As we enter the last 4 months of our current contract, we would like to share some posts about what life is like in Korea. There have been a lot of fun experiences as well as bad experiences, but I thought I would start this out with a more comic post about Korean culture.
Those who know me will attest to the fact that I look about 5 years younger without facial hair than I do with facial hair. When we arrived I did not want to look like a young, inexperienced teacher, so I thought I would keep my facial hair to make me look older and more mature. Turns out Koreans, and most Asians, do not grow facial hair as well as Westerners, which I thought was odd because in most Asian Kung Fu type movies the actors always have facial hair, especially the bad guys.
Shortly after arriving our boss’ mother-in-law told our boss’ wife that she was really concerned why they hired me because she said I looked like a drug addict with my facial hair and all. Now, to her credit, I did have shaggy hair and my facial hair wasn’t maintained very well because I don’t have a beard trimmer here. So in the interest of not scaring away all our students, I decided to shave and stay clean shaven. (Which is both sad and rather difficult.) Plus I didn’t want to make all the Koreans jealous of my studliness haha.
Side Note: As opposed to popular misconceptions, there actually is a plethera of shaving razors and shaving cream in Korea. I had read online before coming that I would need to pack my own stuff. But they have razors and shaving cream in almost all supermarkets for the same price as the states.
Well after 6 months of staying clean shaven I finally decided to start growing my facial hair back. And it was an immediate hit. I even had mother’s writing notes in English in their blue books saying that I looked more handsome. I should probably clarify two things about that. To the best of my knowledge, Koreans are very blunt and say what they think about a person’s appearance. So saying someone looks nice or handsome is more of a statement of a fact than flirtation. People tell Rachel all the time how beautiful she is and I want to punch them for hitting on her. But it’s a different culture. And the second thing is that each student has a blue notebook/journal that gets sent home everyday and returned. It’s an easy way for parents and teachers to communicate. We can tell the parents how their students are doing in class and the Korean teachers can tell them what is happening in school. It is always interesting and entertaining when the parents try to write notes in English to us.
So the moral of the story is, don’t stress too much about facial hair in Korea. Most of the Koreans love and are kind of jealous. It’s more of a non-issue here than anything.