Shopping in Korea: A Love (Hate) Letter

 

Shopping in Korea:

“Knock-knock!” 
“Who’s there?”
“A waygookin trying to spend money.”
“Oh f*ck no, not again…”

I love retail.  Shopping is a hobby of mine and it’s hard to beat in Korea.  When shopping in Korea, prices are cheap and clothes are cute.  With the 4 drastically different seasons (cue massive eye-roll from the expat community), there are plenty of opportunities to switch up your look.  Shopping in Korea is a bitch.  It doesn’t have to be, however. Korean retailers could opt to take advantage of the massive number of foreign workers (and their hard-earned won), but for some reason refuse to acknowledge this insane opportunity for profit.  I love you, Korea…but I’ve got some questions for retailers in the land of morning calm.

What’s the deal with “One Size Fits All”?

I fit into your OS clothing most of the time (yes – even non-stretchy stuff), but frequently things are just too short (I’m 5’8″ tall).  Skirt and pant length in Korea call for a whole new article (a belt is not a skirt, ladies).  It’s ridiculous that given the changes in Korea over the past 50 years you still assume that everyone is the same height.  Most of the Korea women in my workplace are actually quite tall.  While many of them are slender, most of them are actually quite voluptuous.  I don’t mean fat, I mean that several of them actually are taller and curvier than I!  Aren’t you tired of operating at a loss having to discount all the clothing that really should be labeled “one size fits 20% of our population”?

That Girl Cartier - Shopping in Korea

Why do you insist on being c*nty to foreign shoppers?

“As of September 2015, according to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the foreign population in South Korea, including migrant workers, increased to 1.8 million, accounting for 3.4% of the total population.” – Chosun News.  That’s a rise of nearly a quarter of a million people over a period of 4 years.  I would estimate that we’re closer to 2 million migrant workers leading into 2017.  It’s not like we’re new, and it’s clear that we’re not going away (at least not en masse) anytime soon.  You’ve had a significant number of migrant workers in your country since before most of your retail associates were born.  Why won’t you reprimand your employees who are little shits to your customers?

I don’t have a Korean body, but I fit into your clothes just fine.  I’m tired of being told I’m not allowed to try on clothing because I’m wearing makeup.  It’s especially offensive when I don’t have a lick of makeup on.  I’m aware that you think I’ll stretch out your apparel, but newsflash for you Mr. Walter Cronkite – I won’t.  When I’m treated differently because I’m a foreigner, I tell my other foreign friends.  When I’m treated well, I tell my friends, followers, and people in line for coffee.  You complain about how Native English Teachers make more money than Korean.  Guess what?  We spend more, too.  There are plenty of ESL Teachers who don’t have bills to pay off and who enjoy shopping in Korea every…damn…weekend.  Get with the program and train your staff to treat all clients with respect.

Why does your footwear detract from every outfit?

When I moved to Seoul from Busan I was so concerned about not having an adequate wardrobe.  I live and work in an area adjacent to Gangnam.  The first time I went to Apgujeong I actually dressed up.  What a waste of time!  Most people have masks covering their faces (whether it be pollution or surgery).  What I’ve really noticed in both Busan and in Seoul is the footwear.  It’s atrocious!  You see these beautiful women in perfect outfits sullied by filthy, faded, knock off ASICS Sneakers.  You’ve got 7 seconds to make a first impression.  The first thing someone notices about you are your shoes, and you choose these?  At least I have an excuse – I’m waiting for my eBay order to come in because you won’t supply shoes larger than a size 8!

Did you know that there are black people living in your country?

Holy shit!  Korea is no longer a homogeneous society!  Now, you not only have multicultural societies popping up all over Korea, you’ve got their kids, too!  You lucky, lucky industry.  You would think that you’d figure out you’re completely missing the K-Beauty market beyond Asians.  The question I see come up the most in the expat forums is where to buy foundation for darker shades.  We were actually just talking about it this weekend with Star – 87Pages (pictured above with Mika The SeoulChild) and Sam – Expat and the City.  You don’t have to come up with something new altogether.  Places like Olive Young, LoHB (a Lotte brand), and Watson’s would make a killing if they imported products designed for black women.  Know the audience in your industry.

