There are plenty of people who want to go to Korea to teach, study or to visit. There are millions of questions that come with that decision. When you have a question, what’s the most reasonable thing to do? Google it. Right? You’ll find hundreds of different videos and blog posts will pop up.
There’s plenty of advice for any question you have about Korea. “ How do I get a cellphone in Korea” “Where can I find clothes that fit in Seoul?” “Where can I study Korean for free?” Any question you have, you can probably find an answer to. However, there might be times you aren’t sure your question has fully been answered.
What if you’re a size 8, you’ve read posts that mention how Koreans consider that to be a “large” size and you won’t find clothes your size? What if that wasn’t true?
I think anyone commenting and trying to answer questions about Korea, Korean culture, or their lives in Korea has the best intention but sometimes people forget that their experiences don’t cover everyone. This definitely includes myself. I can’t speak for others or what will happen to them when they go to Korea, but I can mention what I experienced and learned.
Before I went to Korea, I followed vloggers and blog posts relating to teaching in Korea. I had questions about everything. I am thankful for the much-needed advice, but here are some of the things I was not prepared for by bloggers and vloggers.
I’m NOT overweight in Korea!
Before leaving for Korea, I was terrified of thinking that my coworkers and students would make fun of my weight. I had read blog post that mention that even a size 8 was considered a large! I thought for sure that when I got to Korea I would be called “fat” or told to lose weight.
I had seen videos where foreign teachers mention how Koreans tend to be blunt and think they are doing you a favor by pointing out flaws that, at least in American culture, would seem quite rude. I thought that in order to fit in, in Korea, I would have to be a size 0.
When I arrived at my school, the principal kept complimenting me on how pretty and thin I was. It really felt like a shock. I had seen pictures of vloggers/bloggers and thought how we had similar body sizes and they were called “fat’, so for me to be complimented on my size and shape was a shock!
My students looked at me and asked why I was thin, they thought all Americans were fat. I had to explain to them that this image of Americans is a stereotype. There are Americans of all shapes and sizes and never once did it hit me that the same could be said about Koreans.
After living in Korea for some time, I came to the realization that a size 8 is definitely not a large. For the most part, I used to wear size medium in the U.S. and was still able to find cheap, cute clothes around Seoul. I know plenty of girls (bigger than myself) that can find cute clothing around Seoul. You can fit into the “free-size” clothing (one size fits all) if you are a medium almost large in U.S. size. The bigger you are the less options are available, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Just remember that it doesn’t mean there aren’t people of all shapes and sizes in Korea. From my experience, besides blogs and youtube (which are great sources to find some hidden gems) also check out some FB groups, talk to friends who have been in Korea longer, or even follow clothing places on instagram.
Dark Skin and Dating
Something I notice in most of the blogs I followed on living and life in Korea was that there weren’t many dark skinned girls talking about dating. It’s rare to see dark skin girls talking about their dating experiences when they are in Korea.
I’m not saying I haven’t seen Hispanic girls talk or write about dating, but I wanted to see someone who I could physically relate to. I was exposed to Korean dramas, kpop videos and the blogs/videos/”news” sites, which is where I got my beliefs on Korean culture. I would constantly read about how white skin is viewed as a desirable trait in a partner, which automatically made me assume I could only be viewed as ugly for my dark skin. I know (now) that it doesn’t matter much when it comes to dating, but at the time I thought that it would give me insight on how dating could go for me.
The closest I came to seeing any form of representation would come from dark skinned black female vloggers/bloggers. I had heard a mixture of both good and bad things when it came to dating abroad. It made me very apprehensive because it seemed that much harder for dark skinned girls.
Although I was apprehensive to try dating when I arrived in Seoul, with time, I opened myself to possibility. As I tried my hand in the dating realm, I can definitely understand what these vloggers/bloggers were talking about.
Dark skin isn’t seen as a sign of beauty in many places around the world, South Korea being no exception. I had a first hand experience when I was listening to two of my sixth graders argue with each other. One boy called the girl a “fat pig” and she screamed, “black” at him. My coteacher separated and punished both of them. I didn’t fully understand what they shouted at each other so my coteacher translated it. He told me the boy was incredibly angry and wanted to hit the girl after she had called him black.
That may not have related to dating but it does reflect the attitude children learn from adults in terms of how they viewed dark skin.
When it comes to dating, there were guys who mentioned that their “ideal type” of woman would have white skin. That is exactly what it means. They prefer light skin. Have I met men that have told me this? Yes, I have. But I have also met guys that had zero problems with my skin color and have even complimented my skin tone.
It might suck to hear this but, some may not find you attractive for your skin color but that’s just the way some people are. They have no idea what they are missing out on though.
There are always plenty of guys who will date a pretty, confident dark skinned girl. If you’re in South Korea and that sounds like you, then don’t think that a guy will automatically be turned off because of your skin color. You are much more than your skin color, you know that, so show it! Show no fear ladies! Once I lost that fear, I started going on dates pretty often, and I think the confidence that I exude also makes me attractive. So here’s a tip to you other dark skinned ladies, don’t let that be a fear, I know what it’s like, so go forth and date my friends.
Salads are hard to come by
I used to believe South Korea would be a vegetarian’s paradise. I had always assumed that all of the side dishes people ate were actual meals, since they are almost all vegetables.
I would read and watch blogs/vlogs showing Korean food and all I would see were vegetables based or vegetable-heavy dishes. I am not going to lie; I really DON’T like vegetables (or anything really) so it sounded like I was going to have a tough time in Korea.
As soon as I arrived in South Korea, all the teachers were fed whatever food Korean school lunches were given. Honestly, it was a preview as to how I would eat for the next two years. All of my food consisted of a little piece of meat, vegetables dipped in meat broth, a small portion of fruit and soup (which either had meat, consisted of meat broth or had essence of seafood.)
I would have never guessed how hard it is to have an actual vegetarian dish if you don’t prepare it, go to a vegan/vegetarian restaurant (which aren’t as common as in the U.S.) or specifically ask to not have any kind of meat touch it. The last option requires you to speak enough Korean to say that.
Something that I think is very strange is seeing people talking about being vegetarian/vegan in Korea like it’s nothing.
I have vegetarian friends in Seoul who have told me that being a vegetarian in Korea has been incredibly hard. When they are working, usually their lunch come with meat broth or are contaminated with meat. If they ask for vegetarian options, they are stared at or take the pieces of meat away but give you the exact same meal, meaning it is contaminated. There was also the option of getting bowl of rice and some small portion of vegetables that weren’t contaminated.
Another problem my friends come up against is that, because a lot of people aren’t vegetarians or vegans, there really aren’t many options at restaurants. It’s even worse for traditional Korean food. Apparently, there are a lot of tiny pieces of meat or meat broth in a lot of the food.
That being said, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to lead a vegetarian/vegan life style, it’s just a little more difficult than it would be at home. The good news is I’ve heard there are some great vegetarian/Vegan restaurants in Seoul with great food.
Just know that when I actually saw a meal of mine come with a salad (not covered in mayonnaise or yogurt or even meat broth) I was crying happy tears. It turns out I really like salads.
~ The Vloggers and Blogger I mostly watched and followed before and after coming to South Korea~ * I recommend them 🙂