Friday, September 28, 2012

Things that don't make sense in Korea

There are a lot of things I have come across in Korean culture that makes me wonder and leaves me confused when comparing it to my culture in the West (specifically America). I have talk to other foreign exchange students attending my school who are from all over the world and it seems I'm not alone when it comes to these things I will share with you all listed here.

First thing that comes to mind is how it's cheaper to eat out then eating at home. In Korea, it is expensive to buy groceries and prepare the food at home. Fruits and vegetables (which is part of the daily diet of Koreans) are the most expensive, cherries are considered a luxury in Korea where I bought it at over 11,000 won (= $9.81 for I think 1.5 lbs. or 2 lbs.)! It is this way because the produce goes through many buyers and sellers who charge more than the later through trade to bring more value to the product. But I find this unreasonable and unfair to the buyers of the common people who need to buy to survive since everyone needs food to live. So if you love to eat out but want to save money, come to Korea! ;P
 Soju (Rice Vodka)

Another thing that is interesting is how cheap alcohol is here in Korea (Koreans love their alcohol). Where in the West, alcohol is so expensive, either buying it at a bar or at the local store; for Korea, it is expensive at the clubs/bars (depending on where you go), but to buy it at the local store and sometimes even at resturants, it's inexpensive. Soju is one of the most bought Korean alcohol that is favored among many and the cheapest I have come across is at 1000 won (= $0.89)! If it's at a Western themed bar, most of the time it can be expensive, especially western drinks, but I have heard you can buy western drinks for much cheaper than back home if you're lucky. But normally alcohol is significantly cheaper and many Koreans drink socially as part of their cultural norm. To add to this, another strange thing is that at a school event I attended, the school provided alcohol for free on campus. We had Korean barbeque and kegs and kegs of baekchu (beer) provided at the event and everyone went wild on the free beer. Of course at my campus in the United States, nothing like that would ever happen, especially having alcohol on campus provided by the school no less! So of course it was strange for me to see this but still interesting and fun. Since drinking alcohol socially among friends/ students/ colleagues/ etc. is the norm and welcomed, it's considered strange not to. Koreans know how to have a great time, and I am going to take full advantage of this; next week, I have plans to go out for lunch (which I assume alcohol will be involved) with my classmates and teacher (which the teacher invited us to participate). I'm so excited~! XD

33.8 fl. oz bottles of Korean Beer 2,450 won (= $2.20)


Bottle of Heineken Beer 3,300 won (= $2.96)

One thing that I find most odd (and this is based from my western perspective) is seeing men walking around carrying bags that to me, seem like purses and I know many in the West would assume to be a purse. Though in the Korean man's perspective, it's not a purse, it's a "Man's Bag" (oh yeah that totally makes sense)... I feel it's still a purse... especially seeing men carrying name brand bags (Louis Vuitton, Burberry, etc.) which normally you would see women carrying around in the U.S. Now these men are not homosexual, they are very heterosexual, but they carry these men bags like any other woman who carries a purse. And these men bags look so much like women's bags/purses it's quite weird to see so often but that is the cultural norm.

Being here and my interactions with Koreans and foreigners, I have found many Koreans are quite xenophobic: unreasonably fearful of or hating anyone or anything foreign or strange. Yet in many of their advertisements and cultural norms, it is quite western themed which doesn't make sense that they would be xenophobic yet have this. For example, I would see hair salons where the advertisement features caucasian women or in clothing signs you see both caucasian men and women posing in the fashion of Korea which is quite similar to western fashion.

Even their make-up they sale includes whitening in it or are limited to skin-tones where it is of lighter tones and it's hard to find or practically impossible to find make-up (foundation) for darker skin-tones. So I am olive complexion, I'm not too light nor am I too dark but still, here I find it difficult at times to find foundation to fit my skin-tone. Trying to make sense of this, I have learned two explanations on why it is this way: 1. In the Asian culture, a person who is of a darker skin-tone is someone of a lower class because they are outside all day working where one of an upper class are pale because they have the luxury to be indoors and not have to do exerting physical labor to live. 2. This is coming from a Korean male and others opinions I have spoken to about this subject is that Korean men prefer lighter skinned women and are attracted to that particular appearance because that is what the deemed to be beautiful to be of a lighter skin.

Also, on the same subject, there is make-up and skin care for men here. Many male singers for example wear make-up! To the point I have to look closely to figure out if this is a dude or a female and in most cases it's a dude. So if you see a group of singers where most of them seem to be male but there is one you aren't sure is a male or female, I can gaurantee is a male, who looks feminine, but is heterosexual... So seeing advertisements of make-up and skin care directly aimed at men is strange to me in my western perspective but still interesting I find, it just doesn't make sense to me why in Korea, men and women have a cosmetic line where in the U.S. it is specifically aimed at women. To be honest, I find this equality of cosmetics for both genders as to not distinguish what is masculine and feminine but treating both sides to be the same, cause everyone wants to look amazing. I don't know if I'm making sense but I hope I am... Though what is interesting is that they include whitening in mens cosmetics also and not just women.

