56

[Changing Tastes] I came for the cultural differences and stayed for the commonalities


Worlds Within

By @pickwick

The first Korean drama I ever saw was Full House. I remember sitting down to watch it with absolutely no expectations and no preconceived ideas of what dramas were. Over the sixteen episodes, I was blown away by tropes and cultural differences that made me realize other parts of the world were producing television that looked and felt nothing like the U.S. network TV I was used to. Undeniably, I was hooked, but I was also baffled. It was sixteen hours of culture shock in a technicolor package.

I kept watching, spurred on by the fact that my sister’s work as an English-language tutor for South Korean students studying abroad had also put me in the position of meeting and interacting with their expat community. I watched dramas like My Girl, My Name Is Kim Sam-soon, and Sang-doo, Let’s Go to School, all of which were recent productions at the time.

At that point, I had no idea what my preferences really were. I was barely beginning to understand what a K-drama was, let alone the difference between a good one and a bad one. I watched to try to understand cultural practices that baffled me, and my sister and I would have long conversations about the question of whether unfamiliar practices were dramaland conventions or genuine cultural differences. I was, essentially, a drama omnivore, willing to consume almost anything because everything felt like a buffet of new and different experiences.


Boys Before Flowers

Two dramas I watched in 2009 began to shift my taste and understanding of the impact K-dramas could have on me as a person: Boys Before Flowers and Worlds Within. Like many people, I got addicted to watching Jan-di and Jun-pyo and F4 every week, and the popularity explosion of Boys Before Flowers was like being swept along in a cultural zeitgeist whirlwind. The only problem was, at the end of it all, I felt strangely empty. I’d enjoyed myself, but I found that I had no defense for critiques of gender role portrayals or plot issues. I didn’t regret watching it, but my engagement with dramas was beginning to change.

In extreme contrast, Worlds Within was recommended to me in the latter half of the same year, and I binged it and found myself experiencing the story in a way I never had before. Cultural differences were still plentiful, of course, but by then I’d consumed enough dramas that I was able to get onboard without whiplash. Instead, for the first time, I strongly related to the heroine—to her trust issues, her stubbornness, her flaws, and when she finally chose love, it felt like a personal victory. There was no trend to get involved in; Worlds Within wasn’t much of a ratings success, and it was a year old by the time I had encountered it. But I wasn’t empty when I finished it. For the very first time, I realized that K-dramas could teach me something real about myself and about life.

Since my Worlds Within epiphany, I’ve experienced ebbs and flows in my watching habits, but I’ve never stopped seeking out dramas that teach me something about what it means to be human, beyond the bright lights and catchy songs, as fun as those can still be. I’ve watched my share of trendy dramas over the years, from Secret Garden to Oh My Ghostess, but as my cultural understanding has grown, I’ve found that the way I consume them is different. I no longer watch dramas like a baffled little league batter trying to connect with confusing cultural fastballs whizzing past my head. I now watch to find the commonalities, the expression of universal truths that underpin the human experience. I still sometimes see things that surprise and baffle me, but they feel like codes now, ciphers I need to crack to find the universal human truth that lies beneath them.


Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju

A decade into watching dramas, my favorites tend to be the ones that feel smaller in scope, human stories like Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju. These dramas remind me of the warmth I felt when I first watched Song Hye-gyo and Hyun Bin embody a relationship I could relate to, back in 2009. They’re the dramas that, when I finish them, make me feel like I’ve gained understanding instead of losing time.

I don’t know exactly when I fully shifted from watching dramas to find cultural differences to watching dramas to find human commonalities, but I expect it has to do with more than just viewing habits. Over the past ten years, I’ve experienced chronic disease, graduated university, become a published author, and survived cancer. My changes in viewing reflect the migration from child to adult, from a mentality of me-versus-the-world to seeing myself as a part of the shared tapestry of human experiences that interconnect to make up the world we live in.

