What can I do to make myself more attractive to Koreans? I am currently learning how to speak Korean and I plan on abandoning English for the most part and making Korean my primary language when I have a good enough grasp of it. I have blonde hair and grey eyes; would it be better to dye my hair black? I heard Koreans are very racist and prefer snow white skin, is this true? Obviously this would make tanning of any kind unforgivable. I have seen some celebrity groups such as BIGBANG say they like caucasian women as much as korean but I know they do not speak for Korea as a whole. I am completely IN LOVE with this country and I want to do all I can to make myself into a good korean citzen, I do not want to seem ugly... I simply want to assimilate into South Korean society.
Ugh. The Korean answered this type of question in a previous post, which is still the No. 1 post in all of AAK! history in terms of readership, but crap like this just does not stop flooding the Korean's inbox. Boys, let no one say that Asian men cannot get girls -- this blog is being carried by the ladies who are desperate for them. I mean, thinking about dyeing the hair black? Really?
So this time, the Korean went out and got help. Here is a perspective from a white American woman about dating a Korean man in Korea. Special to AAK!, the Korean presents the special guest blogger, I'm No Picasso -- after the jump.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at email@example.com.
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Well, I'm not The Korean. I'm not even a Korean, which I'll get back to in a minute, but I do feel somewhat equipped to answer this question, which was passed on to me by TK, because I am a foreign woman living, working and dating among Koreans. A white foreign woman with reddish hair and green/blue eyes, depending on the weather, to be more specific.
To me, there are two very different, very separate questions being asked here, which are kind of misrepresenting themselves as one: how can I be attractive (not ugly) to Koreans (specifically, I guess, Korean men, like Big Bang) and how can I be a good Korean citizen who is assimilated within Korean society. The two are heavily unrelated, although they may cross paths occasionally (with the -- in my opinion -- right people).
The first thing we need to clear up is this: If you are not Korean, you will never be Korean. No amount of hair dye or language ability will ever change the fact that you are fundamentally, physically, culturally and ethnically not Korean. And as it should be. Any attempt to deny that only lends itself to a habit of misunderstanding and disrespecting not only Korean culture, but also your home culture and the things that make you who you are. Trying to make yourself Korean by changing your hair color and your language undermines all of the truly intrinsically beautiful things that make Korea what it is.
There is a big difference between assimilating into a society and being a product of that society. A difference that you may recognize cognitively, but will not fully realize in practice until you get here and start to learn about how different you really are, and how difficult it can be to adjust to a different culture, which can mean changing very basic, core understandings of how the "world" works, what is "right" and "wrong", and what any number of things mean.
It can be a discouraging notion to face down -- during my first year or two in Korea, as I started to realize that Korea is a place where I want to stay for a long time and, therefore, naturally, want to be an integral part of, the fact that "Koreans" would never consider me "Korean" no matter what I did was something I found to be incredibly discouraging. But, after I began to settle into my new identity as a minority and a foreigner, I started to realize that the idea isn't a completely wrong one. And it doesn't make me any less valuable to my Korean coworkers, friends, or boyfriend. It's just who I am -- I am an American. And no matter how hard I work to understand Korean culture, or speak Korean, or become Korean in my habits, big parts of me will always be American.
Does that mean that I should just give up? For a minute or two, on my worst days, I thought that maybe it did. But as I've continued to try my hardest to adjust and adapt, I've realized that it's the complete opposite. And here's where we'll get to the real answer to this question: I will never be Korean, but what will make me most "attractive" to the right Koreans, and what will make me a "good Korean citizen" is my Americanness, plus my respect and understanding for how Korea is different from me, and my attempts to adjust to Korea as much as I can. Nobody expects me to be perfect -- far from it. But it's about the places where I do my best not even to set aside my Americanness when it conflicts too strongly with Koreanness, but to approach those differences with an open mind and an understanding that different is not better or worse -- it's just different.
