Hello friends! You may not know (did Jessica tell you?) that I was recently in South Korea on vacation, visiting my cousin who teaches English through a program in Daegu. Yeah, crazy!
I work for an organization that serves people all over East Asia, so I have a soft spot for that region. I visited Indonesia for 6 weeks in the summer of 2010 as an internship of sorts and I’ve been itching to get back to East Asia ever since!
I’d love to share some of my experience and observations with you, particularly because Korea is well-known for its fashion and beauty obsession, partly good (I can’t get over their hair and clothes), partly bad (as in, excessive amounts of plastic surgery).
As an introduction, here are some interesting trends I discovered in Korea:
Cutesy-ness :: If you think something is cute in the U.S., Koreans have probably found a way to make it more adorable. Exhibit A: the rain boots pictured below—high-heeled AND tied off with a bow. A Korean guy I met told me there’s a term in Korean for the “cute” way Korean girls act and we don’t even have a word for it in English. You’ll find advertisements geared toward men and women that look very feminine (pastels, doll-like cartoon characters). They wouldn’t fly in the U.S. but work fine in Korea!
Affection :: Korean men are known for being very touchy with one another. The U.S. has recently become familiar with “bromances,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if Koreans started that decades before us. It’s not strange to see two heterosexual young adult men walking down the street holding hands (in fact, you’ll also see guys do this with their moms, but girls do it too). You’ll also see guys stroking each other’s backs and frequently tackle-hugging one another.
Night Owls :: My cousin and I never got out the door before 11 AM because if we did, shops wouldn’t be open. (A bigger city like Seoul might operate differently.) One reason could be the big night scene. A Korean friend told me it involves four rounds of drinking and bar-hopping and typically goes until 4 AM, whereas American bars close around 2 AM. This happens on week nights and the weekends (though it’s safe to say that many Koreans DON’T do this!). Extracurricular classes might go late also. My cousin’s boss taught English classes until midnight.
Tune in next week for a look at Korean fashion!
[Disclaimer: My statements are generalizations based off my observations and those of both foreigners and Koreans I met on my trip. They don’t necessarily apply to all Koreans, nor would all Koreans necessarily agree with my viewpoints.]