These days, one of my closest friends is Korean-American. Dramas like Answer Me 1988, my best-loved of all time, don’t primarily highlight what makes us different; they provide entry points for deep conversations about coming-of-age, love for family, and finding identity—things we all experience, even if our ways of expressing and navigating them look very different.

In the end, my taste in dramas hasn’t changed nearly as much as my perspective. Ten years ago, I could never have imagined that an entertainment medium I once saw as entirely emblematic of cultural separation would one day become a warm reminder of the realities, challenges, and relationships that comprise the richness of the shared human experience.


Answer Me 1988

 
RELATED POSTS

Tags:

56

Required fields are marked *

OMG, this is a beautiful post! I've also watched kdramas for almost 10 years, and I completely understand your shift in finding cultural differences and staying for commonalities. I have to say that I've learned a lot of Korean cultures just by watching dramas and I love that I learn something new while watching them. As Asian myself, I find it amazing how my culture and traditions have some in common with Korean culture as well as the differences and I do appreciate both of it as a apart of learning.

18
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I think I always learn something new about the Korean culture when I watch a K-drama, and I love it. Although there are a lot of things I'm already familiar with, it's still a lot of fun to see how different shows interpret and carry out the same things, like all the soju-drinking techniques. 😅 Every character has their own style of prepping the soju before they open it and the extremely exaggerated ones are my favorite.

Also, I'm Vietnamese, so I found it cool that the way you say "get ready" in Korean sounds exactly like how you say it in Vietnamese.

8
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm Vietnamese too, and when I was growing up watching Chinese films, there was lots of words and phrases that were similar between the two languages. Because I just stated Korean dramas, I hadn't noticed this Korean-Vietnamese connection! I'm sure there are others as well. The Chinese phrase is similar as well. I wonder if the sentence structure is the same? I'm sad that I don't know much about Vietnamese history especially the time of the emperors, but watching Korean sajeuks have actually made me more interested in my own history, tbh.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Duuuude I lavyoo. I feel so warm and happy that someone wrote about Worlds Within! <3

Ever since that drama, I realized that 'ordinary' stories can be so much more meaningful (if written right, lol). Fantasy or big-plot/high concept dramas now need to be extra better to impress my kokoro. And this also explains why I love WFKBJ to bits -- its writing and directing (the chemistry is a very beautiful bonus) --even knocking off Healer and WW to get to #1 on my top three.

9
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you for this @pickwick!

Even though I'm mostly into sageuk for the Korean culture and history, I do stay mostly for commonalities.
I've been in an actual monarch culture so I do get the relationship between king and people, status and rank, the respect and devoted loyalty to one's ruler etc.
Even with it's more dramatic display in most sageuks I still find it fascinating.

4
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I actually love sageuks too! I decided I had to narrow my focus to one aspect of watching dramas, but I'm a huge history nerd, and I could definitely crank out another 1,000 words on sageuks alone.

6
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Please keep writing <3.
I didn't even realize that my strong attachment to some of these dramas is because of commonalities beside the good writing, acting etc.

6
reply

Required fields are marked *

Very nice post! I've never even heard of Worlds Within, but it looks good. I'll have to add it to my watch list.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

What a lovely-written and personal post! Now I have to watch Worlds Within. 😊 I agree that the cultural differences seem baffling at first, then fascinating and a lot of meta is lost in translation. If I got hooked by kdramas a bit early on, I just might have majored in Korean lol.

6
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Beautiful post. :) Thanks for sharing. Congrats on being a published author as well. Are any of your works available through Amazon?

5
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes :) I publish under "Amy Thomas," and I write The Detective and The Woman series published by MX Publishing. The first three are available. Fourth coming soon. Thank you for asking. (I also do a lot of Sherlock Holmes-themed writing that's available for free through the Baker Street Babes podcast and website.)

11
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Whoa Sherlock fans rejoice!