To continue on the subject of Koreans being xenophobic, and with what I just mentioned above, I find it quite ironic for those who are xenophobic yet so much of the Korean culture and advertisments are western based/themed and seeing many Koreans obsession with Western goods (ie. clothing, make-up, bags, designer items, etc.). Especially seeing so many Koreans owning western name brand bags and those who are fans of American baseball, the importantce (and even obsession) of learning and speaking English and hiring western foreigners to teach English to their students because it's mandetory in their education system because it's viewed that knowing how to speak English helps your chances of being successful in the future in order to become well off. Or the cultural pressure of women to be skinny and it being impossible to find clothes to fit me and I'm considered a size small in the U.S. but in Korea, I'm considered a large size... D: Or the obsession of owning western things as being the luxury and showing ones status of a higher class. It's  just so strange to me that many are this way yet culturally, it is becoming very westernized and they embrace western things, yet there are Koreans who are xenophobic.

One thing that made me laugh was when I watched tv, I realized how Korean's are more conservative than Americans. On tv, Law and Order: Criminal Intent was featured and I watched it out of curiosity to see if there would be a difference and there is. When one of the characters was smoking, they have the act of smoking blurred/censored out so you couldn't see him actually smoking the cigerette, yet in Korea, almost EVERY man in Korea smokes, it's a common practice. So I just find it so ironic to blur out the act of smoking when you see people smoking EVERYDAY! I mean what would the person who watches this think? (Oh yeah I'm not going to smoke it's a bad habit even though I see this everyday in my culture...) I mean, there is hardly any restrictions to where you can smoke in Korea. I'm constantly around cigerette smoke (and I try not to) that sometimes by the end of the day, I smell of cigerettes... And to describe how conservative Koreans are, it is very frowned upon to show your shoulders or wear clothes that are shows skin or wear tight fitting clothing because its considered revealing and sexy. Women are always wearing shawls or something to cover their bare shoulders when they wear clothes that reveal it. With the homestay family I live with, the grandmother views women who wear shorts and skirts to be uneducated. So if I wear something that shows my legs, I always wear tights and try to dress conservatively to please the family and be respectful of their views. Also, getting tattoos in Korea is illegal, yet getting eyeliner, your eyebrows, or lips tattooed is legal and is considered cosmetic surgery which you can only get done by a doctor. It's still tattooing!!! I never understood this concept, and I have found many Korean women has this procedure done, even my cousin Goan has this done... They don't view it as "tattooing" but cosmetic.

NU'EST (second to the left is REN who is a guy I mistaken him for being a girl)

Another very strange and interesting concept that doesn't make sense to me is how actors/actresses and performers dress, which is very western based: such as dying your hair different colors (that is not your natural hair color) and fashion your hair in wacky hair-dos, wearing revealing clothing (women wearing very short skirts, showing their shoulders, (depending on how conservative the Korean is) showing the skin of your legs, etc. and wearing a lot of make up) is condsidered "costume" because they are entertainers. So most of the population like the common people do not dress this way in this particular fashion and find it strange if you dress in this fashion because you're not a entertainer and that's how entertainers dress because it's costume. Many Koreans are conservative in this aspect, I had a Korean friend in the West who knew I was going to Korea and saw that I had my hair dyed pinkish red and told me I should dye it back to my natural hair color. I told him why since the entertainers in Korea have their hair dyed in many colors why can't I. And his reasoning is because they are entertainers it's part of their costume and style, it's not normal for the majority to appear that way in public because we are not entertainers... yeah that makes perfect sense... I just view how people dress and look as their own fashion sense in how they express themselves but I respect the Korean view, so I dress in a way that is appropriate to the Korean culture so that people don't think I'm weird.


One of the most annoying thing that doesn't make sense is how there are no public trash disposals in Korea! You also can't go inside a building to throw away trash because it's considered bad manners (yet Koreans don't hold doors and think its strange if you do)... Since it costs money to remove trash from a location, most places don't have trash cans, dumpsters, etc. provided publicly and so on many occasions you will see trash littered everywhere in public (I HATE LITTERING). To fix this problem, they hire people to clean up and around the area of businesses and so forth to keep the area presentable for businesses. Though I still wonder how businesses, restaurants, etc. do in disposing their garbage and recycling; since Korea is very good about recycling when there is a place to dispose of your waste and are even more particular about what you recycle (i.e. certain plastics, glass, metal, paper, etc.).

I hope what I have mentioned was informative and interesting. If I come acorss more I will surely mention on here how things don't make sense in Korea in a Western perspective~ ;D


  1. You blog is eye-catching. I get pleasure from it. Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece of writing with me.and its good from shareing law
    Korean fashion

  2. No problem, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I should keep up to date with my blog, but my last couple of years in school has kept me busy in the West. I do plan to return to Korea next year hopefully and to continue my blog. ^_^ If you have any questions about the Korean culture, feel free to contact me. :D