A question about Korean fashion and style! But, more than just about the trends and style: how important is it to be stylish in Korea if you’re a foreigner? Will you not “fit in” if you’re not stylish? Is there more pressure put on foreigners, because they’re foreigners? If so, how has our style changed because of living in Korea?

Well, we kinda answer both questions, but disagree with the bridge between them. Yes, we have changed our style while living in Korea, and yes, it has changed because of Korea, but we didn’t change it because of a desire to fit in or to be more accepted. We’re foreigners, and we’ve come to accept that we’ll always be viewed as outsiders.

Now, don’t take that in a super-negative way. It’s not like we’re sneered at or excluded from anything. Korean people are always super nice to us, friendly, helpful, and generous. But we always get the “Oh! You’re a foreigner!” kind of deal, in which we’re always reminded that we’re outsiders, rather than a part of Korea, you know? Even our friends who have mastered the Korean language or married their Korean partner will still be viewed as “foreigners” by Korean people that don’t know them, and they will never really have to fit the rules of Korean society completely, even if they do follow all the rules out of respect. Of course it’s not like we try to avoid fitting in as a result. In fact it’s the opposite, but we’re still SEEN as outsiders who don’t “have to” do what Korean people do to fit in. Know what we’re trying to say?

Now the really difficult situation is when you LOOK Korean but weren’t raised in Korea, thus you are a foreigner, but Korean people don’t fully accept you as one. Our Canadian and American friends who are of Korean descent actually have a pretty hard time in Korea, especially if they don’t speak Korean because they are expected to act and speak a certain way, even though they have nothing to do with Korean society apart from their appearance. So, in our opinions, fitting into Korean society has nothing to do with how stylish you look, but how Korean you look. Anyhow, this topic could be further delved into, but for today’s topic, we’re going to focus back on the actual question being asked!

We did, however, still change our style in Korea, because we were inspired by how bloody stylish everyone seems to be here. Our change is less out of a desire for acceptance and more out of admiration. After seeing how amazing everyone looked all the time, we felt ourselves asking “why can’t we do that”?

Let me tell you a story of what really changed my (Martina) idea of fashion: when we go to the airport in Korea, we’re amazed at how Korean people look incredibly stylish even though they’re taking a 10 hour flight wherever. Back in the day, we always used to fly in our scrubbiest of clothing: PJs, jogging pants, flip-flops, etc, but after flying back and forth from Korea to Canada, I saw lots of incredibly dressed people that would get on the airplane with us in style, sleep like us, and then freshen up (change, put on some makeup) and pop off the plane in Toronto like they were coming off a fashion runway. Meanwhile, we got on the plane looking pre-exhausted and got off looking even more exhausted.

So after three years of flying in my PJs, I decided to try to look as stylish as the Korean people I saw at the airports. I wore a long black super comfy dress and wore a pair of comfy fold-up travel sparkle slippers. I packed a comfy hoodie, a brush, and some very simple makeup in my carry-on. I got on the plane feeling like a million bucks, snuggling happily in my oversized dress and hoodie, and before landing I popped into the washroom to run a brush through my hair and put on a little makeup. Despite the 14 hour flight to Toronto, I FELT AWESOME AND CONFIDENT! As soon as I saw my family they all exploded with compliments about how lovely I looked in my dress and how perky I looked!

I was just so shocked to see how different I felt just by how I was dressed. It was like my PJs were telling me to be mopey and sleepy and my dress was telling me to hold my head up high and strut off the plane! So after this simple test, I decided to try on more of the cute dresses I’ve always wanted to wear but thought I couldn’t pull off. I seriously feel bubbly and happy in a puffy dress; I feel like I’m out of an anime or something, and I know when I feel sad and mopey I tend to go towards jeans and a huge hoodie to sulk under. No cupcake earrings that day. So for me, my emotions can be affected by the clothing that I wear, and although it may not be that way for everything, I still recommend trying a test on yourself to see if different clothing, a change in your hairstyle, or an addition of makeup can affect your confidence or attitude for the day! Hokay. Martina’s big odd rant over! BTW, is this just me or does anyone else notice a link between their clothing and attitude?

  1. This video makes me so sad because here, style really isn’t that important. ;~; People wear whatever they want and they don’t really seem to care…? I was talking to one of my co-workers and he said that in Jamaica, where he’s from, the ladies are always trying to out dress one another and style is really important. Up here, there’s a lot of camo and and really casual clothes. And pajamas xP. It is understandable because most people are working class and there’s a lot of fisherman and the like. It would be different if you went to Portland, for example. My brother and i love dressing up, but it’s hard because we stick out like sore thumbs.

