23 November 2011

Things to love about Korea #4: Random Compliments

So, here's the thing - Korean women are beautiful.  I mean drop dead stunning.  Yes, in the photo above the first one is a model, and the second one's a K-pop star, but that third one is just a lady on the street (thanks to The Sartorialist).  The hair!  Those dark eyes!  The style!  The LEGS!  (Now if my husband was writing this post, he'd stop here, because this is one of the things he loves about Korea, but I've got a different story to tell, so stay with me please.)  
[Fun with fashion, K-pop style : Sistar in polka-dots, Miss A in... ]

Yes, I know Korea has something like the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world, and K-pop stars don't eat, but I see ladies like this on the streets of Seoul every single day.  Korean women are beautiful.

And most of the time I can appreciate the beauty around me and be mature and not fall in to that terrible, terrible comparison trap.  But every now and again I have one of those days.  You know the ones - maybe you had a massive fight with your husband/BFF/dog last night, or perhaps you haven't had a good nights sleep in weeks, or maybe you're completely stressed out and your skin has decided to let the world know about it (or maybe even all three).  

And on those days when I venture out into our neighbourhood - which just happens to be an area where pretty young Koreans flock to get their fashion fix and to flaunt those legs in the shortest hemlines - I can't help but feel a bit frumpy, a bit tired and old, a bit chunky.  

And in that sea of shapely thighs and glossy locks sometimes I start shaking an angry fist at my lack of willpower and my Western love affair with pasta and bread, and cursing my parents for not having a single shred of Korean DNA to pass on to me.

And then, out of the blue, some random shop assistant will say 'you are very pretty'.  Really!  You see, whilst in my home town I wouldn't cause whiplash walking down the street, as a foreigner in Korea I am still a rare and exotic flower.  (I know of another ex-pat who lived in Seoul for several years and was constantly being told she looked just like Nicole Kidman.  Now this lady is lovely and gorgeous and all that, but she'd be the first to say she is not Nicole Kidman's twin sister.)

And what I like best about this, aside from the fact that it is rather lovely to be paid a compliment (we don't do it often enough do we?  Go on, go pay someone a compliment, I'll wait for you), is that it gets me out of my own head.  

I'm actually very, very good at living in my own head (it's generally quite a lovely place to be).  But those out-of-the-blue compliments that are so far removed from the way I'm feeling at that moment make me remember in a flash that not everyone sees the world through my eyes, that sometimes I need to not live in my own head so much.  

That maybe the reason I had the fight with my husband/BFF/dog is because I assumed they knew what was in my own head, and maybe I need to actually talk them through it, and reassure them that I do in fact love them.  That perhaps I haven't had a good night's sleep for weeks because there's all this stuff in my head that I should let out every now and again.  That the thing I'm completely stressed out about is probably totally solvable, if I took the time to share it with someone.  So thank you, random shop lady, for reminding me there's a wider world out there.

Do you live in your own head sometimes?  Does the world have a way of telling you to get out, every now and again?


  1. I know how you feel! Whilst I don't live surrounded by stunning Koreans, I am a busy mum of two with eye bags the size of the UK so I often have days were I feel down about what I look like. It's funny though because whenever I go out looking the most harassed/tired or with no make-up are always the days when some guy starts tries to chat me up. Maybe it's just the area I live in lol (since I'm married with a visible wedding ring and often with my two kids!) but either way it makes me smile and reminds me we are all different and beautiful to someone!

  2. Great read Emily! I love aimless ponderings, watching people pass by, dreaming about what could be..but it's not something that I am able to indulge too often (love my children!)..

    I love your point about taking time to compliment people. I try to remember to say the positive things to people that I'm thinking. It always makes people smile. Makes me pretty happy too! :D

  3. Oh I could not have said it better, Emily. All of it rings true with me.
    Some days in HK I feel so fat, being surrounded by naturally stick thin locals. I wish I had more energy and drive to do more exercise and get in better shape (not that I am hugely fat, I just have a few too many squishy bits) Plus I am like you, and wont give up my pasta/chocolate/wine. I am eating more rice though and less pasta since being here.
    I try to only say nice things, and give compliments often to my friends and family - it makes the world a better place, I believe.
    BTW, I love reading your blog and are so glad we are "bloggy" friends.
    Have a great weekend, lovely.


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