I have to admit, when I first started watching kdramas, I had a lot, lot to learn about a lot, lot of things and admittedly, I still do! Luckily, I enjoy learning and opening my mind to new and different cultures and with every drama I try to learn a bit more. Granted the depiction is through the lens of a director, writer, actors and of course censorship. That is probably why I have enjoyed this adventure and take everything with a grain of salt. With that said, let’s get you introduced…
Subtitles – Wait… you mean I have to read to watch?! OK. So this is most likely the biggest hurdle in starting to watch kdramas or any international drama for that matter. The language is probably not one you are familiar with and if the actors are talking at the speed of light, the subtitles are flying by at the speed of light. No worries. Simply hit rewind. Pretty soon you will be saying “Omo… daebak!” and know what that means. Of course the ultimate fan doesn’t need subtitles because they understand the language. This was the reason my daughter started to teach herself Japanese. Go for it kiddo!
Food– When I see a dedicated mom or wife set out a traditional Korean meal in a drama, I have to admit I feel a bit lacking in the nutritional content that I present to my children. Delicious mouth watering food… and ramyun. You can’t forget the ramyun (ramen). You can see the food difference from family centered dramas to historical pieces and I once heard that the number of side dishes sort of had to do with your class and the meaning/timing of the meal. Bread is almost non-existent as are most sweets with the exceptional cake for a birthday and ice cream. But fruit… they are always eating and offering fruit! Lots of roadside stands serving up things like intestines and hearts and livers. (Liver apparently represents courage. Who knew?) There are grills for meat on the table in restaurants and as expected, bowls and bowls of rice. I heard today that roadside stands also serve hot dogs covered in french fries… yup, different but true!
Drinking- Soju anyone? It seems that for every roadside food stand there is a little roadside bar. I was a tad surprised when I realized this pattern in dramas. Of course where there is smoke, there is often fire. In 2014, a report stated that South Koreans drink an average of 14 shots per week. Compare this to the thought of drinking country of Russia and you will find that South Korea is about double! Yup, Russians come in at number 2, drinking about 6 shots per week. Keep in mind this is not total alcohol consumption, but rather shots. Luckily, I have yet to see drunk driving and there seems to be easy access to designated driver services where both the driver and their car are safely delivered home. Drinking a drink poured for you is a sign of respect and friendship and not about getting wasted, so don’t ever refuse! Of course, remember to turn your head/back to anyone older or in higher rank than you as that is a sign of respect too.
Use of respectful terms- The first time I heard “Hyung,” “Noona,” ” Seonsaeng-nim” and “Oppa” in a drama, I was totally lost. You will often see/hear terms like these, called honorifics, used throughout dramas instead of a persons name. These terms represent levels of relationship- older/younger/familiar/unfamiliar. Titles are also used frequently- like Teacher, Boss, CEO, President or Chairman. Some subtitles have the names written out in place of something like “hyung,” others keep it in. I am going to admit that I am still learning all of these words as well as how to differentiate formal and informal language as well as dialect. Don’t feel lost, just go with the flow. Thank goodness for subtitles! (See how that works out in the end 🙂 ) Luckily most of these terms get figured out over the course of the drama as characters and relationships develop. I think this is a whole different blog post!
Eye Candy- Let’s face facts. A nice six pack is never something to disregard. Am I wrong?! Most dramas feature very good looking people and undoubtedly, one of the handsome males (typically leads) will show us their chiseled physique. I am not complaining. Often done in a totally random shower scene, you can likely expect this fan service in shows rated over 15.
Displays of affection- Based on the rating of the drama, you will find varying levels of affection displayed. The wide eyed, deer in the headlights, flat mouth kiss is very common as is the one sided hug (the girl doesn’t hug back) and you can’t disregard the back hug and occasional hand holding. Just like censorship in any country, I think that there are some tight restrictions on what programs are allowed to show… based on their rating and time slots. Seriously, who wants to watch a make out scene while watching a drama with their mom? Sex is, yeah, not there. Often the innuendo, but nope, not there. I have to admit that I don’t think a good romance really needs it! Kdramas excel at making the most of a tender moment. (*ahhhhhh) I do think this is why true drama addicts go in search of those rare both people kissing sorts of scenes… again, another blog post!
Be prepared to binge- Watch that is! Yes, I have joined the ranks of addicts that have stayed up (nearly all night) getting to the end of a binge worthy drama. With services providing access to a full drama all at once (and often on auto play!), it is easy to say… “Just one more.” I will only watch one more… 4 hours later your children are starving, you haven’t studied for your test and you are late for work… oops! This is your reminder to take a breather and walk your dog. Trust me, you should make a poster to remind yourself.
As I typed out this post, I realized there are a lot more things that are culturally quite different and may, for some, take a bit of getting used to. Seems like a “duh” sort of statement as I think about it. Different cultures, different programming! Perhaps this will become a series… we shall see!
Thanks for stopping by and reading!