It’s amazing how different beauty standards are from one country to another. What’s hot and trendy in one place may not be considered beautiful or sexy in another. The world is so large and diverse that there’s literally an unlimited set of standards by which we judge beauty. What’s happening in North America, for instance, may not bode well at all in Europe. What’s attractive in India may not be attractive at all to people from countries in the Middle East. Heck, even Japan and Korea have differences even though they are so close together geographically.
So why is the world like this? To me, it all boils down to cultural standards. What’s beautiful and sexy really does have a lot to do with what is acceptable in a particular country. This, along with what drives and economy and makes money, can help determine what people all over the world consider beautiful.
In Korea, there is certainly a particular perspective that people in the west may not understand clearly if they are not familiar with Eastern, and particularly Korean culture. Take dying one’s hair for example. Most everyone around the world knows about it, and people from virtually every country do it. It’s the percentage of people that do it and accept it that differs from place to place. From what Richard and I have personally observed from living in Korea for over 4 years, Koreans have pretty much universally accepted hair dying as part of their culture, and in fact most people do it. Now when I say most people, this of course covers a wide age range.. so let me get a little more specific.
From what we’ve seen, a high percentage of old folks, maybe 40 years and older like to dye their hair. Most women do it once they start seeing greys appear on their scalp, and rarely do we see women who let their head turn grey naturally. When we do we usually do a double take (discreetly of course!) because it’s just so damn rare here! We’ve seen plenty of men do it as well, but alas men as they get older in Korea tend to be a bit less vain. People in the twenties and thirties do it regularly, and not because they are turning grey but more to stand out from the crowd since just about all Koreans are born with naturally black hair. Men and women alike in this age bracket dye their hair all sorts of colors, but mostly they are dying their hair to some shade of brown, or at least giving it highlights. As well, mothers like to sometimes take their young children into the salon and it isn’t uncommon to see children younger than ten with unnatural hair color and even a perm!
When compared to what we are used to seeing in the U.S. (we were just there for over a month), the percentage of Koreans dying their hair versus Americans is tremendously higher.
And it’s not just altering hair color that is so widely accepted in Korea. A whole swath of unique and exotic beauty standards exist. Women love wearing makeup, and so do some of the men! If you’re a fan a Kpop or Kdramas then this will come as no surprise to you. But take an average person from any western country who isn’t that familiar with Korea, expose them to this, and I’m sure this would be a huge surprise. Me wearing makeup just isn’t that accepted in daily life throughout the world minus rock stars, actors, and anyone who works in the television industry. You don’t hardly ever (as far as I know) see a male employee on Wall St. heading into work with eye liner and lipstick on. You just don’t. But does it happen in Korea? Not only is the answer yes, but people here are generally accepting of it.
And the list goes on and on.
We cover some of the aspects of beauty here in our video, but seriously we barely scrape the surface. There are so many ways to observe and judge beauty in Korea that it really is fascinating, especially from a western mindset. But for at least Richard and I, it’s all just part of the game. It’s what makes cultures unique and interesting. It’s what makes us human.
After all, do we really want to live in a world where we are all the same?