KOREA IN CANADA: Experience Korea With Canadians

Find Korean experts in Edmonton!

8,338 km

This is the distance from Seoul to Edmonton. Believe or not, there are many students in Alberta who are tenuously learning about Korean culture. Let me tell you — they know much more than I do (I am Korean and I learn from them. tsk tsk.)

I have always wondered why they wanted to learn more about Korean, a country that is more than 8,000 km away from their hometown! Like.. that’s about 15 hours on plane. What makes Korean culture so interesting to them? And.. How have they become experts? Well.. Let’s find it out.

 

Our first expert is Holly Henderson from Edmonton. First of all, look at her dress. It is Hanbok! Isn’t that beautiful? Just love it.

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TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF:

Hello! I’m Holly, a 19 year old U of A student going into my second year this fall. I’m entering the faculty of Business with a major in marketing and an east Asian studies minor. And of course, I am very interested in Korea and Korean culture!

When was the first time that you were exposed to Korean culture?

Like most people I suppose was first exposed to it through Psy’s Gangnam Style in 2012. However, I became actually interested in it 2013 when I began listening to different Kpop groups and started watching variety shows, and from there my interest in it only grew!

What do you like about Korean culture and what do you think is interesting about Korean culture?

I honestly can’t say… just everything I suppose! The Kpop songs are all so catchy with jaw-dropping choreography and interesting music videos. The variety shows are hilarious, and Korean dramas always have such crazy and fun plot lines that I end up binge watching nearly every series I start! As well, I find the history of Korea so interesting and different from that of Canada, Korea has undergone so many changes and phases it is remarkable learning about them all! It is really such a vibrant and fascinating place, it is hard not to fall in love with Korea even if one has never been there!

Have you ever felt confused by the specific aspects of Korean culture?

I’m sure I must have at some point, but I really can’t think of anything major at the moment. I really accepted it from the get go, and didn’t realize some of the different elements of it that could confuse someone until I introduced it to my friends and family later.

Have you ever experienced culture shock? If so, tell me about it!

I can’t think of ever really facing culture shock when it comes to Korean culture itself, I find it is harder to experience when one is simply learning about it through a phone screen rather than actually being there in person! Though it is embarrassing to admit, I can say I did experience some culture shock when traveling to China. As open and accepting as I am to other cultures, it is impossible not to be surprised by some aspects that are different from what you have experienced in one’s home country. I particularly remember experiencing culture shock when I watched some Peking opera live on my trip, which I had no idea what it was before watching a show! I feel like if one learned about Asian countries and cultures such as Korea in school (as during my education we only shortly discussed Edo Japan) people could begin to understand them more and gain interest in them like I did!

What is your favourite Korean food and why?

I was actually allergic to rice until I was about 16, and my mother is very allergic to soy, so unfortunately I haven’t tried much Korean food let alone Asian food! However, I had bulgogi once which I remember enjoying!

What is your favourite Korean music and why?

As one can probably imagine my favourite Korean music is Kpop. Though I do listen to some Korean rappers and have tried to branch out to more styles, to my ears nothing can beat the catchy tunes sung by Korean pop artists! I find Kpop really fun to dance to, so much that a friend and I actually entered the Kpop dance competition at the U of A this year! We were able to get third in our category, which was really special as we both love Kpop!

What is your favourite Korean cultural product and why?

I would definitely have to say the music! I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes it so unique or addictive, but I find Korean pop music so upbeat and fun to dance to. A Not that Western music doesn’t have these aspects as well, but it wasn’t common that I found a really great song I enjoyed, where with Korean music it seems rare to find a Korean pop song I don’t like! Those are just my tastes however, its not that one is better than the other.

What is your favourite Korean music or band?

As one could guess, my favourite band is BTS, though Red Velvet is pretty close. I have been following them since their debut, and I they have never failed to put out great songs I love! With every comeback they seem to top their last, I have yet to find one song of theirs I haven’t liked!

What is your favourite Korean drama?

Though there are tons that I absolutely love, I would have to stick with Secret Garden. It was one of the very first dramas I ever watched and will always be a classic! I could watch it over and over.