And here's another important part of what will make you attractive to Koreans: not ever assuming that you completely understand Korean culture, have "become" Korean, or that you know what being a "Korean" definitively means. That means not accepting and repeating things like, "Koreans are very racist." Ever. It means closing your mind like a steel trap to the easy ways out, and the one-sentence answers about who and what Koreans and Korea are. You'll learn more about how important that is when you get here and become a foreigner, and start to hear every day about who and what foreigners are. Even something as innocuous as someone telling you that, "Foreigners eat a lot of bread," will be enough to start drawing your lines between yourself and some Koreans. Because even the simplest, most non-offensive, "Foreigners are...." statements will take on a dire implication about how that person is going to be able to accept you, as someone who is different from them. And when you do the same thing, you will give Koreans the same sinking gut feeling. And they will draw their lines with you, in return.
Now, as a kind of summary to all of the rest, and in an attempt to answer the second part of the question....
I really know nothing of Big Bang's preferences in regards to women -- I would imagine they would be quite different, given that they are all individuals, and further still would be the divide between what Big Bang prefer in a woman and what the world's entire population of Korean men prefer in women. To cover all of the bases of all of the things all of the men I have dated in Korea prefer in women would take a little more than a novel, being that being Korean was pretty much all they had in common, but I can tell you what my boyfriend (who is Korean) likes about me (a woman).
He likes my red hair and my small face (Western). He likes my individualistic tendencies and my habit of running off at the mouth when I disagree with someone, regardless of where they fall in the hierarchy (... Western?). He dislikes my ultimate respect for and trust in the hierarchy (.....Korean?). He likes and dislikes my constant lectures about his lack of filial piety. He dislikes my annoyance with his lack of 눈치. He likes my 눈치. He likes my hideous mistakes when I'm speaking Korean. He likes the fact that I try my best to speak Korean.
As the list goes on, it gets more and more difficult to put a category in parentheses after the fact. That's because whether an aspect is considered "Western" or "Korean" has little bearing on whether or not he likes it. Or whether or not it is what I am or am not, compared to him. In some ways, I am more "Korean". In some ways, he is more "Western". Because we are both just ourselves.
And at the end of the day, what my boyfriend is attracted to is me. And if he were American, I imagine it would be much the same. He doesn't like me because I'm a foreigner, and he doesn't like me because I've "become Korean". He doesn't like me because I am different from him, or because I am the same as him. He just likes me. And all of the mixed up parts that make me what I am, similar to him in some ways (whether those ways be Korean or Western), and different from him in some ways (whether those ways be Korean or Western).
What he does like about me, which does relate to my foreignness and his Koreanness, is the fact that I've really invested myself in understanding Korea. He finds it a little silly that I continue to keep this blog, for example, for nearly three years now, and likes to tease me about it from time to time. But he always ends these little barbs with a serious face and a comment about how I've broken his stereotypes about foreigners. About how they want to remain separate from Koreans, or how their classic one year foray into becoming Korean cultural anthropologists usually ends in more misunderstandings than the other way around.
The most important thing you can do if you want to be accepted into Korean society is realize that you have a long, hard road ahead of you. And that you aren't going to get there overnight. And if you think that you can, then you are probably making more than a few huge mistakes. There are a lot of emotional ups and downs that come along with trying to fit in with a new culture, but you're never going to get anywhere if you give up and try to simplify things, in order to make it feel easier. To really do something the right way, you have to slow down and accept that you are in for a hell of a lot of work, and that you are going to make constant mistakes, and you may not (probably won't) ever be perfect.
The good news is, if it were as simple as buying a bottle of hair dye and avoiding the sun, it would hardly be the adventure into understanding yourself and others that it is. The reason why it's exciting and interesting and challenging and educational and very nearly almost even spiritual at times, is the same reason that it can be so difficult.
But maybe I've just misunderstood the entire premise of the question. If what you really meant was, how can I pick up the greatest number of Korean men in the easiest manner possible, then my one piece of advice would be this: ditch the black, entirely. I've always heard it said that gentlemen prefer blondes.
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Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.