Wednesday, May 01, 2013

What is an 'Ajumma'?

Have you ever been called Ajumma? What is Ajumma anyway? Well, let me define this Korean Word –  Ajumma.

Dictionary Definition
Ajumma (아줌마) is a shortened word of ajumeoni (아주머니) which is defined in English as: an aunt, an auntie, a middle age lady, a housewife, a wife, a madam or ma’am. A respectful way to call an older lady or a married woman. This is the Dictionary meaning of Ajumma.

Society Definition
However, it has different meaning In Korean society, Ajumma has a negative connotation and has a lot of cultural baggage. This term (Ajumma) upset young Korean women in one way or another. Why? simply because - Ajumma- is a respectful way of addressing older woman right?, so if you mistakenly called a lady - "Ajumma" it's like telling-right-on-her-face that she's an old lady.

I guess, there's more than just "calling someone an old lady". In Korean society Ajumma doesn't come out with a good image, they are middle-aged married woman or old enough to get married, that usually  short, stocky, tough women wearing colorful shirt, pants and sun visor with short curly permed hair. 
Yes, uniform permed hair, as if It is a law that mandates all married woman to have a short permed hair 
They are fierce and fearsome with a strength of an Incredible Hulk and eyes of an eagle. They have tendency to push people on the bus or subway train, just to get an empty seat and even though she elbows you and steps on you, you should still and always respect the ajumma. 
Ajumma spirit by cartoonist Jo Namjoon
They are stereo typically defined as uncouth, unattractive, and uncultured.

In short, an ajumma is generally a married woman, or could be any woman who is significantly older than oneself. The “significantly” is important because a good way to infuriate a Korean woman is to call her ajumma. It is highly offensive to call a young woman or a not-so-young-woman - “Ajumma” especially if she’s not ready to give up her youth yet and still feels like a spring chicken Agassi! (Agassi means “Miss”)

So be careful on calling someone –“Ajumma”, if she’s a real ajumma then its fine but if not well be prepared for hell hath no fury for a woman who mistakenly called Ajumma. 

These are stereotype definition of “Ajumma” and it is somehow unfair to define them as such, they were like that because of their daily household chores and other duty from their husband, to their children, and down to their in-laws, and they have small business to manage too. Mostly Ajummas have small business like selling fruits, vegetables and other food items from small shops or booths, to outdoors stalls like street food and soju tents. 
Actually Ajumma is a modern day Wonder Woman
There’s almost no time for themselves, no time to keep up in current fashion. Their fashion style are out dated because it is much practical to have short perm hair and casual clothes. They are the back bone of the household and they are toughened through years of hardship. They are hard working people whom I admire and appreciate beyond words.

Oh since few days from now is Mother's Day, I humbly dedicate this post to my hard working Mom, Happy Mother's Day Mom, and to all married Ajummas!!

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