All in CULTURE

The Quinceañera: a Latino celebration of womanhood, family & community

The Quinceañera is a Latino rite of passage celebration steeped with rich history, cultural ties and meaning. Families celebrate young girls turning fifteen or “quince” as a symbolic way to escort them into womanhood. Comparable in production and price to weddings, these coming-of-age soirees wouldn’t be possible without the sponsorship of relatives and close family friends. Quinceañeras might have roots in Latin America but Hispanic families keep the tradition alive across the U.S., with an American touch. 

S. Korea… I love you. I love you NOT.

Picking up where I left off on my Korean love/hate drama, I voice some annoyances once again. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made great progress in our somewhat tumultuous relationship, but she still continues to irritate me here and there. I understand that my deep-rooted Western outlook is partly responsible for the frustration I sometimes feel. And I’m truly committed to Bae but for now I blow off some steam… 

7 major differences between S. Korean & American schools

It’s been about 7 months of my teaching adventure in Korea and to celebrate, I am sharing some interesting facts I’ve discovered about Korean schools. The stuff noted here isn’t absolute whatsoever but rather what I have taken away while teaching in a public elementary school. These observations are based on my personal experience. Here are 7 differences between schools in Korea and the U.S.

Age is just a number...or is it?

You’ve heard the old adage: Age is just a number. Whether you agree or disagree with the statement, in Korea, that number is of significant importance. Based on Confucianism ideology, age matters. And it matters a lot in most facets of life, including among a group of friends. Unless two people are the same age, they can’t really be friends. Today, we look at the effects of Korea’s hierarchical culture on friendships.

How losing language can lead to cultural disconnection

A growing number of Latinos in the U.S. are being raised in households where only English is spoken. This means that in the decades to come a significant number of Latinos will lose their Spanish-speaking abilities. Spanish fluency loss among Latinos hits close to home. I have friends and relatives that are part of this linguistic shift taking place across the U.S. Furthermore, language, specifically Spanish, is important to me because it means a lot more than using it for the sake of communication. Spanish fluency is about culture, identity and relationships.   

S. Korea & I – a LOVE & hate kind of relationship

I like to pretend that Korea & I are dating seriously. A few weeks ago, I vented and aired her dirty laundry, or what I think are some of her flaws. But being in a healthy relationship entails accepting a person (or a country in my case) for who they are, fully. And sometimes it’s good to focus on their positive qualities rather than dwell on the negative. Although, I haven’t experienced a honeymoon stage with the ROK, there are plenty of aspects that I do enjoy. In the follow up to the love & hate series, I share some of what I deem to be Korea’s virtues…

Korean-isms 2.0: More Cultural Observations of South Korea

Welcome to part deux of my observations and interpretations of Korean culture. Hierarchy, collectivism and the hurry, hurry syndrome were explored in the first installment. Those were my initial impressions of Korea, the ones that were hard not to notice. In the months after that post, I have discovered and gained an interest in idiosyncrasies that are a bit more subtle. In this follow up, I talk about Korea’s academic rigor, its drinking culture and obsession with physical appearance. 

It’s Complicated… between S. Korea & I

I knew that living and working in Korea would be a challenge in many ways. When I told people about my plan to live in Korea for a year, I got a lot of puzzled looks. The common response was something like ‘but you’d fit in so much better in Vietnam, Thailand, anywhere in South East Asia.’ And they had a point. My personality would mesh a lot better in a country whose culture is less rigid. But my goals were clear. I wanted to focus on my writing and traveling while earning a decent income that would allow me to do the latter.  I’m doing exactly that and it’s totally worth it. Nonetheless, I’ve felt homesick plenty of times. Here are some things that I either dislike about Korea or miss from the US. 

Why remittances are “dollars wrapped with care”

When I was growing up in Mexico, my mother made it very clear to my siblings and I that we couldn’t afford everything we asked for. My father lived and worked very hard in the US for half of the year to support our family of 5. Each time my father sent money from the US, my mom used it to pay bills, buy food, clothing, fund our education and so on. Because my mother was good at budgeting and tried to stretch each dollar as much as possible, she had no problem saying ‘No’ to our pleas for toys or gadgets. This situation is a common experience for millions of families all over the world. When an individual from an immigrant community sends money to his or her home country, this transaction can be defined as a remittance. Millions of families’ economic livelihoods depend entirely on remittances.

What you need to know about the K-Beauty phenomenon

According to Euromonitor, South Korean women spend more than twice of their income on makeup and beauty products than American women. And the men don’t fall behind. South Korean men spend more on skincare products than men in any other country. No wonder South Korea boasts a 10 billion dollar beauty industry. To better understand Korea’s beauty obsession, I explore how mainstream culture and the Hallyu Wave promote Korea's beauty obsession.