In California, I’d spent so much time in the sun that most people in Seoul assumed I was Southeast Asian, and at work, When I arrived, I think we were all surprised by just how much I didn’t fit in: They had no idea what to do with me.
But I was determined to make the most of my time in Seoul and knew that I had to adapt to the city, since it wasn’t going to adapt to me. It wasn’t long before I was taking all the new experiences in stride. It helped that my coworkers immediately took me under their wing: My female colleagues treated me like I was their long -lost cousin- a cousin who just happened to have been raised by wolves. The people in my office teased me because I had messy, un-brushed hair, and I was met with blank stares when I tried to explain that I’d been going for the beachy waves look. They thought I was barbaric because I didn’t use essence in my skin-care regimen, and laughed with me (or at me?) when I admitted that I didn’t even know what it was. When they asked me if I had ever been to a bathhouse or exfoliated, I opted for the easy way out and just lied. I’ve been recently, I said, even though the truth was that I hadn’t stepped inside a Korean SPA since puberty.
In passing, my coworkers would say, and rather bluntly, “I could see your dark circles from way over there, “or” What is growing out of your skin?” My favorite, because it seemed to come from a place of genuine anguish about my well-being: “Please brush your hair.”
Asian families tend to be very blunt and won’t think twice about telling you you’re getting fat or that you need to get a boyfriend, so rather than being offended by it, I was used to this well-intentioned rudeness, and it got me thinking about my skin. Also, since diving right into Korean culture, I’d become addicted to the soap-operatic dramas on television, and I’ll admit, I was (still am) shallow enough to be influenced by the actresses. Their faces were flawless.
Source: Charlotte Cho’s Book – “The Little Book of Skin Care”