(By Mr. 1st Generation Korean Man) When theÂ 1st generation Korean arrived to the United States, they had many dreams. Some wanted good education for their children. Others wanted to make money to earn a nice, comfortable living. However, they knew they would face language problems even before they left Korea.
Today, many of them now practice diligently on how to speak and listen to the English language. When I was in Korea long ago, they heavily emphasized English grammar and sentence structure. The issue was that we Koreans didnâ€™t have the opportunity to actually speak and listen to English â€“ the speaking and listening aspect of learning English was lacking in Korea.
For those who attended American universities had a difficult time during the lectures and could not understand what professors were talking about. Sometimes, Koreans would come to class by mistake when class was canceled â€“ Koreans had a difficult time understanding spoken English.
Nowadays, 1st generation Koreans know how to tackle the speaking and listening aspects of English. They work hard to adjust to the new world before leaving the motherland.
With respect to learning the English language, the 2nd generation Korean sometimes has a difficult time communicating with mom and dad because the parents are still struggling in the English language. On the other hand, the 2nd generation Korean knows only English and is unable to speak or write in Korean. Thus, one may notice the family conflict that may exist when parent and child is unable to fully communicate with one another.
The language gap between parent and child is just one factor of challenging times. Korean parents work hard, putting in at least 10 hour days. It is so difficult to spend quality time with their children. Parents have a habit of winding down by watching Korean dramas to latch on to what they are familiar with â€“ the all-familiar Korean language. What 1 st generation parents should do is spend quality time with their children and learn the English language diligently.
In my younger years in Korea, I always respected the older man. I spoke to the elder with much respect. Iâ€™ve come to realize that many young Korean people do not display this kind of respect to older people. It is different, but I accept it because itâ€™s a different culture here.
For example, in Korea, I never offered my hand to an older man for a handshake. It would need to be that the older man offers his hand first, then I would respond to it. Also, I could never imagine putting my hand on a older manâ€™s shoulder â€“ when taking a picture or embracing. The above simple example was a sign of disrespect and is a shameful behavior. Being informal was frowned upon and not part of the Korean culture. A final example – during dinner time, one would not eat until the older man started to eat first. Now, when food arrives at the table, it is every man for himself. I believe that these examples are a result of the Confucius culture where one respects the older one. Now, times and the culture have changed in Korea.
There is a famous phrase: â€œDo in Rome as the Romans do.â€ Perhaps this quote can be applied to 1st generation Koreans living in America. The 2nd generation, I notice, want freedom to speak and act as much as they can. In Korean when I was young, my relationship with my parents was vertical and subordinate. Here, the parent and child relationship is more horizontal and independent. The young people talk and act without any hesitation.
I personally donâ€™t want to be stuck in my 1st generation ways while living in America. I honestly want to try and understand the values of this young generation. But, I do want to emphasize the fact that I support the notion of respecting oneâ€™s elders â€“ it is important, and I hope you are able to understand this very important and valuable lesson. Honor your elders. They are here for you, and they want to have a relationship with you. You donâ€™t have to behave like how we behaved in Korea long ago. However, you can show how much you respect your parents. They will appreciate it.
To the 1st generation Koreans: itâ€™s time for us to change our attitudes toward our children and their Korean-American friends. I personally donâ€™t like the loud music â€“ it makes me insane. But I still try to listen to the music they listen to. The 2nd generation also has hobbies. They love to have fun. I donâ€™t like the word fun. The word â€œfunâ€ reminds me that one is going the wrong way â€“ directionless and temporary. But my attitude has changed. Now I understand why they love fun so much â€“ they want to enjoy life. When we were young in Korea, we could not really enjoy life. We had so many obstacles â€“ socially and economically. Iâ€™m an old school 1st generation Korean, but Iâ€™ve changed my perspectives to embrace the young generation here in America.
When I ask my children to do me a favor, the tone of my voice is command-style. For example, â€œSon, open the door.â€ â€œDaughter, go there.â€ Direct and dictatorial. Iâ€™m not using the word â€œPleaseâ€ or â€œCould youâ€ when asking my children to do a certain task, to let them know that I respect them â€“ that they have a choice to say â€œNo.â€ Here in America, Iâ€™ve learned to carefully consider the younger generationâ€™s feelings.
To the 1st generation parent, do you want your children to respect you? We should respect them, too. If I spit on the ground and tell them to not spit on the ground, they are not going to respect you. We older generation should be a role model and show them how to behave â€“ mixing both Korean traditions with American ones. A nice balance is possible.
To the 1st generation parent, if you made a mistake towards your Korean children, itâ€™s ok to apologize in front of him/her. We ought to forget our self esteem to be genuine with our children as a mother and father. Our love and sincerity towards our children will move their hearts deeply.
About the Author
Mr. 1st Generation Korean Man contacted Konnect Magazine to provide some commentary about his generation and the next. He opted to be anonymous and Konnect Magazine agreed. He wanted to share his views regarding the gaps between both generations. He also mentioned to allow for comments as he would like to read any feedback on this commentary
(This commentary is a perspective of the guest contributor and may or may not reflect the views of those associated with Konnect Magazine)