S. Korea & I – happily ever now
Welcome to the fourth installment of the S. Korea ‘Love/Hate Series’, or the space in which I vent about my dislikes but also rave about my likes for this country. Babe and I have a complex, modern relationship like that. And this time around she is in my good graces. Here are a few reasons why:
I’ve always been into skincare because I prefer to take care of my skin than have to cover up daily with makeup. I am also lazy and can’t stand the thought of applying stuff every single day. So, I was excited to experience the K-beauty phenomenon in all its glory. And I have not been disappointed. I will admit that I’ve barely even scratched the surface with the endless and somewhat overwhelming amount of affordable, high quality products available here. I mostly stick with sheet masks and have started using some Korean products like toner, cleanser and oil makeup remover, but I have a long way to go to reach the ten-step Korean beauty regimen.
I’ve had the pleasure to experience bathhouses for the very first time while living in Korea. These lovely places of pampering and relaxation are called jimjilbangs (찜질방). They are very popular, affordable, clean and fun. While I understand that some people cringe at the idea of taking a bath naked in front of other naked people, I say try it if you ever have the chance to. There is a liberating element in wearing nature’s suit along a sea of strangers that also might or might not feel body conscious.
Jimjilbangs vary in size, facilities and hours of operation. There are some bathhouses with all the amenities to offer a rejuvenating spa experience, with people spending an entire day taking advantage of the different bathing pools (some even offer hot springs!), saunas, steam rooms, facial treatments and massage chairs. Oh and there are plenty of snack and restaurant options. I’ve yet to do this but most jimjilbangs are open 24 hours, so it’s very common to sleep in them, especially the youth after a night out in the town (as most unmarried Koreans live with their parents).
CONVENIENCE STORE CULTURE
In the absence of Western-style bars, where one can simply go to enjoy a beverage and not feel obligated to order food, S. Korea finds an ingenious alternative: convenience stores! I was fascinated when I first moved here to see people of all ages constantly hanging out at convenience stores for long periods of time. Most convenience stores have a space inside and/or outside with tables and chairs where patrons can sit to enjoy the products they purchased. I really love how strong this culture is not only in Korea but also throughout Asia. Convenience stores act as local points for casual social gatherings between friends, from young to old. I’ve partaken in this phenomenon a few times and I absolutely love it. I never thought I’d be hanging out at my local 7/11, drinking soju and enjoying an ice cream bar or a cup of ramen.
There are some things S. Korea simply cannot get right, like online banking, but when it comes to getting people the items they ordered online at a freaky fast speed the ROK delivers, literally. I am so spoiled by Korean delivery that I start to wonder where my package is if I don’t get it in two days’ time! The speed at which items are delivered is obviously tied to the tiny size of Korea but when I do leave this small island, I will certainly miss this service.
Who knows where the future of my relationship with S. Korea will lead. I’ll make sure to keep you abreast.
Have you been to a jimjilbang before? Are you into Korean Beauty products? What’s your opinion about Asia’s convenience store culture? I’m all ears! | If you enjoy this piece, feel free to share | Make sure to subscribe below for bi-monthly updates!