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This weeks TL;DR Thursday (Too Long; Didn’t Read) is a topic that Martina is very excited about! Ausoul from Sydney asked us if we have every been to a jjimjilbang, which is a public bath house.

To be more specific a jjimjilbang (찜질방) is actually not a bathhouse for cleaning your body. A mokgyoktang (목욕탕) is a bathhouse, but if you go to a big jjimjilbang or a 24 hour one, you will have access to both. Also, you can pay entrance for one or the other, or for both.

So a jjimjilbang is kind of a well-being center where any gender can hang out fully dressed in the comfy shorts and t-shirts provided, and chill in various rooms. There are dry heat rooms of all degrees, cold rooms, rooms for extra oxygen, rooms to pay for a foot massage or back massage, and areas for sleeping overnight. Many people will crash there at nighttime when the subway and buses are not running. For around $6.00-10.00 a night, who can complain? Well, be aware that you do have to sleep on the floor and with a pillow that is so hard it could kill someone if you threw it at them, but still…at least you can sleep! You can eat ramen, eat a delicious baked egg, and drink some seriously refreshing shikhye (which is an ice cold sweet rice drink). Some of the more elaborate jjimjilbangs even offer PC rooms and/or even singing rooms.

Blowdry Crotch

You thought we were joking?

Simon has never been to either of these places after having some frequent and uncomfortable experiences when he went to a gym in Korea. It wasn’t anything serious, but whenever he was about to take a shower there he’d notice swarms of guys blowdrying their crotches and spraying perfume on said crotches. No joke. Not that there is anything wrong with that, he just suffered some serious culture shock at seeing that so out in the open…and surrounding him. Every since then, Simon kind of lost all interest in going to a jjimjilbang, but also, (what Martina thinks is the real reason) Simon really hates when the air is hot and steamy.

Martina actually loves hanging out at a mokgyoktangs with her closest Korean friend. She prefers to go late at night, as in after 11:00pm because they can be really reallllly crowded with families on the weekends or right after school. She is usually gone for hours, seriously, HOURS just chatting buck naked with her friend, putting on face masks and deep hair treatments, soaking in hot tubs, and scrubbing off dead skin. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but how can anyone bathe for HOURS! Anyways, she absolutely loves it. The concept of chilling with your friend in a bathhouse and scrubbing your backs is looked at as really a bonding experience that only family and the closest of friends can experience. It’s like going to a spa with your friend to unwind, but you don’t pay a stranger to take care of you. You take care of each other! Yay!

Some people are worried that as a foreigner it might be uncomfortable if you’re totally naked and being stared at, but honestly, after a couple of surprised glances, no one cares. The surprised look is from the Korean mindset that most foreigners are uncomfortable being naked in front of their friends/family, and we think that this stereotype is actually pretty true for majority of North Americans. Somehow we feel like some European countries might be more comfortable with this concept of naked bathing, but we’re not totally sure why. Anyone? If you’ve been to a jjimjilbang or mokgyoktang in Korea, we’d love to hear about your experiences. How about everyone else around the world? Would you be comfy getting naked with your (same gender) friends and scrubbing dead skin off each others backs? Let us know!

ToFebruary
  1. Sorry for the late comment! In korean it’s called a 때수권 (ddesugwon), and I’m pretty sure you can find it in any major Korean supermarket. I don’t know what it’s like in Toronto, but in Seattle or LA you can find them in pretty much any Korean supermarket. Hope this helps!

  2. Hello Simon and Martina, always love all of your video and finally I already decide to go to Korea next autum and I really wanna try jjiljimbang.
    But now I’m worried, I already know that korea is famous with one size concept, so for me who are a plus size woman, is that okay to go to jjimjilbang, do they provide bigger size sauna clothes?? I’m a size 16 btw.
    What happen if their clothes do not fit in me? :(
    I really need your help… Looking forward for your reply :D

  3. Yay, first comment being a member! I feel so involved. :) Anyway! When I was a junior/senior in high school, I went on a two-week travel abroad to Japan. I think my biggest regret of the trip was that I let my body insecurities keep me from going to one of their bath houses–we stayed over night at an onsen/hot spring, but I didn’t want people seeing me naked. Totally kicking myself for that now! I’m planning to teach in Korea, and will DEFINITELY be partaking of the Jjimjilbangs and public baths. As I am older and wiser now, I realize that nobody really cares what I look like. xD And I want to get out there and have all kinds of cool experiences!

