We’ve now become well acquainted with both Korean guys and Korean ajummas, and so it’s time to move on to another wonderful group of people in this country: Korean girls.
When I first came to Korea for vacation over two years ago, the first thought that struck me was “Wow, the girls here are pretty!”. Granted, I had just arrived in the heart of Gangnam, where people in general look very fashionable, but still – they were really pretty. Almost as pretty as my three favorite Korean actresses Song Hye Kyo, Lee Min Jung, and Kim Tae Hee here below.
Korean girls are natural born experts when it comes to feminity, cuteness, fashion, makeup, accessories – everything. And the best part? It’s perfectly acceptable for women well into their thirties (thank goodness) to be all about cutesy stuff like teddy bears, hello kitty, and just anything pink and girly.
I even find that I have become much more girly myself since moving here, which I honestly enjoy. In Seoul you can easily find me wearing pink skirts, or pink t-shirts, or a pink hair band, while flaunting a hot-pink lipstick. I could technically do that in Denmark too, but probably not without attracting a certain amount of unwanted attention.
So, what makes Korean girls special? In this post I’ll try to describe a few traits that I’ve come to notice in them. As with the guys and the ajummas, some are good and some less so, and they are all 100% my own opinion so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
1. Korean girls sometimes talk like five-year olds
And it’s annoying as H…! For some reason younger Korean girls (like many of my students) have a tendency to speak in a childish nasal manner and use the word “막” more so than any other word in every second sentence. Think of annoying teenagers saying “like” all the time as in “and then he was like… and I was like… so it was just all like… and then it was like… you know, like…” and you have Korean girls and their 막. The nasal sound is something they probably do partly unconsciously to sound cuter, but the downside is they end up sounding way less intelligent than they actually are. Part of this behavior is probably related to Korean girl’s preference for doing aegyo (acting cute), but when overdone it can be more annoying than anything in the world. I’ve shared this video before, but you can watch here to find out what I mean:
2. Korean girls are fashion and makeup experts – and they love talking about it too
You rarely see korean girls without makeup. And I’m talking full makeup. With meticulous attention to detail, Korean girls rarely leave their home without a decent layer of foundation, lipstick, eyeshadow, plenty of mascara, and couple of strokes of brow enhancing color. One of the must haves for an “on-the-go” touch up is a makeup cushion, which is essentially a foundation soaked sponge packed in a mirrored compact. With a specially designed puff, you then gently dab the product onto the skin, although many girls appear to have a bit more violent routine almost slapping themselves with the puff on the subway in the morning.
Here’s my favorite cushion from Korean beauty brand “laneige”.
As for fashion, skirts are always a hit, and the warmer the weather, the shorter the skirts. If this is a delayed reaction to former General Park’s ban on miniskirts in the 70s, I don’t know, but they are at times inappropriately short. Apparently so short that warnings like this one are necessary in public restrooms. (Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I took this picture.)
But all jokes aside, Korean girls do have a strong fashion sense, and just because I personally don’t agree with all the trends, doesn’t make them any less popular. One of my favorite places to shop for affordable Korean fashion (and shoes, accessories, makeup) is the narrow streets around Ewha Women’s University, which just happens to be a 10 minute walk from my apartment.
Girls are also very generous when complimenting each other and this is something I find that Korean girls do even better than many western girls. I happily compliment my closest girlfriends but rarely strangers. In Korea, on the other hand, it’s not uncommon to get complimented on an outfit, or a hairstyle by perfect strangers. I find that the exchange of such compliments creates a feeling of intimacy, which I actually really like.
3. Korean girls are not very athletic
I’m not particularly athletic either, but I do like to stay in shape. Exercising is not considered very feminine in Korea, and many girls do not engage in any kinds of sports at all. Here on campus we have a gym, a football court, and a basket ball court, and all are almost exclusively used by guys. Especially in the morning, the football court is reserved for the on-campus soldier’s morning exercise, so whenever I leave for work early I can hear them shout 1, 2, 3, 4…. in Korean while doing push-ups on the ground. Completely different from the relatively athletic guys (with North Korea just 50 km away, someone needs to be in shape, right?) girls are often heard saying “oh, I can’t run very fast”, or “this is too far for me to walk”, or “this is too heavy, for me”. If girls do any kind of physical activity it’s usually a lighter form of exercise such as yoga or pilates. Running and ball games appear to be far less popular. I know what you’re thinking: “Korean girls must be more chubby than the guys, then?” Yeah, they certainly can be, and I’m afraid that the increasingly westernized eating habits are not helping here either.
4. Korean girls are strong and independent
I’ve met so many inspiring young ladies while I’ve been living here, and this last segment is a tribute to them. Many of the girls in my class, or the girls I meet when I’m volunteering are just so incredibly ambitious and hardworking that I cannot help but admire them. In many cases, these girls are true norm breakers in the sense that their moms are often stay-at-home-moms (which many women choose to be even while being highly educated). The reason is that not too long ago, most women had to make the difficult choice between having a family and having a career. But the girls of present day Korea think differently, and don’t necessarily see the need to choose when you can have both.
Korea is still a very masculine society, and gender discrimination is unfortunately still the norm in many circumstances. However, despite these challenges, Korean girls are fighting back, and I’m sure that their conditions will continue to improve. Around half of my students are girls and in many aspects they outperform the guys. It’s my sincere hope that the Korean labor market will stop (at least indirectly) discriminating against women, so that all these bright young minds can contribute to making Korea an even greater country.