November 22, 2014

How I changed after Korea, Part 2/5: Proud to be an AMERICAN! (but…in a bad way)

In continuation with my previous post, here is Part 2 of how I changed while living in Korea.

-- 1. I prided in my American citizenship.--

I’ve mentioned before that Americans are, in general, treated very well. Koreans are both fascinated and a bit intimidated by them—their assertiveness, their physical dominance, and let’s not forget, English. I noticed this early on after seeing people’s faces light up when I told them I was from America. “Oh, Migook! Migook migook!” or “Oh~~ AMELCIA!!”

But the thing is, I’m not the typical “exotic” foreigner (tall, light hair, light eyes, sharp bone structure.) People didn’t know I was American; they usually just assumed I was Korean, albeit a little different-looking. And if it became obvious that I was slow to understand, they then assumed that I was a mentally disabled Korean. Or just really dumb. (My guess is that I was good enough at imitating the accent and intonation that they didn’t think I could be foreign?) But as you can imagine, a lot people weren’t as nice when they thought I was slow in the head. There have also been times when people thought I was a Chinese or Japanese national. And while the latter isn’t so bad, it still felt better to be American.

So after that, I made it a point to play up my American nationality. I tried to mention it early on in conversations. I put in the extra effort to speak perfect English and feign “American assertiveness.” At times, I even played the part of the bitchy foreign customer—point at something and say bluntly, “I’m not happy.” (This was taught to me by my Canadian friend.) I didn’t do it often, only when I felt that the other person was going to treat me badly if I didn’t (because there are a lot of really rude workers in Korea.) worked. People listened more. They didn't just shoo me away like they usually did.

It’s a cheap tactic, and I’m not proud of it. But in the moment, I just wanted to do anything I could to avoid unnecessary bad experiences. And in my defense, it wasn't that I refused to learn about Korean culture or assimilate to their way of doing things. I hope people can see by now that I was definitely not that kind of foreigner. Rather, I already knew about discrimination in Korea (whether it be for race or other things), and I just didn’t want to put up with it more than I had to. And overall, these experiences made me realize how strong USA’s brand power is.

-- 2. I became snooty about English. --

English is very important in Korea. There is an enormous emphasis placed on learning English.

In America, we don’t make a huge fuss about someone’s English being good or bad, so long as we can understand them. There are so many immigrants and people with accents that it rarely occurs to us to comment on someone’s English ability, let alone insult them for it. But in Korea, “bad English” is a bigger deal. People bring it up all the time. They constantly make self-deprecating comments about their “bad English”, make fun of their friends who also have bad English, and then ooh and ahh at the friend who does speak English. ”Bad English” is much more relevant in Korea than it is in America.

You see this in TV shows, too. If an English-speaking guest comes on, the hosts may ask him/her to speak English. The entire audience will then ooh and ahh and everyone will be so, so impressed. The hosts might comment about how good it sounds when they speak English. Host 1 may even try to converse with the guest in English before backing off shamefully, while the other hosts laugh and criticize his broken English. The audience will then follow along laughing at Host 1’s pitiful attempt, and afterwards, the editors will even add sweat marks or little comments to poke more fun at his bad English. Now, take those hosts and change them into a group of friends. That’s basically what happens in real life.

Yet, with everyone trying to learn English in Korea, few people actually succeed in being able to use it. Most people have substantial accents, mix up grammar, and have difficulty speaking smoothly. And although this is completely normal for their second language, it causes a lot of people to cower down when it comes to using English in real life. This brings us back to what I said earlier about English being intimidating—a lot of people shy away and grab their coworker instead.

Everyone wants it, everyone tries, but only a few actually get it. Knowing English kind of feels like power. The people who don’t know it are subdued to making self-deprecating comments and always wishing they spoke better, while the people who do are privy to good jobs and appraise.

Well...I speak English. I speak native level English. And against everything I was struggling with in Korea—my different clothing, my different face, added to my passive/childish personality which got me often stepped on—English was one thing that I could cling onto, just like my American citizenship. So I jumped on the English bandwagon.

You could feel the difference whenever I spoke English. People became shy and soft-spoken. It's like they backed off. It may not have been real respect, but it at least felt certain that they weren't going to be mean—because they couldn't; they couldn't fully express themselves in English. And it was also nice to finally ward off the cosmetic store workers for once, since they usually only speak Chinese or Japanese. But gradually, my use of English evolved to more than that. I became haughty. I began to judge people for their English ability. Because it’s one thing to speak English, but another to speak it natively, with the oh-so-great-sounding American accent. NS Yoon G, for example, despite being fluent, has a noticeable accent in this video:

Go to 0:29

...An accent that strong after spending all that time in America? And she was a UCLA student...Really?

Tiffany and Jessica from SNSD also have distinct Korean American accents.

Considering they were born in America, why is their English so bad? Their English should be way better.