  4. Did anyone catch the Trogdor ref? Simon and Martina you two are brilliant!!
    :D

  5. I laughed when Martina mentioned BOF! It was so funny ~ however that may be what I would be like since I’ve never been..
    I have a question..if you go to public bathhouse/mokgyoktangs with your friends, do they just help you scrub your back and you do the same? Or is it only the case for Martina?

  6. Excellent video especially because many people confuse a bathhouse and jimjjilbang. I’ve been going to bathhouse, several times a week since 2000 and so far have been to about 30 different establishments. I agree, most foreigners don’t like them. However, they provide a really good insight into Korean culture, especially ‘skinship.’ Indeed, for Koreans, attending a bathhouse with a friend adds a deeper bond to the friendship.

    From a western perspective, bathhouse are probably one of the most  unexplored destinations and  few foreigners take to plunge – indeed I’ve only seen 10-15 westerners in all my visits. Forget the Boring Boryeong mud festival, if you want a unique, bizarre and totally Korean experience, you should visit one. I also have a blog dedicated to them, Bathhouse Ballads. (elwood5566.net)

  7. What’s the real name for the death star? And can you get it in America?

  8. i’ve never actually been in a bathhouse, but i can probably help explain your feeling about how some Europeans would handle it. they have nude beaches in Europe, remember? it’s not the same as a bathhouse, but it’s still being naked around other people in a way that’s not supposed to be sexual.  also, when we went to a pool in Italy, we went to a shower room after.  we were there with our friends who were living there, and they had lived there for 5 years by that time.  it was a big room with a bunch of shower heads, no privacy from the other women whatsoever. we didn’t get strange looks for not removing our bathing suits to shower, but the other women there had absolutely no shame about removing the tops, and i would be willing to bet that there are plenty of women who’d be perfectly ok with being totally naked in there.

    I also remember seeing some old public baths–it’s not real common in modern Italy, but way back when (especially in Roman times) they used public baths. it’s not quite as foreign a concept to them as it is to us North Americans.

    my biggest culture shock in Italy, i think, was the unisex bathrooms.  they aren’t everywhere, but they aren’t uncommon either.  also, some bathrooms charge for you to use them.

  9. I apologize if this has been asked already, but what’s the real name of that Death Star scrubber?

  10. LOL…as i got that i don’t really like Jimjilbang, it’s okay for the dry heat rooms, but not for the Shower…
    is it different with Onsen in Japan?

  11. I am an American in Taiwan for the summer. Went to the hot springs here which are really relaxing but FREAKED OUT about having to be naked in front of people I had just met that day, strangers, etc. I am not comfortable being naked in any situation, even alone! To make things worse I am African American so I already get stared at, it was nice but I don’t think I could do it again.

  12. Went to korea for a month, and a korean friend insisted that I go to the hot baths in our neighbourhood. I loved it! It was pretty cheap and really really nice, the only problem (as you put it ) is the nakers bit. I am from Canada aswell and people really do not get naked in any situation (even in changing rooms you would hide behind a towel). So everyone was naked and I was like ahh self concious-ness! After a while I was like w/e, look at my white bum I don’t care! You can wear a towel, or something of the sort but pretty much everyone is full blown naked washing there hair and bathing. I actually paid a woman to give me a full scrub down. I layed on a table  and she scrubbed me raw. I had taken a shower that day so I was pretty sure I was clean, But the skin and dirt they scrubbed off me was gross. I bought a scrubbing thing like you guys too, it helps alot :P
    I would recommend anyone to go, It is relaxing and nice. The salt rooms can be hot tho if you are not used to it.  I would recommend the oxygen rooms, I fell asleep for 5 hours, and I felt awsome after. Also I did go in the really hot sauna thing, It looks like a giant clay kiln, or cooking stove they give you a timer and you go inside. It was super hot; although apparently really good for you. I did NOT enjoy it and unless you are going with someone who knows about how it works or has done it before I don’t think I would recommend it at all.
    I am only upset we do not have these in canada, or the states ( cheap ones I mean) I would do all the time, it is so good for you and I think it helps with your self esteem, you learn that people are just people, you see what a woman actually looks like and that being naked is not a bad thing it is natural.