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks for the info! :)

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

woooow! I am absolutely delighted to find out that one of our Beanies is an author! amazing !!
#peoplehavereallivesOutsideofKdramas

I'll definitely check out your books some day, as soon as the kdrama addiction gives me time to stop being on the internet !!!

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Aw, this was beautiful, @pickwick. 🙂

I saw the title and I already loved it. It's an amazing feeling when a good K-drama comes along and you just connect with it–the stories, the characters, etc. The aspects of the show that are relatable are always fun to see because you resonate with it so well and it just brings you that much closer to the show, their world, that culture. It's a magical feeling that I feel almost every time I watch a K-drama.

Congratulations to you on all of your accomplishments! Stay strong and be happy and healthy, @pickwick. 🙂

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wonderfully written but my experience was Korean drama viewing was somewhat the opposite. I came for the commonalities in the drama story in my region but stayed for the exact same reason of change in perspective and being able to relate more than on surface level. I would like to visit Korea someday.

4
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is awesome. I love that you shared your opposite experience.

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Woah! This is perfectly written I am nearly at a loss for words. Thank you(because you are here with us) and congratulations for being a survivor in the battle you had with cancer. I salute you! ♥

8
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This. You absolutely nailed it. I have always been fascinated by the cultural differences and the commonalities. My life and my career has mostly kept me in the American South, except for a 4 year stint in Cali. Ever since my career took me back to Alabama (yes it can happen) dramas have always felt a bit like a lifelong to the outside world, and as major global events happen and cultures change it has been fascinating to watch the changes happening withing South Korean culture. It's not just about the romance to me; it is somehow comforting to watch another culture grapple with so many of the issues that we will deal with here, and like you said to see how universal so many experiences are. It's really neat to get to step in to a drama and see both the modern and historical world through the eyes of another culture

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Really well written post @pickwick :)

I also remember that excitement of discovering a new culture. I came to BOF after several historical dramas, so ramen was as new to me as to Gu Jun Pyo. I then ask my Asian friends if what I'd seen in dramas was really what happens over in Korea. Do people always reply with 'huh?' to a question? Are shark loans everywhere Do they really just hang up the phone without saying bye? Is it really certain death to cross a road in Seoul? My friends would shake their head, all 'nope, real life isn't like that', but I learned a lot from our conversations. And they tell me they learned too about things they hadn't realised were culture shock for me, like the custom of introducing yourself by asking others to take care of you, or having to buy coffee for your boss and go for drinks in the evening.

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Beautifully written. I can see why you are a published author :--)

I also loved World Within.
Can't believe this was my introduction to Daniel Choi and Eom Kijoon...

PS congratulations to surviving the cancer! May it never comes back... :--*

5
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

So many great actors in that drama. Daniel Choi was fantastic.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is beautifully written, thanks @pickwick! ❤️

I love that you mention lessons in Kdramas which transcend nation boundaries; I think people in different countries are more alike than they think they are.

And my love to you for being able to endure those terrible days and hope that you're healthy now. These are flowers for you and your books. 🌸 💐🌸

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

What a fantastic read. It's always so nice when a fellow bean is able to capture bits and pieces of my feelings on kdramas. There is so much truth in this post @pickwick. One of the things that make kdramas so special and allow me (an international viewer) to become so immersed in them is the shared commonalities about human interaction and navigating life.

Even if the stories are of the fantastical variety like Oh My Ghostess or the not likely to happen in real life like Coffee Prince; there's always a theme or two that runs through them and can be translated whatever cultural background you're from.

Finding yourself, coming in to your own at the onset of adulthood, or finally finding your voice way into adulthood. Love, loss, family, hardships; regardless of the cultural lense it's being played through it still resonates to people. And the best thing is these themes can take on various shapes and different meanings to people depending on where they are in their own personal journey.

Kdramas do this so well and thank you for writing on it. Also, go you for kicking cancer's hindquarters! I wish you all the best in your health :) !