Have you ever visited Korea? If so, what did you like most?

No, but it is definitely on my list of places to visit!

Where is three places in Korea that you are dying to check out?

I would definitely want to make a trip to Jeju Island if I went to Korea, it looks so beautiful in pictures and videos, I would love to see it in person! As well, I think it would be amazing to visit the Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul. Seeing the view from the top of the N Seoul Tower would also be on my list of things to see if I ever traveled to Korea! Hopefully I will make it there someday!

How would you describe Korean culture to a person with no knowledge of Korean culture?

Wow, what would I say? I guess that there is so much more about Korea than what meets the eye. Often when I tell people I am interested in Korean culture, their mind automatically goes to North Korea and stops there. There is so much that makes Korea as a whole what it is today, the music, the history, and a culture that can’t be found anywhere else! Korea is such a remarkable place, and a lot of people are ignorant to all that it has to offer and what makes it up! I would really urge people to look into different aspects of Korean culture and to increase their knowledge about it!

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

Though I am desperate to go see Korea, I feel like I would want to go when my Korean skills improve so I would be able to communicate well! Also it could be handy to visit at a time where I am old enough to drink in Korea, as that is a very large part of Korean culture. Perhaps I would travel to Cambodia and Vietnam, as I would love to explore more of Asia!

How do you see yourself in five years?

Though it is hard to picture something so far away, I imagine I will have graduated university by then, and will hopefully have a stable job that relates to the field of marketing! After getting some large expenses out of the way, such as buying a car and an apartment or some form of residence, I will be able to start saving money for my travels, as there is nothing I love more than going out and experiencing a new place! Of course South Korea will be on the top of the list!

If you speak Korean or are learning Korean, how do you feel about learning Korean?

I just finished taking Korean 102 this semester, and am planning on taking all the Korean language classes that the University offers over my next few years. I really enjoy learning Korean, as it allows me to feel more connected to Korean culture, and helps me better understand it. There is nothing more fun than listening to a song or watching a drama and recognize something they are saying!

19.Do you like historical Korean dramas?

I have watched some historical Korean dramas, however a lot of times they are too long and serious for my taste, though I do love the costumes! I prefer more light hearted dramas, which most often are not historical! However I really loved the drama The Princess’s Man, and was the character Lee Se Ryung for Halloween one year.

 

 

Julia Sieben is an expert not only in Korean but also in K-pop dance.

 

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF:

Hello, I’m Julia! I was born and have lived my whole life in Edmonton, Canada, and am currently a 21 year old university undergraduate student. Outside of school, I’m pretty interested in art and have liked to draw and paint since I was a kid, and I guess I’d consider listening to music a hobby too. I also really like to try new stuff, whether it be tasting a new food, listening to a new genre of music, trying out a new sport or hobby, or travelling somewhere I’ve never been before!  

When was the first time that you were exposed to Korean culture?

In terms of pop culture, I think it was around maybe grade 8 when my friend showed me a k-pop music video. I remember liking the song and thinking the styling in the video was pretty unique and cool and there were definitely a few k-pop songs on my playlist after that, but I didn’t really get super into it at the time. It wasn’t until I started taking Korean language classes in first year university that I got exposed to more diverse aspects of Korean traditional and pop culture.

Have you ever visited Korea? If so, what did you like most?

I’ve been once. I had the opportunity to study there during the summer last year, and it was a really fun and interesting experience! There were so many things I liked, but if I have to pick just one thing, I think it’d be the city of Seoul itself. The layout and architecture of Edmonton and Seoul were so different that it was really interesting to me. The diversity between really old and ultra-modern buildings and the way a lot of buildings are packed in and built upwards there, rather than how Edmonton is really flat and spread out was intriguing to me. Plus there were a surprising number of beautiful parks tucked away throughout the city! I love exploring cities wherever I go (and even around home), and I really enjoyed the time I got to spend just wandering the big city. 

If you speak Korean or are learning Korean, how do you feel about learning Korean?

