I’ve been in South Korea for a good two months and so far, it’s been amazing!! I have adapted pretty well and I honestly still cannot believe I am here!! As much as I appreciate and love South Korea, I have also noticed some things that aren’t exactly the greatest..! Now, I definitely understand that every country has it’s pros and cons, but today, I’d like to discuss more serious topics in my blog post! Of course, when studying abroad, one should immerse themselves in the rich culture and enjoy every bit! I have been definitely doing that, but I think it’s important to talk about how different some things are in a foreign country and to make future study abroad students aware of these things. Sure, many of us may already have expectations about the country we want to study in, but there are just some things that you just can’t learn or understand unless you are living on that country’s soil.
DISCLAIMER: I definitely do not want to discourage ANYONE who wants to study abroad!! I definitely encourage it. I just think that it’s important to talk about more serious topics, especially when studying abroad in a foreign country! As you can see, I am enjoying my time here! 😀
Self image is HUGE in South Korea. Of course if you know at least a bit about South Korea, you’d know that South Korea is known for their mass production of cosmetics and plastic surgery clinics. With the pressure of society, many people feel the need to always look nice. Even if they’re simply running a quick errand, they may need to put makeup on, or if they aren’t wearing makeup, they’ll wear a cap and surgical mask. In my experience, Subway station bathrooms are always usually filled with girls fixing their hair/makeup or doing their makeup for the day. You’ll see girls also doing makeup on subways, in school bathrooms, in restaurants after a meal, or even while walking to places. Many Korean males also have skin care and make up routines as well. There are also A LOT more mirrors here in public spaces! Of course, retouching makeup happens in America as well, but it’s much more prominent in South Korea. Living here, even I’ve started to constantly look at myself and also subconsciously reaching for my travel makeup bag to re-apply makeup after a meal or drink. Many Korean girls I know understand that it’s a problem here, and they don’t like the idea of looks playing such an important part of being a person in South Korea, but it’s apart of society here, so they can’t really stop it. Think of America’s society and beauty standards amplified by 2! My roommate and female exchanges also feel pressured to always lose weight “to become more beautiful” (Quoted from one of my exchanges) despite them being..probably a size XS in the US? Many of the international students have also quickly adapted to the fashion here and even make up styles for a..sense of belonging I guess you could say? I’ve always known about South Korea’s obsession with beauty and their beauty standards, but knowing about the standards is so different compared to living within the standards. This is my personal experience with beauty in South Korea, and it may not be similar to others. Before coming to South Korea, I was heavily interested in makeup and beauty, so this is one of the things that affect me the most!
Age in Korea is SO IMPORTANT. On campus, you’ll see many lower class men bowing whenever they see their seniors (anyone who is older than them/ most of the public bowing I’ve seen usually happens to seniors within the same major as the underclass men) The under class men essentially have to listen to what the seniors command as well. My friend’s roommate is the oldest of their suite, and he can basically boss everyone else around and they’d have to listen to him because he’s the hyung (형/ literal terms: ‘older brother’) . Many seniors take advantage of this position and will treat their Dongsaengs (동생| younger sibling) / hoobaes (후배 / someone with less experience) badly. Sometimes they’re even treated as the senior’s personal assistant. It’s a cultural thing that I understand, but I don’t really like the fact that many seniors seem to take advantage of their hoobaes. One of my Korean friends has gotten yelled at and threatened by her senior because she spoke English to him instead of Korean. (Note: they are both in the English language exchange program) I thought it was a bit much, and many Koreans also agree that seniors can take it a bit far with their status.
I am honestly thankful to be able to have experienced first hand how these play into Korea’s society and culture. Though I may think of it as a bit negative, I am glad to be able to experience the reality of South Korea. I think it’s definitely important to educate yourself about the negative aspects of a foreign country, so you can deeply connect and understand the natives to an extent. I was a bit hesitant to post this, because of course, I want to show you all my fun adventures, but I also want to express how I feel about certain things, and not everything may be positive despite me being absolutely in LOVE with South Korea!!
My next post will definitely be more light hearted and full of pictures!! 🙂