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We are global citizens! We come in peace with a message of culture

The first time we met in Beijing we got together to form a class of foreign (exchange) students to study Chinese together and to share our knowledge on other common subjects [while speaking Chinese]. We figured this the actual first time we joined different cultures and at the same time sharing with each other. From that point on we never stopped sharing our believes and international experiences.

Mark & Jihui against the church wall

Posing for the camera on our wedding day in Raamsdonk (May 18th, 2012)

When we started to actually know each other better we found that we also share a great interest in getting to know other cultures and backgrounds. We feel it’s important to get to know a culture and to try to understand where it comes from. This will teach us, to get along together, and to learn new methods, new ways of values and of course also new types of foods and people. We’ve been traveling China and some other parts of Asia and we really enjoy taking up all the new influences that we find from all over the world. We’ve been to places like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Kyoto and of course Beijing, just to name a few. After we came to The Netherlands we haven’t been to that much places, but we’re well underway. All these places have one thing in common: a multitude of culture and influences (ok, those are actually two things). Places like temples, restaurants, commercial sights, shopping malls, traditional streets or entire areas, are all the kind of places you can find the best examples of culture, but eventually, the thing we enjoyed most by far is the plethora of cultures and the history that we found there.

That’s the one reason why I’ve started this article: the joining and coexistence of cultures. Because Jihui and me met for the first time by joining cultures together in a study group, and since then we’ve shared experiences in cultures, but we’ve also joined our own two cultures together now. We, a South Korean lady and a Dutch man, met in Beijing and we fell in love. Last year we got married and joined our cultures together. Marrying two cultures together might seem hardly possible, or even scary in some ways, but when you don’t figure yourself as a typical one of your own culture anymore, it’s actually very easy. We’ve become, like some call it, a “global citizen”. We can live basically anywhere, we adapt to environments easy and we don’t close our mind to new influences. We’re embracing the new and unknown and we accept, or at least try to understand, the thought that drives that knowledge. We influence each other in good ways (and sometimes bad) and we teach each other about our own culture.

Mark & Jihui posing in Dotombori, Osaka

Mark and Jihui strike a pose in Dotombori, Osaka (Japan)

One of the surprising things that I’ve noticed is that I’ve found myself more comfortable with some of the Korean traditions or habits, that I find it strange that those habits are not applied everywhere else. For example, it seems to me very natural and respectable to greet an elderly person in a respectable, honorable way. In Dutch we would say ‘u’ to elder people, while in English we just greet them with ‘you’, but in a more polite way. In Korean culture it goes to a level of having clear distinctions between people of younger and older age. I couldn’t address a person older than me just by any name or title, even if they are only a few months or years older. I would have to use a more respectable form to address them. The other way it’s the same for younger people. I’d have to address them as a younger person and they address me as an older person, wether I like it or not.


Jihui eating Japanese sushi

Delicious sushi dinner at La Sushi in Sanlitun, Beijing

In all the time we shared together living and working in Beijing we’ve been overwhelmed with a mix of cultures throughout the city. Not only did we get inspired by the Chinese culture (which made us come to Beijing in the first place), but also by the many friends we’ve made along the way. The multitude of restaurants in Beijing also gave us the opportunity to taste new cultures and to explore the city with the diversity of Asian cuisine. Of course this wouldn’t even come close to experiencing the foods in their own origin country, but it’s the easiest way to get a start going. And since we are both big supporters of great food this was never really a problem.

In the end we realized it all started with our interest in one single culture and studying its language and when our interests met we got interested in each other. Like this we saw our own personal cultures combining and now we are creating our own culture for ourselves. Every day we learn from each other and our habits. Every culture has its own advantages and disadvantages and we might have more interest in one culture than the other, but we shouldn’t forget to look with an open mind to each other as well. We can learn from it and we can take inspiration from each and every believe on its own. We don’t even have to completely believe in it or we don’t have to support its theory 100%, but we can always keep our minds open and try to understand the thoughts behind it.