  13. Nakers, ha ha ha! I’m going to use that term from now on XD As an American, I would feel really uncomfortable being nakers in front of my friends and family; I even feel uncomfortable changing clothes in the locker rooms after practice O.O But hopefully, when I do go to Korea, I’ll overcome that uncomfortableness, and be able to dance around nakers in the public baths! :D The back scrubbing deal sounds really… scary! Black skin coming off…? O.O But I’m super curious now! :O When you mentioned Jun Pyo from BOF, I flipped out majorly *cough cough fangirl cough cough* 

  14. lol I’m korean living in canada but funny thing is that in my high school law class there was a case where there was a public bath house in canada but it was being used as a gay hook up joint haha and I thought that was so funny since its such a normal thing in korea

  15. I’m an American (currently studying in Seoul) and I have to say, back home, I never would have thought to go to a bath house. People in the USA are super sensitive about their bodies and that’s in general something kept private. But when I first came to Korea, a friend said that I really needed to go to the baths and saunas.
    That being said, I went to a 목욕탕/찜질방 about two weeks ago and loved it. I’m dying to go back (which shocked my host mom. She tells everyone who will listen that her host student loves 찜질방!). I have no idea why, but after about a minute, the idea of being naked in front of people stopped bothering me. It was all really refreshing and I got to learn a lot about Korean culture!
    One thing I found really interesting is that I was actually stared at less in the bath than I am on the streets or on the subways. I am very very much a foreigner and tend to stick out, but in 찜질방 there seems to be an understanding that you come as you are and people accept it.

  16. Simon really hates when the air is hot and steamy.  <————— HOT and STEAMY right XD

  17. Hey! so in Germany where I live they have bath houses, they even have a whole city that is known for their bath houses called Baden Baden. (sounds like bath bath to me!!!) But in all honesty people go to the pool naked in Germany (at least where I live) especially little kids. I’ve never seen an american do that though…

  18. I’m Swedish and currently visiting Seoul for summer college (which is great btw, I totally recommend it), which includes a lot of hanging out with Americans, especially Korean Americans. When I told one of them that I wanted to visit a sauna, she warned me: “Yes, but there is one thing you should know… you have to be naked in there” and I was like “…yes?”
    In Sweden, any regular bathing house (for swimming, not getting clean) and any gym will have a sauna where the rule is pretty strict: you can’t wear any clothes, but you have to sit on your towel. I seriously don’t get how North Americans use a sauna. Do you go to the sauna with clothes on even if it’s gender divided? Why? You would still see each other naked in the shower OR DO YOU ACTUALLY SHOWER WITH YOUR CLOTHES TOO? (just kidding)

    • In North America the showers are usually curtained off so you cannot see each other while cleaning, and so no, even though we don’t wear clothes in the shower, we also don’t see each other naked in the shower. And in saunas, usually North Americans go to them after swimming and keep their swimsuit on so that they are not naked in front of everyone else. In fact many places ban you from becoming naked as they feel it can be a privacy and hygienic issue. I live in the U.S. and pretty much the only places you see other people naked are 1) in your bedroom with your lover, 2) at a hot springs with some hippies, or 3) the occasional school locker room that doesn’t have curtains. I’m not sure why we are so private, it might just be that we are a bit shy and self-conscious about our bodies. I am glad your country feels open enough to have people that are not afraid to try such cultural things as going to public baths naked, I wish we had more people like that so we could be less prudish lol.

