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This week’s TL;DR is a question we thought would be asked much earlier. Ah yes, aegyo, an unavoidable behaviour in Korea. For those of you that are unfamiliar with aegyo, it’s a type of style or behaviour of acting innocent and cute like a child, even when you’re well beyond your childhood years. But describing it as “acting” is a bit unfair, and needs a bit more description than that.

We don’t like to say “style” or “acting” because real aegyo should be a natural response, and not something done at the right time to impress another person. For example, we have a friend who hates being told to sing on cue. If we say to her, “oh how does that song go again?” she blushes furiously and mumbles a bit to herself while trying to get the tune right, and with embarrassed downcast eyes, eventually admits defeat and claims that she can’t sing on cue in front of people. She is not Korean or Asian in anyway; she is from England and totally unaware of the cuteness of her actions, but she is indeed being aegyo.

She was being cute and sweet, not with the intent of impressing a guy or evoking a reaction from other people. It wasn’t feigned at all, and as a result her aegyo is genuine, and since it’s genuine, it’s not vomit inducing. Aegyo done naturally is endearing. On the other hand, aegyo done forcefully is revolting. This is the clear distinction we want to make between natural aegyo – a cuteness that reveals itself because of one’s natural innocence – and feigned aegyo – an act of cuteness, an imitation, brought about in hopes of getting a reaction out of people. Natural aegyo is an end itself, while feigned aegyo is a means to an end.

fake aegyo

Don't be fake, yo

The cutesy aegyo voice can be really adorable when it pops up to express genuine disappointment over a dropped ice cream cone, but when it never turns off, and remains high pitch and whiney like a 5 year old learning to talk while others try to eat dinner, it’s really reeeeeally annoying. Girls will baby talk – often in third person – to guys in order to try to win them over, like “Martina wants pizza” or “Sarah wants that Gucci purse!” and sometimes it works. From an outsider’s perspective, though, uhhh. It sends shivers up your spine.

Aegyo body language can be as simple as a small pouty lip, a hand fluttering to cover the mouth when shy, or as complex as multiple foot stops in union with shoulder gyrations. We prefer the former, a natural bashfulness or shyness from people who are consistently innocent and sweet looking. When you see that bashfulness from a girl who was just swearing at the taxi driver a few moments earlier, then, well…you see our point.

Clothing is a complicated issue, as the cutey style is fashionable for both those who are aegyo and those who are not. However, seeing modest and whimsical clothing in combination with aegyo seems appropriate; however, a mini-skirt, stiletto heels, gold bangley shirt, and a Gucci bag feels somehow like a mixed message when an aegyo voice pops up. We think it’s because a cute flowing dress suggests an innocence, while mini-skirts and stilettos suggest a confidence with one’s sexuality, and thus doesn’t really seem fit for aegyo. But, hell, they’ll still try anyways, and a lot of times it will work.

Aegyo Superhero

What powers would aegyo superheroes have?

Not all hope in humanity is lost, though. Even though there are a lot of guys in Korea who love aegyo style, there are just as many guys (and girls) that can’t stand it. We have a Korean friend who met a Korean girl. She claimed to LOVE badminton, so they made a date to play together. Once on the court, however, the girl acted terrified of the birdie, and pouted and childishly screamed to avoid it from hitting her. The guy was disgusted, walked off the court, and ended the relationship with the girl altogether. That’s a great example of a BAD time to be aegyo. She thought that she was being cute, and that the guy would like her being terrified of a badminton birdie, but he was of a stronger constitution than that, and walked away.

Also, we raised the point in the video that people in Korea aren’t as aegyo as they seem in Korean dramas. Korean dramas (the romantic comedies, at least) tend to be very slapstick and over-the-top a lot of the times, and aren’t really that accurate at depicting life in Korea. Yes, we do see aegyo in the streets sometimes, but not all the time, and not as fiercely as we see in dramas.

Now, we know a lot of people might say that Martina is aegyo, and that’s she’s putting on a show, to which we want to draw a very important distinction. There’s a difference between love-language/cutesy talk and aegyo. While aegyo is prevalent from the beginning of the relationship, love-language is something that grows and evolves with the relationship. When we first started dating each other, we did not cutesy talk each other. But it started to grow after a while. We’d come up with nicknames for each other (some of which you’ve heard in our videos) and just speak with each other more affectionately. That affectionate speaking, though, is not a means of manipulating each other, though. See the difference? It’s an important one we think.

Ah. This topic of Aegyo is a difficult one to fully delve into. Hopefully we weren’t too harsh about this, but we do feel strongly about it. Let us know what you think, or if we’re totally off on this Aegyo thing. Our experience with Aegyo girls is limited, of course, because we never dated them, and so we only witnessed the aegyo from an outsider’s perspective…

TL;DR – Aegyo is when a girl acts cute. When it’s natural it’s great. When it’s faked it’s gross. Not everyone does it. Some guys love it. Some guys hate it.