First, let me apologize to any Korean readers I offended with those statements. I take them back right now! It was really bitchy of me to even think those things, and I'm embarrassed to publicly admit that I got to that point. (And ironic, considering that even I don't speak properly unless I try.) I'm not normally like that, which is what I’m trying to say: I changed in bad ways, too. Something about the experiences I had in Korea brought out the worst in me. Being alone and constantly being mocked for my different appearance (both clothing wise and sometimes just facially) was frustrating and confusing. I didn’t expect people to be so rude there. And on top of that, I was getting bullied at work, which was a big one. It was miserable. Getting crap at work, crap whenever I went out, and then more crap from online haters...I was in a bad place. I felt vulnerable, and my reaction was to use those behaviors as my self-defense.

Thankfully, these changes only lasted a few months; I'm back to normal now! After removing myself from those circumstances, I was able to clear my head of all that nonsense. I wasn’t like that before I went to Korea and I'm not like that anymore. :3

And although I say that "Korea brought out the worst in me", I am not blaming Korea. Yes, Korean society is high pressure in many ways, and yes, everything I said about Americans being treated well or English-speakers being revered is true. But in the end, everyone has control over their own actions. Those were my quick defenses (which I'm not proud of), but I'm sure that if I had stayed longer I would have found my own balance eventually. Coincidentally, I happened to leave around that time.

Moral of the story: If I could go back in time and do things differently, I would have studied hard to become fluent in Korean before going to Korea. This is relevant to me because 1.) I pass as Korean, hence granting me no leniency whatsoever. And 2.) because I am shy, passive, and sensitive. I'm the type of person who gets bummed out easily when people are mean. If I had just spoken fluent Korean, I could have probably avoided a lot of rude encounters and the above two from happening. So I recommend this for anyone who is similar to me in those aspects and planning to live in Korea long-term: Whether you're gyopo or just look similar enough to pass, if you also happen to be shy and sensitive, study Korean before going!

Thanks for reading! And don't hate me! ><

November 18, 2014

It's a blingy cherry anti-dust plug (aka earphone jack accessory)~

Born Pretty, as you may know, sells accessories—stationary, hair accessories, jewelry, socks, stuff like that. They also have a sizeable selection of anti dust plugs! They’re the things you stick in your earphone jack. I got a new phone recently (LG G3), and it only makes sense to prettify it with some bling! :D

This anti dust plug was sponsored by Born Pretty Store. Thank you Born Pretty.


Name:1Pc 3.5mm Bling Rhinestoned Cherry Headset Anti Dust Ear Cap Plug Stopper For iPhone Samsung
Color: white
Price on BornPretty: $2.09 ($1.88 with code “AYH10”) (Click here)

*Use “AYH10” for 10% off!

It came in a little bag. Born Pretty had wrapped the products in layers and layers of cushion, so they all arrived undamaged.

It looks identical to the photos on Born Pretty’s website.

The gold backing is actually just plastic, not metal:

Here's how it looks on my phone, whose earphone jack is on the bottom:

The crystals on this keychain (can I just call it a keychain?) are exceptionally sparkly. If you think about it, a lot of blingy rhinestones are actually grey. They’re sparkly, but their backing is grey, especially when you look at them straight on. But with this cherry, the backing is white. And as a result, it’s much brighter and more sparkly:

One last thing I want to point out is how short the chain is. If you look closely, there’s basically no chain. It’s just the cherry. So when you put your phone down, the keychain doesn’t clump together or flip over due to a long chain. Instead, the cherry lays down flat and right side up. It just sits there looking pretty.

▲ In contrast, notice how my other keychain is in the back is all clumped together as one big pile.

The rhinestones seem to be glued in tight. If they end up falling off, I’ll be sure to update this post. But as of right now, they look more than fine. :)

I love it! This cherry design is the perfect blend of cute innocence and glamorous bling, two things that I love. The rhinestones are exceptionally shiny, and I appreciate how pretty it looks even when I put my phone down (with no flipping over or clumping together.)

Bright, blingy, shiny, and cute. I have no complaints. I usually get bored of cute things easily (side effect of seeing too many cute things in Korea...), but this one makes me happy every time I look at my phone.

Here is the link to the product listing. If you plan to buy anything from Born Pretty after reading my reviews, be sure to use my 10% discount code AYH10!

I have two more cute earphone jack accessories to share, so stay tuned~

November 16, 2014

A sheet mask for dry skin: Skinfood Everyday Super Nut Facial Sheet Mask (Mini Review)

This mask boasts 5 different nut extracts to “transform dry, rough skin into a soft texture.” The 5 nuts are: sweet almond, macadamia, walnut, coconut, and cashew.

Skinfood -- Everyday Super Nut Facial Mask Sheet
Price in Korea: 1,000KRW

Serum Texture: It’s not a runny goo like most mask serums. Think of it more like a lotion. If you’ve ever put lotion on right after you showered (while your skin is still a little damp/wet), that’s how this serum feels!

Serum Amount: There’s only a weeeee bit extra serum. Actually, you can hardly call it extra; it’s mostly just the serum that gets stuck on the package. Definitely no extra puddles in this one! But the mask is saturated enough.

Mask Cloth: The cloth isthicker than average, and it also had a wavy sort of pattern on it. I don’t know if it made much difference, but it is unique!

