Friday, November 2, 2012

Korean Culture: You're So Vain

I've been keeping a list of differences between American culture and Korean culture.  I've been sifting through the list a lot lately because I don't want to forget about some important way I'll have to adjust when I go back to the States.  Fore example, I'm going to have to remember to tip waiters and baristas in the States, and I won't be able to expect free food and samples and extra service when I go shopping or eating.

I think one of the hardest things to stop will be looking in the mirror.

Okay, I know that sounds silly.  Allow me to explain.

In Korea, looks are everything, and everyone is expecting to behave that way.  When a young boy spends four minutes looking in the subway window reflection and sweeping his hair, that's completely normal.  When a gaggle of girls spend their entire meal with their handheld mirrors close to their faces, it makes sense.  There are even mirrors in some of the most unexpected places to give people more opportunity to check on how they look.  And don't even start to look down on everyone taking self portraits on their cell phones.

The thing is, none of this is considered vain or even unhealthy.  It's completely natural to want to look your best, and we all know that first impressions are important.  It's not looked down upon at all to check yourself out in the mirror over and over and over.

Unfortunately for those of us who have blended into Korean culture, that is not the case in the States.

Dear friends. If you see me spending too much time in front of reflective surfaces in America, please don't think the worst of me.  I promise that I have other interests than myself, I just want to make sure that I look the way I want to look.

After 16 months of living in Korea, this is what I look like now:

Just kidding!  That's Lizzy from the K-pop group, After School!


  1. Do Koreans commonly sport Atlanta Braves hats?

    Too bad you're not going back to Bryan, so you could spend time checking yourself out in front of Arnold's glass doors like everyone does.

    Also, I love you. I won't make fun of you (too much).

  2. I don't think that it will be too hard. Without people giving feedback on your looks, most Koreans that come to the US find something else to do with their time relatively quickly. The normal South Korean beauty routine is entirely too much work to do without others egging you on.

    1. :) I love all the Korean skincare products I've collected, but you're right - I don't need other people adding pressure.


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