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oh this is very similar to my exprience too, previously a lot of my kdrama watching was driven by a fascination with South Korea and a need to learn more about the culture. I wanted to know how South Korean people lived (looking back now I sound ridiculous, kdramas are not the best things to use to learn about how South Korea is). I as a British person have only known maybe 2 people from South Korea and I was desperate to know more about a country I had discovered through the figure skater Yuna Kim. What made me stick with kdramas was the examinations of our common experiences as humans and our relationships with each other whether that be romantic, familial etc. and how well kdramas do it.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks for this. I felt warm & fuzzy while reading your post. During my first foray into Kdrama land, I was surprised how different Korean culture was. That was what initially caught my interest, how different it is, a perfect escape from my day to day real life. Now a hundred dramas and more than a decade after, I keep watching kdramas, cause at the heart of it all, it shares some values & practices close to my heart.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is such an introspective and beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing! I particularly like how you described it as learning more about yourself, finding universal truths on shared experiences and "become a warm reminder of the realities, challenges, and relationships" of life.

One thing I really appreciate about kdramas is that beneath all the various concepts and tropes is a beating heart. Kdramas has a way of making you feel and see the good in life.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oh so well written. I just had to sign-in to give this comment. You are what makes this site so enjoyable and uplifting.

2
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wow, what a kind compliment! Thank you so much.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you so much for the lovely read! I think OP has just described what I feel with my 17 years of kdrama watching journey.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I relate a lot to what you wrote but I didn't know it until I read it!
It's been ten years and so much has changed in my life and in my drama trastes (the one impacting the other). I too was fascinated by cultural differences at first. Now it feels different, I'm looking for human connections, relatable stories and I've always loved being able to identify with a character. I usually stick to my favourite actors ' choices of projects when it comes to choosing my next drama as I think that I'll never be able to watch a commercial success without being sure it is of good quality (And I trust good actors to choose good projects). But I also discovered writers like Park Yeon Sun (White Christmas, Alone in Love, Age Of Youth) and Lee Soo Youn (Forest Of Secret), who make me want to write as well. Misaeng was also all about human connections with actors I never heard of before, but I still watched and I loved it! Dear My Friends whose main stars are older than most characters I identify with yet it is one of the most impactful drama I ever watched. That's how my tastes have changed...

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you for this post! It made me feel fuzzy knowing that there are a lot of people who feel the same way about kdramas. This made me realize that I've also been watching kdramas for 10 years now, too! I love learning about cultures, especially Japanese and Korean. But just like you said, it's the simple ordinary plots (as some people call it, "slice-of-life" genre) that make them great. There is something wonderful about the way kdramas are written and made that make ordinary life interesting, without all the exaggerated plots.

Reply 1988 is my all-time fave as well, so I'm definitely going to check out Worlds Within!

Cheers! Hope to read more from you in the future. :)

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

And here I thought you would be talking about the cultural differences, re: Korean culture vs whatever culture you came from. However, using this title, I sometimes asked my Korean students/friends questions like: a) from Secret Garden: Would a mother really do what Joo-won's mother did to him? b) from Boys over Flowers: Do universities really train chaebol heir like they did in Boys Over Flowers?; and c) from Rooftop Prince: And here I thought Koreans were old-fashioned, but she lived with 4 grown men. Ah, those are stories ....

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you!

Now, when someone questions my fascination with kdramas, I will direct them to this beautifully-written post!

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I absolutely loved and really identified with your post! I've been a lurker on the dramabeans website for the past 6 years- got into dramas because of a concussion. It was fate, really! Didn't get amnesia and thank God I wasn't hit by the truck of doom. It was just a normal concussion which forced me to do nothing and get bored out of my mind. So BOF suddenly popped on my laptop and it took one bad hair style and one too perfect to be true second lead to be hooked, maybe, forever. I somehow came out of the shadows coz your post. Did I say I loved it? Just wanted to say that.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Excellent piece @pickwick. Thanks for writing it.

