By Joo Heon Kim
My previous article, “A Korean International Student Shares His View Of Americans And Plastic Surgery” generated many comments on a community page targeting international Korean students in the U.S. It seemed many Korean students agreed that American culture emphasizes individuality and not being self-conscious while the Korean culture places more importance on how others see you. Last week, a Korean girl named Sarah left a comment that this could be a problem when it comes to interracial relationship as well.
Sarah has a Caucasian boyfriend who was born and raised in Idaho and he didn’t really care about his style that much. On the other hand, Sarah always cares about her image and spends a lot of time on her looks. Although they had different lifestyles, Sarah was attracted to her boyfriend at first because he seemed very confident about himself. However, she was frustrated when she introduced her boyfriend to her parents from Korea when they visited her school last week.
“My parents told me my boyfriend looked like a typical redneck because he was wearing a tacky tank top and his hair seemed pretty messy,” Sarah said. Her parents did not have a good impression of Sarah’s boyfriend. They told Sarah that they were disappointed because she was dating a guy who doesn’t seem to take care of himself that much.
“When I told my boyfriend about this, he seemed offended and he even said he hates the Korean culture since it makes everyone think too much about how others look at them. He sounds too oblivious to me,” Sarah complained.
Sarah even showed her boyfriend a picture of a famous Korean actor, Song Joong-Ki, wearing a dandy suit because she wanted to give him a guideline for proper attire. But her boyfriend told her Song Joong-Ki looks too gay because of his makeup and hairstyle.
He seems to think styling too much and being obsessed with appearances means you’re weak. Sarah couldn’t understand this because she thinks it is important to take care of your image to make a good first impression. Since people will judge you based on first impressions, it seems unrealistic to her to not care about your appearance. Many Americans might disagree with this though, since spending too much time on your image makes you obsessed with your looks.
Sarah asked for my advice, but I still don’t have an answer for her. Please leave comments if you had similar situations or if you have any advice for Sarah.
(About the author: Joo Heon Kim is an international student from South Korea studying journalism and is in his fourth year at the University of Iowa.)
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