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Guy Called Out For Getting Japanese Girlfriend Traditional Korean Dress For Birthday Instead Of Kimono

StockSnap / Pixabay

There’s something to be said for cultural sensitivity in a relationship. It can be difficult to know everything about another culture, but you’d think when dating someone, you’d do the bare minimum for theirs.

Redditor BaffledAsker is Japanese, and has a boyfriend who isn’t very familiar with her culture. She asked for a specific gift, and he failed to get it.

This led to the original poster (OP) and her boyfriend getting into a fight. She isn’t sure if she overreacted and decided to ask the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit about what he got her.

She felt it was insensitive for him to make this mistake so long into their relationship.

“AITA for being upset over my birthday gift?”

But is OP expecting too much from him?

“I recently turned 30, leading up to my birthday my long term boyfriend of four years asked what i’d like for my Birthday, I thought about it but there wasn’t much I wanted. Finally I asked him to buy me a Kimono for my sisters upcoming wedding in August as mine is old.”

“We’ll be flying out to Japan for my sisters wedding and spending time with my family there, we plan to move there next year to be closer to my family as we met while I was in the UK working.”

“My birthday came round and I was excited to see the Kimono he got me i’d left it a surprise as I wanted to see what he’d pick out for me, he knows my favourite colours and styles so I figured it’d be fine.”

“It wasn’t, I opened the box and it was a Hanbok. For all of you who do not know what a hanbok is, it’s Korean traditional dress.”

“I asked my boyfriend why he got a Hanbok and he told me it was a pretty kimono so he thought it’d be good, I told him it wasn’t Japanese but Korean and he asked me if it mattered….”

“Now, if this was a new relationship I wouldn’t have cared as much, i’d have marked it down to him honestly not knowing the difference or being suckered in by marketing who don’t know the difference (though i’d have never asked a new boyfriend to get me something like that…) but, we’ve dated for years, you’ve been to Japan with me several times, you’ve seen me in Kimono’s, you’re learning Japanese…we’re even planning to move to Japan and you don’t realise why a hanbok and a kimono are not interchangeable?”

“I asked him to return it as I couldn’t wear it and he got upset saying he’d tried and it’d look good on me so should just wear it and not return it. This isn’t my culture, I cannot wear this to a Japanese wedding….”

“I admit I got angry at him then and it led to a argument. I finally told him if he liked it so much he could wear it because I wouldn’t be.”

“I feel a bit guilty now i’ve had time to cool off, it’s not his culture so maybe I should be more forgiving but surely having been involved with me so long and learning about my culture in preparation for a move even if he made a mistake he should have realised once I explained that no, the two are not interchangeable and promptly agreed to return it?”

OP’s boyfriend got her a gift, it’s a pretty dress, and he thinks it should go over just fine at the wedding. But OP points out that it’s not the same culture, and he should know better after four years of their relationship.

OP just wants him to return it, but he’s refusing.

On Reddit, the users of the board judged OP for getting upset with her boyfriend and asking him to return the dress by including one of the following in their response:

  • NTA – Not the A**hole
  • YTA – You’re the A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everybody Sucks Here

There are layers to what went wrong here. While OP’s boyfriend might have been confused, he had years to learn why this was so important.

And even if he makes the mistake of getting the wrong dress, it wouldn’t have taken much to apologize and return it. He could have gotten the right dress after the fact.

But because he doubled down on the mistake, the board voted that OP was NTA for getting upset.

“Speaking as a Chinese-American guy… how TF do you mistake a hanbok for a kimono. Those are two completely different things.”

“It’s like asking to do tacos for dinner because you’re in the mood for Mexican and get hot dogs instead because they’re shaped vaguely the same.”

“(EDIT: NTA ofc, your BF’s attitude was pretty culturally insensitive and he really missed the mark)” – mrcatboy

“NTA. I completely agree with you, a mistake can be made, but the part where it shows that he doesn’t care is when he makes the ‘does it matter’ remark.”

“Might be a good idea to sit him down and explain just how important cultural traditions are to you and in Japan in general, as this is and will be important in his life with you.” – AmaHalf


“As someone who has never purchased a kimono, I’d make thorough Google search of kimonos if I had to buy one. And after just now doing that search, a real quick one though… hanbok looks nothing like kimono.”

“Where your boyfriend double messed up was doubling down and refusing to return the hanbok, knowing that it would be inappropriate for you to wear it for the wedding.” – Cocoasneeze

“NTA. This Korean’s jaw dropped open not when you opened the box and you found a hanbok. My jaw dropped when after you pointed out his mistake, he said ‘does it matter.’”

“You sound really sweet and accommodating… maybe he is just used to that no matter what he does or says? I don’t know if this is a good guy… not because he can’t tell apart a kimono and hanbok which in itself is odd.”

“Its because of his utterly shameless response to you after.” – Practical_Chart798

“NTA- he’s been completely culturally insensitive and then afterwards has refused to return his mistake. You are from Japan and you know how this would come across if you wore it a Japanese wedding.”

“You, in this situation, are the only one who knows the true reality of that. You have every right to be upset in this situation.”

“I hope he comes to his senses and rectifies this mistake, but a further conversation may need to be had, and if he can’t take responsibility or take action on his mistake, then only you know what the best road forward is.” – wanesandwaves

The story seems so outlandish. The boyfriend not only gets a completely different dress, but he also doubles down on the mistake to the point of ego driven madness.

Some people thought it might be fake, but OP reassures that she wishes it was.

“But… but a hanbok looks nothing like a kimono? Like not even a bit?” – Left-Car6520

“I know, had he gotten a Hanfu, it would still be wrong but i’d have understood how the mistake was made as from a western point of view they have similarities few as those are.” – BaffledAsker (OP)

“God I hoped this was fake somehow now I’m sadly concerned it is not.”

“Like where did he even get it? Did he just google ‘Asian traditional dress’ and get whatever came up?”

“Like I’m unclear where you go for a kimono that you’d end up accidentally buying a hanbok?”

“It’s yet another man who thinks anything he bothers to half-ass and screw up deserves your praise because ‘he tried’, instead of recognising that his ‘attempt’ was actually insulting in it’s failure, and even worse because he got mad when you pointed it out instead of apologising.”

“Why are these men*?*”

“NTA” – Left-Car6520

“I wish this was fake.”

“I’m assuming he bought it online. The quality feels good, not cheap or costume like. I wonder if perhaps it was a preowned e-bay purchase that was listed incorrectly?”

“but he never said so and passed it off as brand new, I have also taken him shopping with me when I bought my last Kimono so he knew places to get them.”

“Worst case scenario he could have asked my family in Japan for help getting one sent to us if he was truly struggling.” – BaffledAsker (OP)

“Oh god.”

“It’s not even the mix up that’s the worst part. it’s that when you told him, he refused to acknowledge it, got upset, and tried to make you wear it anyway.”

“That’s just…. Insulting.” – Left-Car6520

If OP’s boyfriend knows what’s good for him, he’ll apologize and try to make up for it. Starting with returning the Korean dress.

Next step would be to actually find a kimono, and understand the difference and significance. If you’re dating someone from another culture, it’s the least you can do.

Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.