July 15, 2011
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 (ì°œì§ˆë°©) is actually not a bathhouse for cleaning your body. A mokgyoktang (ëª©ìš•íƒ•) 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.
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 openâ€¦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!