Thursday, November 18, 2010


Blarg. I’ve been sick for going on two weeks now, which has inspired me to write my first (of hopefully many to come) “Korea lists”.

Unnecessarily Delicate Korean Products (hereafter UDKP).

I never thought of myself as much of a badass, but apparently growing up amid the grizzly American spirit in the bitter cold of the rugged Midwest has made me a lot tougher than I ever realized. The following UDKP’s demonstrate how much of a badass I have thus far in Korea proven to be:

UDKP #1. Medicine.

Since I’ve been sick for a while now, it seems natural to start off my list with this particular UDKP. Medicine in Korea is cheap and easy to come by. Last Tuesday, realizing I felt horrible, I decided to go to the clinic around the corner from my apartment and get checked out. The whole visit took 8 minutes, tops. I walked in, they looked at my passport, and sent me into the doctor’s office. The doctor, never leaving her chair, asked me in broken English maybe 5 questions and wrote down just as many medicines for me on a prescription form. I thanked her, and walked back out to the lobby. The bill was ten thousand won. About nine U.S. dollars.

I headed two flights down to the pharmacy. I handed the man behind the counter my prescription slip, and five minutes and seven thousand won later, I walked out with nine individually packaged sets of pills. The convenience is striking. Too bad the meds didn’t really do much. I guess in the world of Korean medicine, you get what you pay for, and you’re not paying much at all. Where are the real antibiotics? Penicillin? Dayquil? Nyquil? Even real Advil? I promise I can handle the real thing, Korea! I don’t care about loopy side effects and the potential for addiction. I just want medicines that make me better!

For this reason, Korean medicines are definitely an Unnecessarily Delicate Korean Product.

UDKP #2. Toothpaste.

Brushing your teeth in the U.S. is not supposed to be a particularly pleasant experience. Take Listerine, for instance. Listerine burns. Swooshing Listerine for the full thirty seconds should instill a sense of accomplishment. The stinging, caustic pepperminty flavor is overpowering, and it’s that overpowering-ness that lets you know the Listerine is doing its job. Many a toothpaste has followed in Listerine’s footsteps, too. (Also altoids…) No pain no gain, right?

I understand toning down overpowering tooth-cleaning products for little children by making them a little sweeter and less intimidating. I’m talking the kind in the Spongebob-shaped bottles, where the toothpaste is blue and has sparkles. Regular toothpaste for adults, however, should not contain sugar. In fact, that seems to me to be one of the worst possible ingredients to put in toothpaste. The whole point of brushing your teeth is to get the sugar off. Nevertheless, Korean toothpaste tastes like straight mint-flavored sugar. I understand it’s less painful, probably less corrosive, whatever, but I have yet to feel like my teeth are fully clean using Korean toothpaste. Furthermore, so many of my kids have dental problems, cavities, and so on, that I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they’re brushing their teeth too much… with sugar… Oh Unnecessarily Delicate Korean toothpaste…

UDKP #3. Face wash.

As a loyal St. Ives Apricot Scrub user since middle school, I expect to feel tiny abrasive apricot bits rubbing against my skin when I wash my face. Sloughing off dead skin should feel exactly as rough as that word sounds. You know your skin is truly clean when it starts to feel numb, right?

Of course there is no such product in Korea. Face washes and skin care products in general are mild and nonabrasive. They leave your skin feeling soft but not raw and (in my book) fully clean as I have come to understand clean for the past eight or so years. And loofahs or any other such body-exfoliating means have proven hard to come by as well. Is it too much to ask for a satisfyingly abrasive cleaning product? Just another Unnecessarily Delicate Korean Product, I suppose.

UDKP #4. Dryers.

I lucked out with my apartment. It’s roomy, modern, has a loft, and is in a great location. Imagine my excitement that in addition, my apartment also had a washing machine with a (gasp!) dryer, I was told, a rarity in this country.

Too bad “dryer” in Korea is code for “spin faster.” You put your clothing in the dryer and they come out stretched out. And still wet. False advertising coming from a device called a “dryer.” Heat is what dries things, or at least I’m assuming that was the rationale behind putting hand driers in every bathroom in the country instead of paper towels...

Dryers. Definitely an Unnecessarily Delicate Korean Product.

UDKP #5. Badminton.

I don’t understand badminton. For goodness sakes, I didn’t even know how to spell the word until recently. In all actuality, it’s one of those “sports” I considered a “game” prior to moving here, lumped in with the likes of darts, pool, and bowling. Yet I can’t even tell you how many of my kids claim that badminton is one of their favorite sports?

Where’s the contact and potential for serious injury? The 300 pound men slamming into each over and over again just to throw a dinky little un-ball shaped ball to one another? Where’s the strategy and sheer endurance it takes to run back and forth on a court for 45 minutes straight? Where’s the speed and energy it takes for a tiny piece of rubber to shatter a pane of glass? Certainly not in a game of badminton. Not so much a product, per se, but certainly unnecessarily delicate and Korean.

UDKP #6. Chocolate.

No surprise here, that chocolate would make my list of Unnecessarily Delicate Korean Products. I take my chocolate very seriously, and thus far, Korean chocolate has not impressed me. For one, I like my chocolate so dark it’s considered a vegetable, yet I have a hard time finding even regular 55% dark chocolate here. They try to make milk chocolate, but their ratios are all off, more milk than chocolate. And even more excessively sugared than the toothpaste. Probably the Unnecessarily Delicate Korean Product that disappoints me the most.

So take that Unnecessarily Delicate Korean Products. I like powerful medicines that work and toothpaste that burns. I like exfoliating products that feel like I’m sanding my face, and dryers that use heat. I like sports that involve injury, and real dark chocolate. If that makes me a total American badass, then so be it.

To be fair, Korea has its share of admittedly non-delicate products as well. Food, for one (Especially Kimchi which is non-delicate for a variety of reasons). Nevertheless, there are lots of watered-down, wussy, and well, delicate products here that drive me crazy! And by drive me crazy I mean I think they’re hilarious.


-Christine -

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