Effect: As with most masks, my face felt sticky for a couple hours afterwards and continued to feel moisturized throughout the next day. However, this time, that layer of dried up serum on my face felt a thicker and creamier than usual. But this is probably just because of the serum texture.

Overall Opinion: No complaints! I think it’s good. The unique point of this mask is its serum texture and the mask cloth. Overall, I liked it just fine. I don't think it helped my skin any more than other masks, but at the very least, it's still a fair choice!

Thanks for reading!

November 13, 2014

Tattoos and Piercings in Korea! Tour and review of Cobra in Hongdae, Seoul

Awhile back I posted on my FB asking (in Korean) where to get piercings in Korea. I got two suggestions: Cobra and Crow, both of which are located in Hongdae. I arbitrarily decided to go with Cobra. And overall, it was a nice experience! The store is visually appealing (and welcoming), the prices are good, and people are nice. They also do tattoos, too!

It’s located in one of the back streets of Hongdae, which I am actually quite fond of given how peaceful they are compared to the main streets. :3

Here are the business hours displayed on their window. They open at 1pm and close at 11pm. Probably a good thing to note if you want to go there!

A closeup of their window display:

(This picture was taken at 11am (before they opened), which is why the store is dark.)

Ginormous earring:

One Piece figurines:

Heading into the store, they have this 3-tier sign by the entrance!

I spy some orange juice and oranges on the bench, too!

Panoramic view of the store:

It’s a small store. Here some photos, starting from the right side of the store:

Right wall: earrings, a music stand carrying a booklet of example photos, a heater, the counter, and a TV screen.

Middle: The area in the back where the woman in plaid is standing is the piercing area. The couple on the left
were looking at piercings for the girlfriend, who I believe was getting her cartilage pierced. ^^ (Notice their matching shoes, hehe~)

Left wall: more piercings, and what seem to be celebrity autographs hanging on the wall?

A straight-on view of the left wall:

They also seem to have a little doggie at the store, which I sneakily shot a picture of here:

They were trying to get him back into the pen area. :) And this photo inadvertently turned out to be a creeper shot because I’m photographing everyone’s butts, including the dog’s. ><

Store decorations:

They have this clock/gear/thing on the wall…I’m actually not sure what it is, but it looks cool!

More anime figurines! And a little bunting underneath:
I’m not big into anime, so the only ones I recognize are Slam Dunk. Does anyone recognize the others?

This is the booklet with example photos:

A closeup of their earring storage:

Does anyone know what the earrings in the middle and right jar are for? Are they for the tongue and belly button?

They have tons of earrings stored under the glass:

Dat phone *_* So sharp and glossy~

They also sell some rings and necklaces!

And here are their business cards~

Going back to the other side, let’s take a look at the piercings on the wall!

If I remember correctly, the earrings on these panels are the ones you can choose when getting your cartilage pierced. The earring comes free with the piercing :)

This panel has some cute animal earrings:

Brighty-colored earrings:

(Never seen pill earrings before!)

Christmas earrings on sale~~

Belly button ring rack (thank you Risa for correcting me!):

Pretty gold earrings:

And for some reason, they also had this out on display:

My guess is they wanted to showcase their equipment...which turns out to be quite helpful in this case! I wasn’t allowed to take photos of their equipment in the back, but what you see here is basically the same (if my memory does not fail me):

And although I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the piercing process, I was able to take this. They have a little diagram in the back that has both English and Korean:

And best of all, here are their prices. (Whew, I’m so thankful they let me take a picture of this useful information!)

If I’m not wrong, “all cartilage” includes the tragus, too. Because the second time I went, I had 4 piercings done (3 cartilage, 1 tragus), and the total price was around 60,000KRW. (I think the exact number was 64,000KRW or so.) But the math checks out, about 15,000KRW each.

After I paid, they then showed me this aftercare sheet written in English (so there’s really no problem if your Korean is lacking):

The girl then kindly explained what kind of saline solution to buy and how to clean my ear with it. I must have looked a confused (knowing that I'd forget as soon as I left), so she wrote it down for me~ How nice ^3^


All in all, I’m very happy with Cobra! I don’t know about body piercings but at least for cartilage piercings the price is wayyy better than where I live in America. Also, the people at Cobra were very nice and my piercings turned out great. One of my cartilages is still a bit sensitive, but at least I didn't get any major infections and keloids (unlike the time I did it in America…ㅜㅜㅜㅜㅜ) And if it matters, both times my piercer was a girl with black hair. Judging from their FB there's also a guy piercer, but I didn't have him. ^^

But yes, Cobra gets my two thumbs up if you’re thinking of doing ear piercings in Korea! If the prices where you are are as expensive as they are in my town, and if you think you can stomach the pain, I would totally recommend doing them all the next time you’re in Korea. That’s what I did, and I don’t regret it. :D

Here is Cobra’s FB page if you’re interested! They post pictures of their piercing and tattoo work ^^

Their address:
Name: Cobra 코브라

Address: 서울특별시 마포구 와우산로29라길 26

Click here for map.

Thanks for reading :3