I married a total nerd and I love it

happy interracial coupleThe story of Marni and Inwook

Marni and Inwook met in Inwook’s hometown of Jinju, South Korea. Marni had been living alone in Korea for a couple of years beforehand, moved back to the US, and then moved to Korea a second time. Inwook had been living in Vancouver, Canada for 2 years, and suddenly had the notion to move back to Korea. They met serendipitously because Marni was teaching an English conversation class, and Inwook randomly signed. They were student and teacher for a few weeks, then very good friends, then they started dating, were engaged, and married – all within a year! Inwook now works as an electrical engineer and Marni is a freelance artist, and they have been married for 4 years! They love traveling, eating good food, and spending time with friends and family. They are also passionate about global issues, especially the current political climate between North and South Korea. They feel strongly that one of the benefits of being in a multi-racial relationship is that they can encourage others to bridge racial divides.

american girlfriendQuestions to Her

On Our first date…

Inwook took me to see a movie. I barely remember which movie, because he reached over and held my hand the whole time…my heart was beating so loudly! He had asked me to a movie a few weeks before then, but at the time, he was still my student, and I felt it would be inappropriate to go on a date with someone I was teaching. Since the class had ended, he was still persistent to spend time together, and I liked him a lot, I thought I’d give it a go! I never dreamed we would end up together, only because neither of us had experience dating someone from another race, culture, or country, and we weren’t sure it would be successful.

During the first months of dating my deal-breaker would be…

I needed to know that I could trust him. Inwook came into my life so suddenly, I wasn’t expecting someone as wonderful as him! I was skeptical. I had dated other guys seriously, but they exhibited qualities and made choices that made me nervous to trust anyone again. One night after having dinner, I suddenly got food poisoning. He cared for me and stayed by my side; he took me to the hospital and witnessed some embarrassing situations – still he said he loved me and thought I was wonderful. At that moment, I knew he was someone I could spend the rest of my life with, who would be there “for better or for worse.” Too bad something as disgusting as food poisoning made me come to that realization, haha!

I learned He is right for me when…

We were sitting in a coffee shop (this was before we were dating) and dreaming about our individual futures. He told me about his hopes to travel, to help people, and more deeply about his personal beliefs…all of which seemed to line up with the future I wanted, too. Later, when reminiscing about this conversation, we confessed that that moment was eye-opening. Although we weren’t in a relationship at the time, I was pleasantly surprised with our strong connection, regardless of being raised in different cultures and speaking different languages.

koreanwedding I had a cultural shock when He…

Took me to celebrate Korean Thanksgiving with his family before we got married. I was tempted to consider breaking up with Inwook because we fought so much that day. Although there are many wonderful aspects of Korean culture, there are holidays that many Korean people (mostly women) wish were less stressful. On Korean New Year’s and Thanksgiving, women are expected to cook a lot of food, for the family to eat and also for an ancestor’s ceremony, clean, and work most of the day(s).

At the time, I was hoping to take some time off and rest.  In this case, I was expected to travel to his extended family members’ houses from early in the morning until late at night, help prepare food, take part in an ancestral ceremony, and try to communicate with everyone, although I didn’t speak much Korean at the time. I wish that I had been more prepared for the events of the day because each new situation surprised and overwhelmed me.

I didn’t (and still don’t) love the event, as the ancestor ceremony conflicted with my personal spiritual beliefs. Now that we live in the US, we don’t observe these holidays as we would in Korea, which is working out well for now.  When you are married to someone from a different country, you have to be open and accepting of every part of the culture, even if you might not agree with everything. Dealing with Korean culture shock taught me to be more patient, to appreciate traditions, but ultimately to see past them to appreciate the goodness in people’s hearts

3 things I love about Him are…

Inwook is the most joyful person I’ve ever met. He lights up every room he walks into. Not that he doesn’t experience other emotions…it’s that, even in dark times, he knows how to be optimistic, how to connect with me and be a strong team, and he rarely gives up.

He’s a life-long learner. His favorite books are textbooks! I married a total nerd, and I love it! He sets a great example of good work ethic and a healthy curiosity for knowing more of the world.

His sense of adventure and enjoyment! We both love new experiences, but Inwook has taught me to take time to enjoy good food, a beautiful moment, and invest in time spent together. We’ve overcome many hardships so far, and it’s these successes that make me confident that we’ll be together for a very long time.

The biggest misconception about His country and culture was… 

Korea is thought of by the rest of the world as a somewhat dangerous place to live, because of their North Korean neighbors. The American media paints a picture of constant tension, but the fact is, South Korea feels very little fear about North Korea. My grandmother was upset when I first went to live in Korea, for fear that I would be caught up in their (technically still on-going) war. Most South Koreans aren’t bothered with North Korea and pursue a busy, happy life. I spent some of the most pleasant seasons of my life living and working in South Korea, without feeling much threat of nuclear bombing or war. There are other perceptions that are totally true, though! Korea is busy, hardworking, and they have a strong sense of solidarity. Being a communal culture, their favorite pastimes usually revolve around family and food.

korean american coupleThe most beautiful thing He ever did for me was…

He planned out the most personal, adorable proposal. It was during Jinju’s yearly lantern festival, so there were crowds of people and lights decorating the river and Jinju castle. We walked around the castle grounds that evening, and then he presented me with a photo album of our time spent together. On the back of each picture (in Korean and in English) he wrote his memories and poetry. It was so thoughtfully crafted, I had tears in my eyes. He then presented me with a letter, and at the top, it said, “PROPOSAL” – if the other hints didn’t give it away, this one did! I read his beautiful letter, and then he was on one knee telling me about the plans he hoped for us. After I said “YES!” we walked around the city dreamily until 1am, holding hands and feeling incredibly infatuated. I will always treasure that night.