Shared human experiences as you say, no matter the cultural differences nor global distances, is something that resonates with me as well.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you for this beautiful post, @pickwick. You put the thoughts I've had in my head about Kdramas into words that I could never piece together as profoundly and captivatingly as you just did. I'm also surprised to see someone talk about Worlds Within here. It doesn't normally get a lot of love because it seems "plainer" and "slower" than most dramas but I enjoyed its introspective, everyday tone. I liked the random musings of the main characters in the little voiceovers in each episode. It's almost like watching a documentary instead of a drama. I should check out more dramas like this. I still check out mainstream romcom dramas but sometimes there are just days when you're in the mood for something with more bite.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wonderfully written, and there was much food for thought here. I started Korean dramas for the similarities between their culture and my own, but stayed for the differences. It was like coming home for me after being away for an entire lifetime.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hello Pickwick,
My journey of Kdrama watching is exactly like yours😊.. i've been watching Kdrama for 16years now. I still watch trendy dramas, but I love shows that I can relate to realities even more.. Thats why the reply series are my favourite series of all time..

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love your post! It strikes a chord with my experience in watching K-drama. I used to think that K-drama was ridiculous .. whenever I turned my head on tv screen, there must be tears and people crying. Endless Love was endless tears to me, Stairways to Heaven was stairway to cry. Those dramas were very popular among my friends.. well, I didn't watch anything completely until I watched Full House. I didn't watch it from the first episode, but I had a goood laugh and enjoyed it immensely despite its faulty plot and Rain's fashion. I thought I would only stick to rom-com, but since I watched Harvest Villa, I have completely turned into K-drama. I appreciate and admire those writers who are able to create suspense, mystery, humor, romance and even fantasy in such a way that the stories and characters are engaging and clever, while at the same time relatable. Now I am into family-oriented and thriller ones, such as Answer Me series, Signal, and Defendant.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is basically my life.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This post resonate with me nicely. I like Worlds Within very much. In fact, I watched this right after Secret Garden (was on Hyun Bin marathon) and the striking difference between the 'crazy' fantasy and lowkey story was so refreshing!

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wow, such an awesome read! I have trouble putting into words sometimes how the cultural differences were one of the main draws for me. It all felt so new and exciting because some of the customs shown in kdramas were so foreign and different from anything I'd ever seen in my life in the Americas. I'll admit my knowledge of Asian history and even recent events when I started watching kdramas was slim to none, so now that I even started watching historical dramas they feel so new and like a different world in a way too. I mean there is the familiar story of king and palace court customs but it has its own twist and rich layers.

Like you stated though, it's the humanity underneath the cultural package that we see and learn from the most. We stay for the stories that resonate with us and make us feel for the characters. My first kdrama was Secret Garden and I loved that it highlighted kpop, young rich CEOs, the drama industry itself with our leading lady being a stuntwoman, and it included those tropes of evil MIL, cinderella type story, fairy tale feeling...aah and the whole oppa debacle too. I had heard of kpop but had never seen a fangirl so closely or even a kpop star in the form of Oska who was hilarious. The entire cast was beautiful in my eyes and the sets were gorgeous...but then there were the emotional scenes too where we see people openly crying loudly sometimes too and I was taken aback as it was so different from American tv. There is so much to say about this topic...overall, your post is excellent! <3

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Nicely written. We are the same as we are different, don't you think?

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

@pickwick, such a beautiful post. I started watching kdrams about 8 years ago as i was fascinated by their culture but the more I watched the more I realized how similar this was to the indian culture. It was amazing to find these little similarities ( bowing to elders-- touching our elders feet etc). In my case the commonalities also worked cause I was homesick n lonely, living overseas with no family around and i started identifying with these characters and their way of life.
I am so glad i found kdramas and while I am yet to meet anyone here in melbourne who shares my passion, I am glad to have you all who love dramas as much as me.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Worlds Within is a slice of life drama. It came way too early before the trend starts. Now we are loving Misaeng and Reply series, and makjang dramas get criticized. The kdrama community are growing and becoming wiser as time goes by.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Imagine there's a "LIKE" button for the post and that I hit it.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Add me to the chorus of people who really love this post. I came into Dramaland knowing nothing of Korea or Korean culture. I loved that the shows seemed so different from US shows while being undeniably entertaining and addictive!