  2. I am half Korean and my Korean mother left me when I was very young so I was raised by my American father. I always wanted to go to Korea to see the other half of my culture but my father said that I would be considered a mud person. According to him I would be treated worse than most foreigners because I am only half Korean. My mother recently came back into the picture and she had got remarried to a traditional Korean family so I am being hidden from her in-laws but she does not speak enough English to tell me why this is and if this has something to do with her getting divorced or having children with a non korean. Can you help me figure this out?

    • Hello,

      I am just reading this post, and I doubt you’ll see my reply this late in the game.

      However, I think that questions of identity are important. I hope that the issues you were having have been solved but if not, I hope to shed some light on the situation.

      Background: (I’m Korean-American, 100% Korean)

      To be honest, interracial relationships are looked down upon. Interracial people are called 튀기 (twee-gee). 튀겨 means to fry. So, basically interracial people are like fried people, or people put together from some random shit (to give you an idea of how people feel about interracial relationships/people).

      Korea is a very homogenous society that has been invaded by lots of people. Koreans have a very strong sense of identity and like to “keep things in the family,” so to say.

      Not everyone is like this though, and I think as time goes on, people of different races will increasingly become accepted in Korea. Think of how the U.S. used to be; Irish and Italian people used to be discriminated against but now they form the majority of the white American population and most people identify as some mix of Irish/Italian.

      Another example: a lot of white people in the U.S. still don’t treat black people equally (no one wants to say it, but it’s true). Yet, not everyone hates black people.

      Yes, in terms of traditional Koreans, you will be treated as “other” and not one of us. However, I would not sweat it. It’s the same as anywhere else in the world. There will be people who dislike you for no real reason because of how you look, how you dress, who you choose to have sex with, etc. You can try to bridge the gap or realize that some people aren’t worth the time. That decision is ultimately up to you. I hope you can figure things out and find meaning in your life.

  3. I never wear baggy clothing or pajamas when I go out. I don’t wear make up and I never have. I am a girl in my early twenties. I generally just wear t-shirts and skinny pants/jeans. Dressing a certain way doesn’t affect the way I feel. I also don’t give a crap about what other people think of me.

  4. As you leave in Korea, have you already been to another country, like Japan ? China ? Have a nice day, tks.

  5. When you guys first moved to Korea was it tough learning the language and getting around?

  6. Sweet fucking life it is mother fucker out here

  7. How are your families dealing with you guise living in Korea now? I know they must be used to it to a degree but how do u stay in contact, how often do u talk? Martina and Simon, do u miss your siblings??

  8. It sounds kind of weird but using lime on armpits reduces smell and sweat ><

  9. Dear Simon and Martina,
    With the presidential election coming up, do majority of Koreans pay attention to American politics? If they do which candidate (or political parties) do you see them supporting? Have your political views changed by living in Korea?

  10. how do koreans in korea feel about foriengers learning their culture/language?

  11. I am a natural dirty blonde, but I really love to dye my hair dark red. It changes my eye color to a bluish green and I love it. I always feel so much better about myself when I go back to being a red head after my hair has faded for a bit.

  12. How are people with darker skin viewed in Korea?

  13. Dear Simon and Martina,
    With the presidential election coming up, do majority of Koreans pay attention to American politics? If they do which candidate (or political parties) do you see them supporting? Have your political views changed by living in Korea?

  14. You guys got so much THINNER! Simon, wow! You look so fit. Good job!

  15. Sometimes I wish I could dye my hair pink… My mom is kind of against it (I’m Taiwanese-American) so I kind of understand the whole socially-unacceptable thing. That’s weird though, since Asians dye their hair red… and brown… all the time… even if it doesn’t look good!
    Aside from that, another huge reason why I’m hesitant to dye my hair is physical. For my black hair to go to pink, I’d have to bleach it, and take extra precautions to keeping my hair healthy/fabulous!

  16. Will an american college degree work in korea if you try to get a job ? (:

  17. Hey, I’ve got a question (I know you guys are leaving (T_T) but I’ll ask it :D) Hum, are the Koreans open-minded? Like, is there varieties of food, clothes, fashion or other?

  18. Okay my question.
    Have you noticed a difference between foreign tastes for K-POP and Korean tastes? For example, it seems like Korean people (at least the ones I know) don’t like Super Junior that much, but lots of foreigners do. Why do you think this is?