During this relationship the most important thing I learned about myself was…

I grew up curious about other cultures but with very little practical experience. I had to learn to be open-minded, more flexible, and more loving, even when I wasn’t in control of my surroundings. Being married to someone totally different than myself was daunting at first, but ultimately helped me become a better person. I like who I am now, and who I am with Inwook, for having gone through difficult times with his culture, and all the while as he was holding my hand.

If there is a piece of advice I could give to my fellow Western girlfriends who are into the AMWF relationships that would be…

Don’t write off an Asian man as someone who couldn’t fulfill your dreams of a happy relationship. So often, white women are told stereotypes of Asian men and the majority of these are false! My husband is a kind, caring, strong, smart person, the best man I’ve ever met, and my most favorite human in the world! I wouldn’t have had this wonderful relationship unless I was willing to step into the unknown and move forward with optimism.

When you find yourself faced with a loved one’s culture that hurts you, try to find the best parts about it. Try to cook the food well and try to speak the language, so as to communicate with his family. It’s a lot of hard work, but it will bless him immensely. I never regret being with Inwook, nor the time spent trying to show him how much he means to me.

hot korean guyQuestions to Him

Asking Her out for the first time was…

Nerve-wracking. It was not successful since she was not comfortable going to a movie “date” with a student like myself back then. Also, she was told by her boss that teachers were not allowed to date a student but he was dating his student (which I found hypocritical.) After her class ended, I asked her out again and we were so excited to be with each other, and soon after that, we were in a relationship 🙂

I learned She is right for me when…

She was very serious about being in a relationship and had good faith in her religion. I had been looking for a woman with strong faith and sincerity, and there she was.

I had a cultural shock when She…

Rejected me for going to the movies with her. In Korea, a lot of people go to the movies for fun but she told me that going to a movie is a date with the person in America. Other than that, I didn’t have a lot of culture shock with her since I was already comfortable with her culture. However, we still found a lot of differences in our relationship.

my american girlfriend3 things I love about Her are…

I have not seen such a motivated person like her. Every morning, she gets up and get a lot of things done and calls herself, dubbing herself a “busy woman.” I really respect her peppiness and her passion for her lifestyle. Secondly, she is a caring and loving person to others. She can be very sensitive about certain things but once you get to know her, her loving heart towards others is second to none. Thirdly, she is consistent. Once she decides to do something, she does it and does not give up on it. Her art business has been very successful not only because of her talent but also her attitude towards it.

The biggest misconception about Her country and culture was…

Overweight people. Growing up, I had been told that Americans eat pizza and burgers and that they would be mostly overweight. However, when I moved to the States, I found that many people are in good shape and they know how to take care of their bodies through exercise and nutrition control. Honestly, Americans are better in this respect as opposed to just being skinny, which has been a trend for decades in Korea.

The things that She likes to do for fun with me are…

Going to IKEA, traveling, hiking and trying new, good food. We like to go to IKEA just to have a Swedish style lunch and walk around the building. It is such a good feeling to look at nice furniture that you want to live in. We also like trying out good food near the Northern VA area. Here where we live, there is so much international food we can try and it’s all excellent. Also, we have many friends from all different backgrounds and they recommend such great places and we love them all!

She hates when I…

Slurp my ramen…but I need to!! It’s a weird feeling to not slurp ramen while eating it. When I first tried not to slurp, I felt like I wasn’t really eating. If you are curious about how Koreans eat noodles, watch Korean ramen commercials. I was trying hard not to slurp the first few years but now I go into a closed room and eat enthusiastically without her supervision.   

amwf weddingDuring this relationship the most important thing I learned about myself was…

I learned that I have to be loving and encouraging to my wife. I also needed that in return. I grew up in a household that loved me but didn’t know how to demonstrate love and encouragement. Then when I met and married Marni, I realized that encouragement is a vital key to a healthy relationship. Building each other up is what keeps our relationship going in a positive way. Sometimes I find myself going to her, seeking encouragement, and it ultimately makes our relationship better.

If there is a piece of advice I could give to my fellow Asian friends who are into the AMWF relationships that would be…

I don’t have any relationship advice for AMWF couple specifically, but I would like to advise people to just focus on nurturing your relationship, regardless of where you come from, what language you speak, and what you look like. I read a book recently and there was a sentence that struck my heart. I’ll paraphrase: If you make one intentional choice at a time, you make the world around you better. I really believe this quote because your intent is reflected by your partner and once your partner sees your good intentions, they really appreciate the effort. In the end, they will be more inclined to also have good intentions.

Wanna learn more about Marni & Inwook? Check out her Instagram.