    • well also Italians feel unconfortable about being naked so when I´m in Italy I am the one feeling awkward cause I´m used to Germans and for Germans is completely normal to be naked in a sauna!

      sorry if I bother you but I will go to Seoul and I´m actually looking for some summer colleges so I was wondering if you could ge me some advices…
      if you want you can write to me on facebbok

  19. I live in the Washington DC and we have a Korean bathhouse called Spa World in nearby Centerville.  My husband and I love it.  It has both the jjimjilbang (찜질방) and mokgyoktang (목욕탕).  My favorite hot room is the “clay ball room.”  It is very hot and the floor is covered with little hard balls, which feel really good when you lay on them.  if anyone is in the DC are I highly recommend Spa World.

  20. Im a girl and Ive never been naked in front of anyone my age lol so that would be pretty freaky for me let alone letting someone scrub my back lol. still it sounds cool to go to 

  21. As European it depends on person. I’m quite shy, so i’m not that comfortable to be naked, but we have some lakes around town and they are like half nude- which means if you want to you can have swimsuit, but it’s not big deal if you are naked. 

  22. i’ve always wanted to try th epublic baths as soon as i go korea im draggng my friend to the baths

  23. Scrubbing thing is also something traditional as well and in the past there existed a bit similar here as well. My mom and my grandma are so pro-scrubbing LOL

  24. Haha, they have the same thing in Morocco! Different rooms with different levels of heat, the special hand exfoliater things (excuse spelling), and they use a special black soap to clean themselves before scrubbing down. You go in, thinking you’re clean, and then all the dead skin rolls off your burning red skin…yikes.

    The only huge difference seems to be at the end. Once completely done scrubbing, washing hair, conditioning, etc., you go dump freezing cold water over yourself/jump in freezing cold pool. 

  25. I love 목욕탕!!!! I’ve been in Korea for six months and me and a few of my expat friends go on a regular basis. It’s SOOOOO relaxing. It sounds like I’ve had really similar experiences to Martina. But Simon, I have to say, you are really missing out. Granted, this isn’t for everyone and you might hate hot air, but the you get used to the hot air after a few minutes maybe? Our male counterparts LOVE going to the bath house. In fact, usually they’re in there longer than we are. They just shoot the shit in the hot tubs and have a great time. I don’t know if they scrub as incessantly as the women though.

    If you want a GREAT jimjilbang recommendation – try out Vesta Spa in Busan. Has a million dollar view of Haeundae beach for only 8,000 won.

    For whoever reading this, don’t be put off. You get over being nakers (^^) in 5 minutes. Even my friends who were very shy and conservative enjoyed themselves immensely after they got over the initial discomfort.

  26. From a New Zealander’s point of view, the majority of us wouldn’t even think  about going to a public bath..Kiwi’s are really quite conservative :P I can’t think of any of my friends that would volunteer to go somewhere and get naked O.O Man, even I feel embarrassed writing this! :P I personally wouldn’t go if I had to be naked. However, if I could wrap up in a towel or something..i’d imagine it would be quite a relaxing experience! :D 

  27. Haha, oh, man. Public baths! When I was little, I always loved going there with my mom and aunts whenever we visited our relatives in Korea. I think it was because I was a little kid then, but I didn’t really mind being naked in front of all these other ajummas and other kids my age who followed their moms there, haha. But now… I don’t know if I’d be so comfortable being naked in front of strangers. o///o My bathroom at home is my mogyoktang, now… haha. Once in a while, I’ll ask my mom to scrub my back for me and vice versa, and it feels really good. :D I guess if you haven’t grown up with it and have it done on you for the first time, it can really hurt. (Or if you keep scrubbing the same place a lot) Does it still hurt when someone scrubs your back, Martina (and Simon if you do this)?

  28. This was a very funny video. I likee ^^

  29. Pronounced oz-soul I would think…interesting video. I was keen on going to a jjimjilbang when I go to korea…I’m not sure if I will yet though.

  30. For me, it depends on the person I am with. If the friend I am with doesn’t care about being naked and is like whatever, then I don’t care either. But if I go with someone who is super conscious about the situation and feels awkward, then I feel awkward too.