    PS. I just want to say that I really really love Martina’s Captain Marvel shirt. DC Comics. FTW. :D

  19. Martina, I totally know what you mean about clothing and attitude! That’s why I love wearing pretty clothes too, they put me in a good mood! And even when I’m in a bad mood I try to put on nice clothes anyway because I may feel crappy, but at least I look good.

  20. Hi Simon and Martina! *waves enthusiastically* I was just wondering, how has cooking in Korea been like for you two? I remember you guys mentioning how vegetables and are super expensive, but what about other stuff? I’m a super avid baker, and was wondering if it would be affected if I moved to Korea? I heard butter isn’t cheap and the baker within me kind of died… and I may have cried. Do you still cook a lot of food you used to at home in Canada (woo, Canada!) or have you had to kind of Korea-nize everything?
    Merci! :D

  21. 2:17 – D’aaaaaw. You two are so cute together, you’re practically Seoul-mates <3

  22. umm… martina,,,and,,,simon,,,,ahh,,,,,how can you earn your money….I mean,,, how…?????..specifically..!!//this is my guess..by advertisment??/….I’m sorry I can’t speak english very well….please…please.//reply to me….TT

  23. How does religion factor into Korean life? Many Kpop idols say they are Christian, creating bible study groups and such, but I’ve not seen much diversity in terms of religion. I know there exists different places of worship, but do people go to them regularly? And, as a Muslim, would I be welcomed there?

    And my name is hard to pronounce, call me Cookie!

  24. Hi, I’ve a question about KoreanLife (to Martina&Simon, I hope they’ll see it T_T) : do you think that life in South Korea is less expensive than life in Canada ? (clothes, food, accomodation etc… ). I hope you’ll read this !!!

  25. at 0:46 Martina’s earrings disappear XD

  26. Simon and Martina- you are such an inspiring example of what a married couple should be. Partners in life, love, adventure, and friendship. Always caring for the other above your own wants and needs. Beautiful.
    So my question is: Do you think that moving to Korea brought you closer as a couple? I know that when you were in Canada your were newly-weds and still in the initial googly-eyed faze so you might not have as much to compare to. And you also have said that you both are just very loving and cuddly people with a mature view on how to treat one another. But now living in a country where your spouse is one of the few fluent English speakers you can talk to in a day, and having fewer English speaking and North American friends, and now sharing this career together- do you think Korea has brought you closer together as a couple than possibly you would have been in Canada?

  27. I re-watch a lot of your videos and Simon talked about Martina’s mom being in on the proposal and when you had the surprise trip to Canada, Martina’s parents seemed
    happy to see Simon and Simon’s parents for Martina. So my question is: Did Martina’s parents always really like Simon, Simon’s parents always like Martina, and that you guys were dating? Or did Martina’s parents initially like Martina’s old boyfriend better? And do Simon and Martina’s parents like each other and hang out even though y’all are in Korea? I don’t mean to be nosy, I just love the videos that have your parents in them and your life in Canada stories. :)

    ALSO! Martina said on a Open The Happy video that you were going to show us your gigantic hair band collection. Could we please see it at some point? Thanks. :)

  28. I’m living in Bucheon right now going to CUK and I was shocked to see my roomates spend so much time in getting all pretty just for class.Never did that in the U.S One month later, i’m doing the same thing. But its my own style. I tried to look all cutesy but it just wont work for me haha. It just kind of sticks and it makes me feel good haha. They all look so fancy and cute.

  29. i totally understand what r u sayin here~!! while i was in seoul n was goin around myongdong shops, i felt like i was in heaven *O* sooo many cute and girly clothes that i’ve never seen before in my country. bought a couple of things (actually i wanted to buy like EVERYTHING that was in the shop, but had to think abt money… XD) and seriously when i wore those clothes when i was back home, i felt like goin up several levels in look *O* the feeling that gives korean dress is unbelievable *O* i felt really girly n pretty then.
    so next time i’ll visit seoul – i’m gonna spend most of my moneyz on clothes for sho~!! XD

  30. I’d be curious to know how fashionable your other foreign friends are… i think it’s similar as japan, but here, we get LOTs of nerdy people coming here cuz they’re way into manga or j-music or green-tea/samurai culture… and those people are (usually) not only not-fashionable, but strongly going in the other direction if you know what i mean…. so there are a lot of really badly dressed foreigners here. but there are also a lot of people who make an effort to be trendy and fashionable, but we’re sometimes looked at as being a bit “strange” by tourists, or whenever we go home… Japanese people though, either don’t notice, or appreciate that we look nice.

    I know that, as a white woman in japan, i get a lot more male attention because i dress up, than other foreign girls i know who are always sporting t-shirts and jeans, with no make-up and undone hair… and the same goes for guys too (although a bit less) i used to know a guy who really really wanted a “gyaru” (really done up girly girls) girlfriend but couldn’t even get one to talk to him and we always told him “of course, why would a girl who puts so much efforts into her looks, go for someone like you, who puts none?” but anyways…

    but yeah it’s interesting cuz, since (i don’t think…) korea doesn’t have the whole “weeaboo culture” going on, maybe people who go there are just normal or more varied than the people who tend to come here?

    also, i’m curious about the kinds of reactions you get about your style when you go home. i’m from Montreal and whenever i go home i get soooo much more attention now then i ever did when i was just living there! lol. it’s funny. but i do think that japan changed me for the better in that way. and you too Martina!! you’re so purty and have awesome style! yay!! (and you too Simon… :p)

  31. TLDR: Since you four have moved, what are the things you miss and the things you really love about your new digs? What are the major differences between the two areas?

  32. What kind of people were you guys prior to coming to Korea? Please show us pictures and videos and funny stories of your past life! (The one we don’t know about, since your lives now are so exposed to us already)

  33. It’s not just you Martina; I’ve noticed it too! I just started graduate school to get my master’s in ESL, and because of that I’ve decided I need to start dressing more professionally. Before now I wore a lot of jeans, T-shirts, and had a slightly punky look with lots of dark colors. But now, I’m wearing nicer, more stylish shirts in lighter colors, better fitting jeans, just a little bit of makeup, and I’m fixing my hair more. I totally noticed a difference! When I do dress down, I feel really “blah” and I don’t really care. But on the days I dress up I feel a lot more confident! I hold my head up higher, and I feel a lot better about myself, because I actually put time into my appearance rather than “okay let’s grab whatever I I can find.”

  34. Cool topic I wondered about that after I watched my first Kdrama personal/taste/preference the lead girl Park Gae was always described as a slob by other characters even though she wore casual funky street gear most of the time with hoodie and jeans that had a very cool diesel brand type of look. I didn’t think she looked that bad! But then I watched other Korean dramas and realised that by Korean standards she was indeed a slob! Lee Minh Ho meanwhile looked ridiculously hot in the sharpest suits out-like gucci or prada. I think I would be considered a massive slob if I went over there!

  35. I think it’s definitely not you, when I go out just for Uni I tend to just be a jumper + jeans kind of girl, but when I go out with my friends – out come the dresses! The hairdos! The make up! :)

  36. I have a question. I wanna go to Korea but a friend of mine told me it was better I didn’t cause I’m over weight. Is it true I’m gonna have a hard time there? Can my being obese hinder the experience?

  37. HI Simon and Martina, i just saw your tldr video on the fashion standards for foreigners and i was just wondering about the standards native- Korean people have on “other” foreigners such as Chinese, Vietnamese or even Koreans than are not natively born in Korea instead of the “typical” foreigner such as Caucasians. Are these people treated the same as the “typical” foreigner or differently in comparision. Thankyou

  38. I have two Engrish shirts I got from Japan. One is very long and convoluted, but the second is short, sweet, and something I completely agree with. “Happiness is warm puppy.” Yes it is Engrish shirt, yes it is.

  39. the link between clothing and attitude is incredible. i am doing a year abroad in japan now, and though i have only been here for a month, i can totally feel,that something in me wants to change. i don not want to wear those boyish t-shirts and jeans any longer, i want to look pretty in dresses and super short skirts that i would never wear in germany.i want to tie my hair up with a ribbon and use cute handbags… that is a change i would have never thought of in my whole life. because i did not hate my style whatsoever in germany, but here… as you said, you see all those pretty kawaii girls and you start to feel that you want to look like them as well, and slowly you start to change your style and start to pay attention to things that would have never bothered you before, like if the handbag is matching the rest of the outfit and if the hairdo is perfect @__@ and the thing is i have no idea how this is going to end, or if i will keep it up one i am back, because many cute things that look super nice in japan actually look weird in germany (or the rest of the world). do you dress up like you do in korea when you are in canada? or are there some things you consider a no go, as it would be like too flashy for your home country?

    thanks for making that post! it was really inspiring and made me realize that a transformation might not be the worst experience you can make…

  40. i walk into a plane in my tracks and jams…. but i gotta try the airport fashion runway style next time.. thanks martina, let’s see how perky i feel with some sense of fashion for those long flights!

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