I’m currently learning Korean, and have been taking language classes in university for the past four years. It’s difficult, and a bit discouraging sometimes when I realize how little I still know after studying for that long, but I think it’s also been a really valuable experience, and I’ve had a lot of fun too! I definitely grew a new perspective and a lot of appreciation for people that learn other languages and live and work in situations where they’re using a second language. 

Have you ever felt confused by specific aspects of Korean culture?

There are some aspects of Korean culture that seem a lot more collectivist than in Canada, but there’s also a lot of ways in which it seems more hierarchical at the same time. I learned in language class that instead of saying things like “my country” or “my family”, it’s more common in Korean to say what translates to “our country” or “our family”, which seems a lot more inclusive of the whole community or nation. But, at the same time it seems there’s a more formal division in terms of age and status in the different levels of politeness in speech forms and in the expectations and customs for how younger people are supposed to treat older people, or how juniors are supposed to treat seniors in academic or professional settings. 

 

 

Angelique is a beautiful singer — she probably did not want me to tell the world about this, but everyone gotta know!

 

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF: 

I am a female, 22 year old, Filipino-Canadian!! (More Canadian than Filipino if you ask me)

When was the first time that you were exposed to Korean culture?

It was in grade 10 of high school! I had been watching anime my whole life, then I began watching J-dramas, and my FIRST encounter was with the K-Drama You’re Beautiful. From there I encountered k-pop and was hooked since on Korea itself.

Have you ever felt confused by the specific aspects of Korean culture?

It is still hard for me to believe how corrupt some companies or leaders can be. I am also a little perturbed by how sexist the country still is (especially military service and oftentimes forced gender roles).

Have you ever experienced culture shock? If so, tell me about it!

Just like any other crowded Asian country I’m shocked by the lack of public awareness and “Canadian” politeness there is. I’m so used to saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ for everything so being in a public space where courtesy isn’t expected is a little shocking.

What is your favourite Korean food and why?

I love a good ol’ bibimbap. I love the mixture of everything and it is just so darn good if made correctly.

What is your favourite Korean music and why?

K-pop obviously!! I love a good bop. Also I like the songs that experiment a little and aren’t your run-of-the-mill pop songs.

What is your favourite Korean cultural product and why?

I really enjoy any of Korea’s beauty products. I love all their facemasks and currently I’m using Aprilskin’s Magic Stone.

What is your favourite Korean music or band?

My fave group used to be SNSD but they’ve kind of fallen off the wagon (I still love them though) so now my faves include Mamamoo, Red Velvet, SuJu and AKMU.

Have you ever visited Korea? If so, what did you like most?

I visited for 11 hours for a layover (RIP). BUT even within that little time I enjoyed the scenery, the people and just the overall feeling of it.

How do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully by that time I’ll have completed my time as an English teacher in Korea. Maybe I’ll be all Korea’d out or maybe I’ll decide to stay forever! Who knows :P

If you speak Korean or are learning Korean, how do you feel about learning Korean?

It’s reaallllyyy hard. I need to work on my listening comprehension because Koreans speak a lot faster than instructors and K-drama actors, who would’ve thought.

 

 

Jennifer is an amazing individual — I had a class with her last semester and she taught me so many things… she even read my paper (bless her soul)

 

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF

My name is Jen Schnell, and I have lived in Canada my entire life. I’m 25 and I just finished my Third Year at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and my Major is East Asian Studies. My main interest is Korean Culture and Literature, and my language of choice is Korean. I want to be a teacher, which is something my younger brother also wants to do. I’d like to do an exchange program to South Korea in the future.

When was the first time that you were exposed to Korean Culture?

I was exposed to the Korean Culture right before I entered High School in 2006/2007. A friend of mine was and still is a big fan of TVXQ, and she was interested in learning more about the culture. There are a couple Korean Cultural Festivals in Calgary that celebrate traditional dance, music, food, and a parade, and she asked me to go with her.
What do you like about Korean Culture and what do you think is interesting about it?