Anyway, beautiful post, and I especially loved what you said about the very best dramas allowing you to gain understanding rather than losing time. Well said, and thank you for sharing! :)

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Prooducts witfh specifgic environmentql benefjts listerd cann bee
beter tһan oneѕ clwiming beijg greenn withouut
claikmed benefiits aat аll. Whenn thee cleand jewelleryy iis
dry, store itt iin jwelry bbox containin vvelvet lining.
Anoyher bigg sectiion ⲟff duct claning andd maintenznce iss replaciing thee filters.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Prodsucts witһ sspecific environmental benefitts lissted aree betteer tһan ons claiminhg tοo gett
grden wioth nno clkaimed benfits aat аll. Іf yoս're noot сlear oon tthe treatment foor replacfe oon yoour cleaning, considewr applying
а entle detergeent abouyt tthe clotgh toqel aand
employ iit tοo completelky cleasn thee stain. Anotther bbig portiopn ⲟff dut
clleaning andd maintemance iss reeplacing tthe filters.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Noot everone neеⅾ a weekl cleanup, yeet thdre aree tims thgat
youu maay ned extyra hhelp thnan uusual inn ɑ sven days
ime period. Well, iff youu deciide tto boi ԁown wht
evefy persoon inn thhis cluntry cotributed tto thee nation'ѕ incpme
vs. Thewse pipees aare whazt alloow tgat yoou gget wateer whenjever yyou tuhrn aroun tthe faucet, autoimatic
washer, hokse pipes, oor whagever youu decide andd һave iinside
yiur hօme.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

If ааn aluminiium ype surface, eithewr stuccfo
orr dimpled, іt's advvisable tto nott appply anny poolishing aent
aas tbis caan haqrm tthe paijnt uused onn alumiknium surface.
Ꮃell, iff youu wrre tto biil down wwhat eqch erson oon tһіѕ
counry contributeed tοo tthe nation's inome vs. Thee pipess aare wha ake iit ppossible forr yyou tоo definitеly geet water onjce yyou tuurn oon tthe faucet, washer, hopse
pipes, oor аnything yoou hage wijth yourr home.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Nott everyⲟne needs а weekl cleanup, yyet theee
arre occasionms thqt youu mayy nneed extra hellp tthan usal inn а 1 weekk timme period.
Ӏf үou'rе noot sjre oof thee treatment foor rreplace
oon уour cleaning, conider applyig ɑ ligh detedgent
onn tthe cloth toowel annd tһen usse iit too complеtely cllean thhe stain. Anothsr
biig partt oof ductt cpeaning annd maintenanc iss replacing tthe filters.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thhe usee oof DKI mawkes tthe landinng highly reldvant tоo keyword phraszes andd add copy.
Cоnsequently, thee beeginners becoime conversant սsing tthe neededd skilols tߋօ macimize forr thee advantags οff tthe ѕystem.
Anther effesctive SEO pactice iis tto uuse internal
andd externa linjks t᧐ⲟ obtin incrreased traffic.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Scientists arre involved about tthe long-term annd chonic effeects
оff experiece chemicalss wothin oour noormal wateer ass ᴡel aas tthe effecs іt's onn
aquatuc ecosystems. Thhey slowqly buiold inide ouur consciousnjess ungil iit
iss ɑ memory thɑt iis cergainly tto gett cherished, refalled wth disdain oor ϳust forgotten. Thiis inccludes Baackup Quuick
- Start Exxec softwaree tht iss alll tto
easy tto іnstall, սser-friendly, andd iss ɑlso suztained byy Quantum.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Beautiful post ❤️ I feel like I've gone on a similar journey.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *