Big is Beautiful – Except in South Korea

Last weekend was a disaster.  Total disaster.

It actually started on a high note as I had just been paid and was looking forward to doing some serious damage in the shops around Seoul on Saturday. The weather has been changing pretty quickly and while Autumn has well and truly arrived, Winter also appears to be fast approaching. I have been prancing around in flimsy summer dresses for the past 3 months but now that every one around me has started covering up and starting wearing wooly jumpers and winter boots, I decided it was about time I started investing in a new winter wardrobe.

I have also not been to a hair dresser since I left home in June, so you can imagine how badly I need both hair cut and a color to cover up those awful brown roots! I made an appointment for Juno Hair Salon in Myeongdong as I has seen rave reviews online and a few of my friends had been to Juno hair salons and only had positive things to say.

Saturday arrived and I was excited about the day of shopping that lay ahead. I took the train to Myeongdong, which is the top destination for shoping in Seoul, with 100’s if not 1,000’s of clothes, shoe and beauty stores to choose from. The atmosphere alone puts a smile on my face. Well, it did up until last weekend anyway.

I headed straight to Juno hair and was seated in a waiting area where I was offered a drink of my choice and handed an iPad which had a huge array of photography of celebrities. I was told, in broken English, that I could pick any celebrity hairstyle I liked. Out of all 200 choice, there was not 1 curly blowdry, which is the exact style that suits me and the exact style I was looking for. I quickly browsed my phone and showed them what I wanted, saying I wanted a color and a cut.

The scene of the "Hair Humiliation".
The scene of the “Hair Humiliation”.

After a 20 minute wait I sat down with a stylist and explained what I wanted. He took one look at my hair and told me, “Your hair is dangerous. It is dangerous!”. Wow, thanks, just what i wanted to hear!! How on earth can my hair be DANGEROUS?! It seemed he wasn’t keen on dying my hair blonde (considering EVERY other person in the salon had black hair, I wasn’t THAT disappointed for fear they may also dye mine black!) so we agreed that a cut was all I needed.

I was handed over to another girl who washed my hair, continued to comment on how dangerous my hair was and complained that I had “too many hairs”. Now anyone that knows me knows that I have thick hair, but you know what it’s my hair and I love it just the way it is. To be sat in a Korean hair salon for over 2 hours and be repeatedly told negative things about my hair was far from the ideal Saturday I had imagined. About half an hour later I was informed that they were doing a treatment on my hair (yes, they had ALREADY started) and that it would cost me 90,000 won. I was pretty annoyed, as you can imagine, but as they know best I Iet it slide and hoped it would be a good treatment and help the condition of my hair. At this point I was told that the cut would cost 25,000 and the treatment 90,000.

After 2 hours of washing, treatments (part of which had me feeling like I was in a sci-fi movie!), discussing and a lot of waiting, it was finally time to dry my hair, Another woman (person number 4 so far!) was assigned to do this and she just kept saying I had “too many hairs” and making funny looks as she dried my hair in a way that made me look like Mufasa from the Lion King. Not quite the look I was looking for. She then took out a pretty crappy looking curling iron and spent the next 45 minutes, begrudgingly, curling my hair. A few more nasty comments here and there about the quality of my scalp, the quantity of my hairs and a few disgusted looks and I was ready to RUN out of the hair salon with my anger levels soaring and my self-esteem at an all time low.

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=f93218c22e&view=att&th=141bfa04da687567&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=1449026594493431808-local0&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P85L3yjQMlp7cZ2mn0fIaVP&sadet=1381899570911&sads=yC2M7BzUFUf2m3rLAEjH1dLkjmI
A scene from a Sci-Fi Movie? No, just a Korean hair salon!

But before I escaped from this hell hole I was given my bill, which was FAR more than the agreed amount. A questioned the discrepancy and the receptionist informed me it was because I had “so many hairs”. I reluctantly paid up but not before swearing to myself that I would write a damning blog about this salon and NEVER return for round two of “hair humiliation”.

My hair looked pretty good, but it was not the style I wanted and I knew it would not last more than a few hours without going frizzy, I still had my horrible brown roots, and I was 130,000 won out-of-pocket.  😦

I decided some retail therapy would cheer me up. I was heading out with some friends in Iteawon and Hongdae that night so went in search of some shoes and maybe a new dress. After enquiring in about 15 shoe shops if they had my size (Korean 160, UK size 7) I was told by one less-than-friendly shop owner, “No shop in Korea does that size. Too big”. Not only did I know that was a lie but I was less than impressed with her attitude.

Looking for Big Shoes? You're in the WRONG country!
Looking for Big Shoes? You’re in the WRONG country!

I finally went in search of Payless Shoes, an American shoe chain that sold shoes of a questionable quality but in BIG BIG sizes. After an hour of searching, and browsing various blogs for directions, I eventually found the shell that was Payless shoes up until October 1st 2013. That’s right, turns out a store that sells large sizes just couldn’t hack in downtown Myeongdeong. 😦 Bad news for all you fellow big-footed expats!

I had failed to buy shoes so decided new clothes would have to do instead. Most of the smaller stores had nothing that would even remotely fit me and some were even reluctant let me in the store…I am pretty tall I guess, and from their perspective I have hips that belong to an ape rather than an average Korean woman. I eventually gave up and went to meet my friends feeling pretty exhausted and annoyed, cursing my genes for giving me big feet, big hair and a height of 5 foot 10 Inches.

Turns out “Big is Beautiful….except in South Korea”.

Related post: Not Beautiful Enough To Live In Korea
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23 thoughts on “Big is Beautiful – Except in South Korea

  1. You now have a deeper grasp of what Jonathan Swift was going on about. I think you’ve found your very own Lilliput.

  2. ahh thats most of Asia for you! I’m a 6’1 curly haired big hipped Bangladeshi and have been treated like Godzilla ALL my life in my part of the world. a big virtual hug to you, I know its not fun to deal with this

  3. Japanese people get a lot of flak for being racist, but honestly I don’t think Koreans are any better. To me, it seems like in this case, the white person was the minority for a change, and thus they saw it as ok to say some pretty overtly racist things to you.

  4. After only terrible or mediocre experiences of hair salons in korea, i finally threw in the towel. honestly, i don’t know what’s worse in korea: going to the ob-gyn or the salon to make you feel like a crappy person! ugh.

  5. I don’t get hair dressers – I have practically no hair on my head and I don’t get a volume discount. Takes 10 min to cut my hair and I’m out $20. In Korea they charge more if you have extra hair? That doesn’t seem fair.
    Sorry to hear about your bad hair day 😉
    Frank (bbqboy)

  6. I’m in Seoul too, and I’ve learned that the hairstylists will never be happy unless they’re doing what they want to your hair. I just tell them over that this style is what I want and that if they won’t do it then I’ll go to someone else who will. Just ignore them! Seriously, if they had had their way, my hair would look like a triangle.

  7. I came across your blog on my hunt for payless cause I have big feet. I heard they are in some emarts. Truth be told I saw some locations and will be going soon. There’s one in yeungodongpo emart.

    1. koreans don’t sell big clothes and big shoes because the majority of the ppl there are not big and obese as americans. it just doesn’t make sense that they do. big is definitely ONLY beautiful in america.

      1. People are made differently due to genetics as well. Asians are on average genetically smaller than whites and blacks. Most women larger than a size 8 have problems finding attractive clothes in Korea. Many of the boutique stores only have clothes in size 0-6.

        In the USA, you are more likely to find clothes and shoes that fit a diverse range of sizes. Whether you are a size 4 or a 14, you are should be able to go to a department store and find clothes in your size. A lot of this is discriminatory and “fat shaming” not that I think someone who is a size 10 or 12 should be considered big or fat.

      2. You dolt, there are big people everywhere, including Korea. Look up. The statistics, and then stop being a massive cunt

  8. I went to another Juno location last weekend and was not happy about the price at all. The service was excellent, however, and the stylist did a good job on my hair (all I asked for was a wash and blow out). There are other salons in Seoul and Busan that are much cheaper. I know how much my hair typically costs in Korea – usually around 20,000-35,000 KRW for a wash, condition, and blow dry/straight iron. Juno Hair charged me 50,000 KRW even though I was in and out of the salon in less than 45 minutes. I told my Korean friend who said that the stylist overcharged me and to make sure about the price before he/she starts on my hair. My stylist also told me my hair was dry and damaged (which it kinda is) but I think she used it as an excuse to charge me 20,000 KRW more. If you look for a Juno menu, a blow dry costs 30,000 KRW. I really dislike it when people cheat me. There are good salons for foreigners in Sinchon, Hongdae, and Itaewon. I also found a hair salon in Busan that only charge me 15,000 KRW for the same treatment I got at Juno. Keep looking, read Facebook groups, and expat magazines and try different salons until you are satisfied with the treatment and cost.