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  1. In North America, most people find confidence and a “go-getter” attitude attractive rather than cuteness and innocence. I think since being cute and innocent is associated with little kids, teens or adults in North America associate being Aegyo with being immature or childish. Not all North Americans think this, obviously, and I personally am okay with being Aegyo. But like y’all said, there’s a point where Aegyo gets out of control.

  2. I have a question what does Korean guys think of extremely shy girls?.

  3. I feel like aegyo can be compared to the dumb blond stereotype in America.

  4. camaronciux

    I was once in korea and saw the aegyo thing, i think its a childish behaviour that could be natural but when a whole society recognizes it with a name even if not everybody has it or use it i find it very unnatural, i started to think that maybe koreans work so hard at such young age that they´ve lost their childhood, like the peter pan syndome, its not only the aegyo, i found some people with the maturity of a 3 year old and other kind of childish behaviour plus some lie a lot to save their face, i guess all societies have troubles and maybe it was a coincidence i found many of them in korea

  5. I love kpop and Korean culture, but aegyo is one of the things I can’t stand. When most guys do it, it just doesn’t do anything for me and I think it doesn’t suit them. When girls do it, it makes my skin crawl. I find it very repulsive and wrong. I’m not sure on what levels, maybe because it seems so childish to me as an Eastern European. But mainly? Because it’s so fake. You mentioned in this post that it’s about manipulating someone and pretending to be afraid or affectionate or sad. That makes me both annoyed and disgusted. Genuine cuteness is a great thing and it makes my heart melt. But forced aegyo – the high pitched tone, the big eyes, the immature facial expressions.. No. Just no. 

  6. Last year me and my friend were in Hongdae, Korea. We were strolling by the street that had all the stores and we were in this kind of gadget-store looking around. We saw a girl and her boyfriend talking when suddenly the girl picks up two items and turns to him saying ‘Oppa!! Ottokhae??!’ in super aegyo mode! Then the guy smiled and pinched both her cheeks. 

    Me and my friend were pretty horrified because it was so over the top xD 

  7. Cami Panda

    Wait. So I live in America. How exactly would you describe it in America & in Korea? I think that it partially fits me but I’m not sure.

  8. In the early episodes of Three Brothers the guys discuss being cute and making Aegyo moves.  It’s so funny (but disturbing)  to see Lee Joon Hyuk doing this cutesy stuff.

  9. Waaaah :D i’ve been so desperate to know the meaning of aegyo!! :) My friends always call me aegyo, and i feel so bad because i dont know what is it :D Now i know.

  10. im 13 and apperantly my friend always talks about my aegyo…. i dont mean to be aegyo and then this chick came up to me and started yelling at me for trying to be adorable….. is there like a way to shut off ones natural aegyo

    • Kaitlyn Rae Avery Hematyar

      That question by itself was too adorable for me to pass up. :) If you’re naturally adorable, i.e. aegyo, then why not just go with it? The key word here is Naturally. If you’re not faking it, then most people are going to just think you’re cute, not annoying. And the ones that do find it annoying, probably find other things annoying. Can’t please everyone. That’s just a fact of life. :)

  11. crazyAanime

    by the way i found you guys today! i typed in aegyo in google and found this website with the aegyo video omg im coming here all the time now!

  12. crazyAanime

    u guys crack me up I love you guys i get so much info!

  13. Anonymous

    i found your site by accident…but please let me tell you that i not only find it infoming, i also find it entertaining and memorable. THANK YOU BIG TIME FROM AUSTRALIA. <3

  14. Oh…man
    you made me spray water in my mouth…..

  15. You guys know Korea better than me!

  16. Kayley Suk

    AGH, remember the time there was this over-aegyo girl. She pretended to be tomboy, put on an airy accent, pretended to be tomboy, had girly pencil cases, complimented everyone in her cutesy voice, and read A-List secretly. :) Great times…

  17. I was a real tomboy in high school, and now that I am in college I wanna get more cutie…its hard though. Hard to be cutsy with a Beiber hair cut BL   (I had it before him)  Im trying to grow it..but its slow going. Look like a boy in cute dress outfits lol

  18. Anonymous

    When I talk to adults or am on the phone my voice gets more childish and I have a baby face too >.> It’s not my choice either.
    Sunny has aegyo and some men think it’s really cute, and some women do too. But some people just want to punch her for doing it (her members :P)

  19. Byeonguk Yook

    Come to think of it, I just realized that Puss in Boots in the Shrek movies does aegyo. Shrek totally falls for it.

  20. Byeonguk Yook

    Come to think of it, I just realized that Puss in Boots in the Shrek movies does aegyo. Shrek totally falls for it.

