make a bet with their friend and come to you to settle the bet. So with your son, "세살? 네 살? [Say sar? Nay sar?]" And they mean "Is he three?" "Is he four?" (wikipedia article on Korean age)

We get asked maybe ten, twenty (honestly- don't count) times a day. People say it to you in passing in place of a greeting and I think the culturally expected response is just to say how old your son is each time, respectfully (so probably for your son "세살이예요." [say sar ee ye yo] which is polite level version of the same thing said to you) and go on your way, or continue on to further conversation or interaction.

Similarly, on the playground, everyone wants to know your son's age so they can match him with other children of the same age (and say"친구! 친구!" [cheen-gu] Which means alternately "Friend!" Or, "Look, that kid is roughly your age!")

Other questions people may ask a lot and that you may feel inclined to politely answer our at least like to understand or expect:

"어디서 왔어요?"
"Where are you from?"
The name "Mexico" is borrowed from English into Korean, though it is pronounced [mek-shee-ko].

"남자?" [nam ja]
"Is it a boy?"
Polite response "네,남자이예요." [neh, nam ja ee ye yo] "Yes, he's a boy."

Upon identifying him as a boy, you may receive lots of congratulatory phrases/behavior and someone may wish to confirm that they understood you by indicating something about him having a male organ. It's just confirmation really, but it may come in surprising charade form that could be misinterpreted as a rude gesture.

"여자?" [yo-ja]
"Is it a girl?"
Polite response "아니요, 남자이예요." [a nee yo, nam ja ee ye yo] "No, he's a boy."


The following are things we are glad we understand, without feeling like they deserve an answer.

엄마 어디에? [oh-ma oh-dee-ay]
Where's his mother?

아빠 어디에? [ah-ba oh-dee-ay]
Where's his father?

And also,

아빠 / 엄마 한국 사람?
[ah-ba /oh-ma hanguk saram]
Is his father/mother (absent parent) Korean?
« Last Edit: September 19, 2011, 08:52:23 am by teachermc »


Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2011, 07:54:36 pm »

아버 어디에? (oh-pa oh-dee-yay)
Where's his father?

And also,

아버 / 엄마 한국 사람?
[Oh-pa/oh-ma hanguk saram?]
Is his father/mother (absent parent) Korean?

I don't want to detract from what I think is a great idea for a thread and will, I'm sure, provide some useful info and support for any expat parent EFLers.

But could I just point out that daddy in Korean is 아빠 (pronounced roughly like ap-pa). There is also 아버지 or the respectful form 아버님, although I'd say that in these kind of situations 아빠 is the one you're most likely to be hearing.

If you hear oh-pa (오빠), then this actually means "her (as in a female child's) older brother" (or conceivably older male friend). And it's possible you might hear that a lot if you have two kids, with the girl being the younger one.

In my experience, another word that is said lots and lots to kids presumed to be foreign is 귀엽다 (kwi-yeop-ta), or a couple of other grammatical variations thereof, which means they're saying how cute your child looks.


  • teachermc
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Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2011, 10:06:53 pm »

아버 어디에? (oh-pa oh-dee-yay)
Where's his father?

And also,

아버 / 엄마 한국 사람?
[Oh-pa/oh-ma hanguk saram?]
Is his father/mother (absent parent) Korean?

I don't want to detract from what I think is a great idea for a thread and will, I'm sure, provide some useful info and support for any expat parent EFLers.

But could I just point out that daddy in Korean is 아빠 (pronounced roughly like ap-pa). There is also 아버지 or the respectful form 아버님, although I'd say that in these kind of situations 아빠 is the one you're most likely to be hearing.

If you hear oh-pa (오빠), then this actually means "her (as in a female child's) older brother" (or conceivably older male friend). And it's possible you might hear that a lot if you have two kids, with the girl being the younger one.

In my experience, another word that is said lots and lots to kids presumed to be foreign is 귀엽다 (kwi-yeop-ta), or a couple of other grammatical variations thereof, which means they're saying how cute your child looks.

Thanks for the edit.  I updated my post.  It is definitely '아빠' that we hear.

Another one came up today - people may also often say that your child looks 'like a doll'.  The Korean expression is "인형 같아요!" [een-hyung kat-ah-yo].  The comment has always seemed related to the way people treat our kids - as if they are a doll, without feelings or a will.


Re: Raising small kids in Korea
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2011, 08:45:09 am »
Wow, I just wanted to thank all of you for your really helpful answers. Knowing what the phrases mean that we keep hearing definitely helps. :)

On the potty training front, I think we've just gotten incredibly lucky and it's gone quite well. I had been putting it off after several failed attempts in the US, but when I came face-to-face with the price of diapers here (and I'm talking about the base-level HomePlus diapers!), that was the final factor that caused me to unpack the potty chair and training underwear. That was on Wednesday. By Friday he was staying dry all day at home, but we were nervous about going out. Then I observed on the playground that little ones run up to their parents when they have to pee, and then the parent rushes them over to the bushes and that's that. Which also explains the wet patches on the sand on the playground :D. So this just confirmed what Rusty Shackleford posted: Public peeing isn't a problem. I took your idea, Rusty, and started keeping a disposable plastic cup in my purse while we were out. He hesitated, but he used that one day on the playground (still near the bushes, but much less messy!).

Now yesterday was the real challenge. My husband is in an expat soccer league that had a match in Incheon. My first inclination was to not even attempt going with him (over 2hrs for us to get there via subway!), on account of the potty-training preschooler factor. But then I decided to just go for it. Packed plastic bags, changes of clothing, and brought an empty McDonald's cup. We did just fine. Lucas (and I) would agree with Teachermc about the public restroom situation. Whether at SaveZone or in one of the subway restrooms, he just outright refused to pee on those toilets. I tried getting him to pee in the cup in the stall but he wouldn't do that either. He held it all the way to Incheon, and only finally gave in to the cup at the stadium, when he was super desperate. Final score: 9 hrs away from home, totally dry underwear. Thank you, Rusty, for a simple idea that has provided us the freedom to get out and about!