I’m just gonna come out and say it. I’m an attractive foreigner in Korea. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this beholder just happens to like the girl who stares back in the mirror much more than she did when she lived in Okinawa.
When I lived in Japan, I experienced a self-esteem plummet. Like, a legit rocket down a thorny, rocky mountain into a deep, dark pool of self-pity swamp. I was culturally fatigued. I thought Japanese men were sexy, but my dates with them sucked. Dating military on Okinawa was another story I won’t go into detail with. I didn’t fit the bill of beautiful foreigner by Japan standards. I don’t posses blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin, and I’m not skinny. I hated myself, and subsequently gained a bunch of weight as a result. When you fall down the rabbit hole to shitville, you learn a thing or two about what you can and can’t take.
I can’t stand when people comment on the color of my skin, and I hate it when people talk about what an “enormous” foreigner I am. I used to think, “Well, shit, am I really big?” No, not really, Asian people are just small. I’m pretty normal sized in my own country… But unfortunately, I wasn’t in my own country. Big knockers and cleavage aren’t a thing in Asian countries; however, wearing your skank shorts as short as they go is a green light.
I like being beautiful in Korea. Foreigners are harping how the standard is the Kpop standard and if you can’t cut it, get plastic surgery or forever be doomed to face your fugly life of sadness. I don’t think so. There’s plenty of successful people who aren’t hot but are only hot because they’re successful. Think about it. I love red heads, but Ed Sheeran just doesn’t do it for me. Is he hot to some because he’s a talented singer, song writer, and guitar wielding ginger? Most likely. But to me, he’s just an average Joe with a fantastic talent.
Self-esteem is a delicate thing and I think I might be doing better than I have in a long time…
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a compliment here in South Korea. I never heard compliments in Japan unless it was to remark “how huge” I am compared to a Japanese woman. (This happened to me on more than one occasion when the doctor asked me if I even exercised.) That hurt my feelings and left me with the whale face on more than one occasion. Dis ma whale face -___-. You like my whale face?
I love it when Koreans tell me my eyes are big because they’re really not. I would never hear that in America. I like being told I have a small face. I know it’s beautiful here and at least I’m up to par on small face beauty standards. Yay Gina! Some expat women are super into “I’m a feminist and it’s patronizing if you call me cute.” Whatever, girlfriend. After getting my ego knocked down in Japan, this is a welcome change.
No one comments on my skin color
This is the best part of living here. No one has said shit to me even once. I know my skin is dark. The skin care attendants at Korean makeup stores do too. They don’t mention my skin color or bother me with skin whitening creams. I ask for what I want, it’s given to me and that’s that. It’s amazing. No one gives me their two cents about how I should wear more sunscreen or cover up.
Curly Hair is Okay!
I’ve noticed lots of Korean women getting perms just to have curly hair like mine. While straight hair is still the mainstream, curly hair is also socially accepted. Many of my co-workers seem to love my natural curly hair and tell me it’s very cute. I used to dodge my students in Japan who wanted to touch my hair and figure out if it was a perm. (Not that it was a bad thing, but keep your hands to yourself, kiddos! I spend a lot of time on my hair and I don’t need greasy fingers in it!) In addition to no longer being attacked by humidity, my curly hair can have the natural curls without turning into a frizzball.
Not having good skin is actually an ENORMOUS damper on your self-esteem. In America, I had good skin (even in the summer) and never experienced acne on my cheeks, jaw line and neck. When I moved to Japan, I never wore makeup and was still experiencing mass breakouts. I felt fugly because my skin was no longer beautiful and clear. I couldn’t fight it no matter how hard I tried.
Fortunately, Korea has many different kinds of skin care treatments that actually achieve results. America needs to get on the Korean skin care wave because it’s so good. You wanna put placenta on your face? The Koreans have got you covered promising soft, supple, and firm skin. My skin has cleared up so well here. I’m literally glowing. I no longer experience cystic acne because of the products and diet change. Thank you, Korea!
People are more open
Of course you’re gonna find the shitstick who hates everything and everyone, especially foreigners, but Koreans have been nothing but nice to me. I always smile to the security guards in my building and they look out for me. Where I live, foreigners aren’t this unicorn meant to be oogled. I feel like I’m treated as a person and people aren’t so scared to meet me halfway in English if I don’t get it. I also noticed no one is acting like speaking any Korean is an accomplishment. They talk to me normally, give me what I want and all parties are happy at the end of the day.
My students know about the world. They know who sings the English songs, they know Chicago’s location and they even know who Michael Jordan is. Bless my kiddos in Japan, but they didn’t have a clue who Michael Jordan was. My students actively watch American dramas and are influenced by trends and cultures worldwide.
People in Korea seem to be accepting that I am different and a foreigner and I don’t experience anyone consciously or subconsciously trying to change me into the “foreigner mold.” Goodness, there is one, but it could be I’m getting older or I just don’t give a fuck anymore. In any case, I felt so ugly in Japan, I was actually kinda depressed. When I moved to Korea, the same rocket I took down helped me go back up. I was no longer in a self-pity swamp. I lost weight because Korean food suits my palette perfectly. I no longer hear comments on how “huge” I am because Koreans are very normal sized people. In fact, a lot of my students are even taller than me! Japanese are just small and maybe living on an island with very bland food will make you little. I may not look Asian, but my beauty is definitely appreciated here. Thanks, Korea!