  31. lol I laughed A LOT in this TLDR! extreme steam!  thats one of the many reasons i love watching your videos so much… your humor is HIGHlarious! keep up the great work guys! 

  32. Yah, I don’t think I’d ever be cool with it even though I’d like to spend hours in a bathhouse.

  33. Umm, all Finnish families go to sauna naked together (duh, even the word sauna is Finnish language), both genders… Of course when you grow up you might not go with your parents anymore but still many people do though. And many even bathe with their friends of both genders. I’m a little awkward with that but with the same gender no problem at all…? O.o I never got what’s the big deal with being naked anyway, but I guess it being so natural to Finnish culture takes all the tension away. Like public pools always have saunas (different for both genders of course) and you’re not even allowed to wear your bathing suit there or in the showers for hygienical reasons… So your guess about nudity being more comfortable for some Europeans applies really well at least to Finland. :)

    That being said, I still regret I didn’t visit jjimjilbang when I went to Korea… :(

  34. My mom would use to take me to Mok Yok Tang when i was a little when i visit her shop because she had no time to bathe me at home because she worked all the time. So she’d take a break and we’d go together. I asked my mom one time if I could bring a bathing suit so I can swim in the cold tub (not cuz i was embarrassed but for the sake of having a bathing suit and wearing it cuz bathing suit was a new thing to me XD and it was cool). five years ago (i live in Georgia now), I visited my friend in NJ and we went to a korean mok yok tang there they just built and I saw a black lady and I was surprised because like you said I really was surprised that an American was there because I thought Americans were a little homophobic as well as hate seeing each other naked. but she was just sitting there scrubbing the crap out of herself and I laughed because she looked so korean right then. So comfortable in her own skin and doing what she needed to do.

    but you can hang out in jjiim jil bang also because of the FOOD. you pamper yourself, you get clean, and you pig out. i guess it really is a girl thing. its like the ultimate sleepover with spa+masks+food XD. I chat with my friends, lay down watch tv, then we sleep in the aromatherapy room, and then do it all over until we decide its time to wash ourselves. I can’t sit in teh hot tub for long because 1.) i get bored and 2.) I fall asleep and then I might drown XD.

  35. Martina I feel your pain as a ginger my freinds like to mock mt white ness and pinkness all the time! They even use their finger nails to draw on my cuz they know that it’ll show up pink :< It's not funny to pick on the pale folk!!!
    (Even if I'm not offended I'm sure some other ginger/vampire is!)

  36. you can go to any asian grocery store and go to like the bath/restroom aisle and there will be like an array of back scrubbers :D

  37. I’m Finnish and as some of you know, we have saunas. But some of you don’t know, that we are naked when we go to the sauna. Of course, in public saunas, males and females are separated. 

    I personally think, that we aren’t embarrassed about being naked. Since teenagers are growing up, they might not want to go sauna with their parents, but with friends some of them think it is OK. Adults don’t care about being naked.

    Reason for that might be, that sauna has been part of Finnish culture for hundreds of years. Everyone who is born in Finland must have been in sauna at least once. It is very usual to us.

    I can’t wait that day when I’m in Korea, and I can test all kinds of Korean things what I want to do. 찜질방 and 목욕탕 are part of my plans.

  38. On nudity and Europe:  In high school, my German teacher would show German movies.  She would forget about the nude scenes and always had to run up and cover scenes, usually while complaining about american hang-ups with nudity. She was from Germany and totally couldn’t understand why parents got so upset by it :)

    I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be getting naked with a bunch of strangers, but I would love getting my back scrubbed.  I’m pretty comfy with in home /family nudity though, so I’d probably get over it and go.

  39. You did more mind reading! I was going to ask whether you have any experience with jjimjilbangs, but you did a video before I even asked. Yay! I’ve been curious about it, since it’s been pretty much in almost every drama I’ve seen. 

    I guess it varies for Europe whether people are ok with being nude. Reminds me of my English teacher (from Scotland) who once told me, that she doesn’t understand how Czech women can walk around naked so easily in the changing room, while she walks around wrapped up in a towel. 

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