  9. I lived in Korea for two years and had the exact same problems as you! Your post made me laugh thinking of the ‘struggles’ I went through on a daily basis for even the most simple of tasks! I found a hair dresser that trained in London and worked there for a number of years. She speaks perfect English and I was very happy with her! She did blonde highlights for me. This is a link to her website http://www.lucyhair.com/ and her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Lucyhair2011?fref=ts . You should check her out. Also the shoe problem LMAO!!! I am a size 8 uk so shoes in Korea were a no go for me. ASOS online has free delivery. They saved my life especially in winter. 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your adventure!

  10. Hair and Joy in Hongdae is amazing – absolutely no attitude. I never pay over 40,000₩. Ive seen numerous curlied hair friends rave about the cuts there. Also H&M is pretty great for cheap shoes.

  11. And here is my story about that horrible place! Worst experience ever in Juno Hair salon!

    So we read about how good they are on internet and all the blogs that recommend them. So me and my friends went to one of there salons , the one in Myeong- dong. We went with high expectation and ofcourse ready to get a real korean hair makeover.
    The place was nice, seems professional and great service. So we meet up with one of the head stylist Name KO EUN. Seem really nice and ask us what we wanted. My friend wanted a short hair cut with perm so it would look like all the korean Kpop male singer. Me I wanted cut my hair little bit shorter like chest length and perm that are big wawes/curls. So she asked us if we wanted the perm with extra treatment for the hair wich would cost some extra so we did.
    For my firend who had a male cut and perm it costed 240 000 won
    And for me chest lenght cut and perm with big waves 360 000 won

    It was really pricy I thought but then again you will have the most beautiful hair like all the korean actress/singers so we thuoght it would be worth it and also because this place is so famous and had such good reviews! But oh so wrong we had!!!

    The stylist( same Ko Eun ) cut both me and my firends hait, then she starts helping my friend with the perm, and for me she let one of the traine(!) works with the perm, I didn’t realize it first because I thuoght she would do the perm and the traine was only there to help her, but then she did came to me for about 5 minutes and then leave the rest to the trainee again. And when it all was done 2 traniees blow dry my hair and wel itt looks nice I guess, not really super nice like I hoped but ok. I had better with so much less the price.
    But still I was ok with it and my firends hair was really nice and she was really happy with her hair,
    We paid the money total 600 000 won( = 530 usd maybe)

    So this was on saturday and they told us not to wash the hair until the day after.
    So on monday I was my hair and blow dry it and BAM! It was Straight!! Like my natural hair which is always straight like that. No curls or any Waves at all!
    I new that something was not right, I had done perms before couple of times both with big waves and smal curls and never has it disappear like this just after 1 shower? Just like when using a regular curlmashine and when u whashed it it will disapear.
    I was really disapointed and wanted to go to them right away but couldn’t becoz I was going to have a surgery on that day and after the surgery I had to rest couple of days.
    And about my friend it was the same the waves was gone after one shower and she couldn’t go to them right away neither coz she had surgery too. So on friday we went to the salon again and meet the stylist Ko EUn .
    This is when the service went from 5star to zero!
    She regonize us and I told her about the problem. And this is what her excuse was my hair was yo dry and I shouldn’t blow dry it becoz the curls will be straighten out she told me to let it airdry!? I told her i don’t have time for that, Im a busy woman who wants to do the perm so I will have nice hair after the shower, do a little blow dry and then go to work. i dont have time to do any styling or put any wax on to make the curls be curl? I mean i had have perms before and ofcourse it will look nicer if you put some effort and time to it when blow dry your hair but if you only blow dry it it will still be curly not straight! She had tons of excuses and told me its not god if i would do the perm again and when i wanted my money for the perm back she suddenly couldn’t understand me and then have her phone to me so I could speak to one of her own costumer who could speak a little bit english. The costumer of course said same thing as the stylist and also told me that te stylist would do the perm for me again for free but. I have to pay the extra treatment so i wouldn’t damaged my hair! I refused and also when I told about my friends hair ( she was there to but was to tired after the surgery to argue) and she just had bad excuse that my friends hair was to thin?? Like first she had excuse for my hair was damaged and now my friends hair is to thin? And the she just didnt mention anthing more about my friends hair. And didn’t talk to me and just went to work with her costumer. and I even let then was my hair and they said it is waves anf curls when the hair is wet! But not when its het dry! The saw it with their own eyes yet they refused to pay us back! Or even wanted us yo pay extra if we wanted a treatment! It feels like the thuoght we where tourist and wanted to ripped us of and let the trainee do the job and then charged us overprice!

    So now Im really mad and don’t know what I should. Do , coz if. I do the free perm but no treatment then my hair will be so dry and if I don’t i feeel like im being ripped off!!

    I m really mad and just want to let you guys know before you chose a saloon like this!!

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