  21. crystal cabico

    i don’t believe others when they say i have aegyo… i really don’t mean to do it (whatever “it” is) but i do know that i get mistaken for a teen/pre-teen. the common age range people guess is 12-17. 

    i thought getting carded for buying a cd was bad enough (since there was >:( bad language!! in it), i got carded for pumping gas into my own car (the legal age is 15 here). the attendant asked if my dad was outside while i paid… being oblivious i just asked him “oh, you know my dad?” -_-‘

  22. Apparently I’m very aegyo. =.= It suuuuuucks. I asked one of my Indonesian guy friends once why everyone loves introducing me to new people, embarrassing me or getting me to talk on the phone (this one happens WAY too much. One time my friend called me long distance from SK while he was at a party just so his friends could talk to me.=.=” ), he said “You’re like a tomboy, but when you’re embarrassed or around new people, it’s very adorable. The way you speak and act, it’s innocent and shy, and your voice is very pure and sweet too, like a child’s voice.” Thankfully this only happens when I become shy/embarrassed/polite or while on the phone (I hate talking on the phone), otherwise I would go crazy. XD

    No one believes I’m an adult when I talk on the phone though. TT I try to conduct business or handle something over the phone, and the person either thinks it’s a prank and laughs at me or asks “may I speak to your mommy or daddy, sweetie?” =.= It’s like I’m an adult, not a 12 year old! gosughsdgwrgnwrljgeoguhfs

  23. Okay, I’m actually a Korean, so I can say this with confidence that aegyo is normally not as blatant as it is in K-Drama or K-pop. You’ve got it right that natural aegyo is super-cute and it sort of reveals the inner innocence of a person, but there are few girls who actually use aegyo to get their way. Guys fluctuate between thinking aegyo is the cutest thing since Spudgey and thinking that it’s as horrible as girl!Simon, but fake aegyo is normally used over-the-top in imitation of K-Drama and K-pop as a joke between friends or as a way to tease the other person (sort of like how in America you get people having blatanty fake over-the-top reactions to make other people laugh). Aegyo is really, in the end, just another nuance of Korean culture that you’ll never really understand in America, but will easily fit into (unless you’re some gangster claiming the backstreets of Chicago or something)

  24. Mia Bernard

    Martina and Simon,   Your affectionate playfulness towards each other is DEFINITELY a form of true Aegyo Koreans seek.   Aegyo not only means an endearing bashful style but also means endearing playfulness.  And you two are endearingly playfull ( coming from your nature ) and that’s why I’m attracted to you two.    The sad thing is young people not knowing what true Aegyo is, try to make it happen and in the process confuse others and themselves too.  In my definition, you guys are loaded with Aegyo and most Koreans would say ” Of course!!   If Simon and Martina don’t have Aegyo , who would???”     LOVE your aegyo!!  :)

  25. jelliekookie

    Ahhh Aegyo. :)  I think mostly Asians find it cute, like I sometimes do it by accident, when I get annoyed with someone, I make this face and Asian guys at my school give this ‘smile’ and say “You’re so cute!” Combine that when we’re out and I dress cutesy (It’s how I dress #shrug) so then I look all aegyo. And I have chubby cheeks and dimples. hahaha. love your articles!!!

  26. Anonymous

    that’s naesung, or affectation. aegyo means affection.

  27. kingsleyip

    Are products in Korea expensive compared to Canada or any other country? Products imported from Asian countries seem to be really expensive, is it just to cover shipping?

  28. this is really well explained!

  29. Aeiji Kazuhide

    I’m one of those in denial lol. Seriously though, I don’t think I act that way. I’m just an interesting spectacle sometimes and my co-teacher points it out like that. 

  30. Wow! I was wondering the same thing:) Thanks for sharing~ you guys are so funny and cute! *^-^*

  31. wow…just not into it…sort of creeps me out. 

  32. wow….just not into it…sort of creepy

  33. A Korean person told me that girls dominate more than the guys when it comes to sports in Korea. Is it because of their attitudes? like korean girls are more aggressive or focused than the guys? What is your opinion about that?

  34. Anonymous

    Simon & Martina, do you guys know how Koreans get their flawless skin? Would it be makeup or something else?

  35. Okay, definitely my favorite TL;DR yet. Mostly because of the “You’re Beautiful” reference, but also because of all the X-Men references! :D This was a great one guys! Thanks! :D And i totally loved the little Taekyung at the bottom of the screen. :D

  36. I think im kinda aegyo…wat i mean by that is that im naturally really shy and quiet especially when im not around my family which is when im usually more outgoing but even my family still describes me as being quiet and shy so i guess i fit the aegyo description? Although i live in America and for some people, especially people who dont know me well sort of think im weird because i can be pretty quiet and get embarrassed easily sometimes. =/

  37. i like acting aegyo. ideky.

    i purposely act aegyo subtly when im embarrassed so idk whether you would count that as fake or real.(it’s fake. lmao)

  38. I’ll do it with my boyfriend !!! :)

  39. jazzyfish

    I’m going to be aegyo from this point on…
    Just have that fear of it ending up like this:
    To my dad ” OPPA!!! Can I have some …candy?” *puppy eyes* + *hugs* + *whining voice*Dad – “No”…. I already act pretty aegyo already so it’ll probably be fine. Thanks for the video!

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