One of the things I like about the Korean Culture is the aspect of community. Yes, in Canada we have that too but people here are more individualistic and always looking out for themselves; in this sense, people here can be very unmindful towards others. What I like and think we could learn from the Korean Culture is that it isn’t always bad to have a deeper sense of community in everyday life. Something I find interesting is the way Koreans show affection towards their friends, it isn’t just about affection but something a few of my friends who are from Korea often asked me was if I had eaten (which isn’t something Western people ever ask), and my Korean Language Professor often asked me this too. I was confused, especially when they always tried to feed me more than I could eat, so I asked my brother’s girlfriend what it meant because she’s Korean; and she explained that was how Koreans showed they liked you.

What is your favorite Korean food and why?

I love Gimbap. It’s versatile and you can eat it anywhere. I’d probably compare it to that of a sandwich in Western culture, but much better. I also like the different variations Gimbap has. You can put so many different things in it.

What is your favorite Korean music or band?

I don’t know that I have a favorite type of music from Korea, I’ll listen to just about anything but two of my favorite bands are probably Shinee and TVXQ.

What is your favorite Korean cultural product and why?

I love the skin care products! A friend introduced me to them a few years ago, and my skin has cleared up so much since I incorporated it into my skin regimen. I think the reason I like these products so much is because in Canada, skin care doesn’t have the largest priority and there are a lot of ‘stop-gaps’ but no longer-term solutions.

Where are three places in Korea that you are dying to check out?

Namdaemun Market in Seoul, Busan, and Jeju Island

How would you describe Korean Culture to a person with no knowledge of Korean Culture?

I actually get asked this question more than I care to admit, especially when I explain that my major in University is East Asian Studies and that I’m learning the Korean Language. One of the first things I say to them is how different it is from ours, and that they really have to have an open mind when they ask about cultures. Things that are done differently from their own culture are often seen as strange. When I say ‘different’ I mean it in a good way. There’s a strong sense of community over individualism, the relationships between families are much more profound and significant, and the way people express affection towards others is more and not as superficial as Western culture. I think there’s a lot Western Culture can learn from the Korean Culture.

If you speak or are learning Korean, how do you feel about learning Korean?

Right now, I’m learning Korean. At first, I found it daunting and sort of scary, but the more time and practice I put into learning it I found it was fun (and easier than French!).

 

 

Laura has green (let’s say it is turquoise) hair in this picture, but she definitely does NOT  have green hair right now. She had grey hair when I had my finals a few weeks ago. Does she still have her hair grey? No! She now has purple hair — or maybe she already moved on to a different colour!

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TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF:

Well, my name is Laura and I’m 25 years old. I’m doing my undergrad right now with my major being East Asian studies and minoring in BioSci. I have two jobs and procrastinate everything 🙃

When was the first time that you were exposed to Korean culture?

Couple of years ago, about 2015 I think? My friend introduced me to the variety show Running Man. From there it was just a rapid spin into KPop, then the language, and then changing my major to focus on it.

What do you like about Korean culture and what do you think is interesting about Korean culture?

A bit difficult, I can study it all I want but I believe that actually going to the country and learning and experiencing the culture is truly the one way to learn it. That being said, I love the honourifics (not learning about them)… just the concept of it in absolutely everything. While eating or drinking out, speaking, talking about them…. it’s a completely different style.

 

What is your favourite Korean food and why?

Bulgogi or Bibimbap! They’re usually a staple at restaurants and hard to screw up, so you know you’ll always get something tasty.

What is your favourite Korean music and why?

Right now anything mainstream kpop, but lately I’ve been branching off and exploring a lot of R&B or rap. I also find myself really enjoying trot music surprisingly.

What is your favourite Korean cultural product and why?

The SKINCARE. Holy that stuff has done wonders for me. Various brands.

 

Where is three places in Korea that you are dying to check out?

Busan, underground shopping malls, and the pojangmacha

 

If you speak Korean or are learning Korean, how do you feel about learning Korean?

it’s both easier and harder than English. There is a lot of grammar points (like in a English) that all mean the same thing, but one is better to use given context. The hardest thing though is the pronunciation for me.

 

 

Thanks for all these individuals for participating and answering my interview questions! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them!

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