“It’s hard being a girl, but it’s even harder when you’re immersed in a culture that places extremely high values on beauty and fashion.”
I’ve been living in Korea for about nine months now, and it has been nothing short of a life-changing experience. So many new faces, and so many delightful facets of this rich culture. I’ve learned about the good times and dangers that can be found at the bottom of a bottle of Soju. And of course more than my fair share of kimchi and rice, too. I’ve faced more than a few challenges during my time here, though.
One of the things Korea is known best for right now is its booming beauty and fashion industry. Thanks to the K-pop culture, it seems that young Koreans are more obsessed with their images than ever. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing in the slightest. It’s so fun to run up to Seoul and see what the latest trends in beauty and clothing are. It feels like you can see a new trend on every corner.
I won’t lie— seeing beautiful Korean girls all done up for something as simple as a trip to IKEA has made me feel self conscious at times, especially when I first got to Korea. I’m just not someone who wears makeup on an even semi-regular basis. My daily outfits usually consist of black jeans and a graphic tee. I keep it really simple. Going out and seeing girls my age all done up and looking amazing can sometimes make me feel like I’m not taking care of or valuing myself. If these gorgeous girls can take the time to apply a gorgeous face of makeup and pick out a trendy outfit before going grocery shopping, why can’t I do even half of that?
It can feel a little awkward and lonely to be the girl who doesn’t really wear makeup or dress up. But that’s okay. In my experience, girls here who wear makeup and dress nicely on a regular basis do not think of themselves as any better or worse than girls who don’t. If anything, they’re actually super friendly and always willing to give you tips on anything beauty-related. My experience with these girls has made me much less likely to pass judgement, even subconsciously. Before, I might have wondered to myself, “Who are they trying to impress?” Now, I know that they genuinely just love looking and feeling their best. Even if they are dressing to impress someone other than themselves, who cares?
Living in Korea and being around so many fashion and beauty-forward girls has made me more adventurous. I’m way more likely to wear something a little weird and out there than I was before. I’m much more inclined to try a bold lip color or a graphic crop top with an eye-catching design. That’s a little bit of confidence I’ll be able to carry with me wherever I go, even after we’ve ended our Korean adventure and moved on to the next.