Arrival in the United States and English Acquisition
Ji-hoon is 35 years old and was born in Korea. He came to the US when he was five years old. His dad passed away when he was ten so his mother and aunt raised him and his older sister. Ji-hoon grew up speaking mostly Korean at home, but learned English in school and by watching American TV as a child. Most of Ji-hoon’s relatives are in Korea; his aunt and uncle live in the United States, but they don’t speak any English. His mother works at a Korean barbershop. She speaks Korean with all the customers and staff there, but she also speaks English well. His wife is Korean too. She came to the United States when she was 10, but Ji-hoon says that even though she arrived when she was older than him, her English is better than his.
Working in the United States
Ji-hoon works as a Manager at a Korean restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia. Ji-hoon has two boys, Michael who is five and Peter who is three years old. He speaks both English and Korean with them but his children attend the local preschool so he speaks mostly English with them.
Connection to Korean Culture
Ji-hoon does not know how to cook Korean food even if he likes it. His mother cooks Korean food for him and his family. He cooks mostly American food (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, steak sandwiches, pot roast) for his children because they like it more than Korean food. Ji-hoon says that he is not going to force his children to like Korean food since he also likes American food, because he never really had it growing up.
Ji-hoon says that most of his friends are Korean because he feels more connected with them even though he speaks English fluently. He feels that they have more things in common.
Negative Experiences in the U.S.
He says that there were times when he experienced racism. For instance, in elementary school, the kids made fun of his accent and his “chinky eyes.” He also had job interviews where he felt like employers probably chose to hire somebody else because they were white, but he doesn’t want to assume this.
Integrating into U.S. Culture
He and his family celebrate all the major American holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and the Fourth of July. He and his family believe that working hard is really important for somebody’s life. He also values success.
Ji-hoon would not consider living in Korea because he loves being American and living in the United States. He couldn’t handle living in Korea because he thinks that there is more stress there.