That GIrl Cartier - Shopping in Korea - Son & Park Shading Presso Bronzer

P.S. Big thanks to Olive Young and Son & Park  for bringing in the Shading Presso.  I needed bronzer and was about to spend my life’s savings over online at Sephora.  This product was designed for contouring, but I pretty much just blend it all together and make my face look less pasty.  Beauty blogger in the making right here, ladies and gents.

Korea, I love you but shopping in Korea is bringing me down.  When I want a new pair of kick-ass sneaks I shouldn’t have to go on eBay.  I shouldn’t have to be hustled out of a store, or directed to the men’s section.  Last time I went shopping in Garusogil and had planned on buying outfits for a friend of mine and I.  The dresses fit fine in each store and the prices were reasonable (expensive, in fact, by Korean standards).  They just weren’t what I envisioned for a night out on the town.  I didn’t need to hear “big size-y” while in the fitting room.  Hell – I didn’t need the side-eye when I walked into your boutique.  You need to give your head a big ol’ shake and realize that H&M, Zara, and Forever21 (pictured above) have cornered a market in which you should easily have jurisdiction…you’re just xenophobic.

Love,

That Girl Cartier

Expat Dating Diaries: The Green (Card) Monster

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Taylor L. Spurgeon

In this edition of the Expat Dating Diaries, we take a look at Frederick*, the “Green Monster”.  You may recognize this little gem from The 7 Worst Guys An Expat Can Date.  Frederick came to Korea in an attempt to escape a difficult political climate, to put it lightly.  Good ol’ Freddy had a Bachelor’s Degree from a prestigious University, and a post-grad in business to boot.  He loved his job in finance, however was made redundant in a suspicious turn of events (for which he wasn’t to blame, of course).  He told me straight off the bat that he wanted to immigrate to the United States or any other country which would take him…but, you know, America…#1.

Frederick and I met through Tinder, a wonderful little dating app for delusional women and men with questionable values.  We had been talking for weeks.  Because we were both new to Seoul and because he lived nearly two hours from my side of the river, it took quite a while to actually link up.  When we finally met, it was on a whim after I had a Sunday Funday with the girls in Itaewon.  He was a little sloppy from the baseball game and had run two subway stops to come meet me.  I hid a Taco Bell Salad (yes -the kind where you can eat the bowl) in my purse for the entire date.

Cheeto Taco Salad - That Girl Cartier - Expat Dating Diaries
Seriously – bad decisions were made way before November, 2016.

We had a couple of beers and played some darts. Conversation was flowing well.  He was laughing at all my poorly timed, uncomfortable jokes, and I actually felt like he was really listening to what I was saying.  It didn’t hurt that he had sparkling eyes and a smile that made me go a little gaga.  By the way – I really hope you’re imagining me on a Tinder first date with The Donald.  You must be scratching your head right now wondering wtf I was thinking.  I assure you, he looked nothing like Trump, and it’d be a few months before I found out how much they really did have in common.

korea people kids girls boy children fashion clothing model candy smile happy friends
Photographer: Tycho Atsma

Call me crazy, but I think it’s pretty important when working as an ESL teacher to have a basic appreciation of children.  Every day I’m surprised by the progress my little gremlins (er – munchkins) make.  The childhood whimsy in my daily life is a bonus of my job, not a detraction. Because of how far away Frederick lived, I didn’t really see him interact with many others in a social setting.  The one and only time I actually ventured out his way, there wasn’t all that much to do.  It was a beautiful day and the park provided a nice atmosphere for a walk, a talk, and some appreciation of jacket-less weather.

kids child boy happy smile smiling laughing people children usa flag water sprinkler
Photographer: Frank McKenna

A little boy trailed off from his mum and stood looking from Frederick to me and back practically beaming to have seen such alien entities in his little corner of a suburb of Seoul.  In true teacher form, I said “hello”, and asked him in Korean what his name was.  Frederick simply barked that he hated kids.  Good talk, bro.

travel trip adventure road grass street father son guy people men shades car vacation clouds sky forest woods
Photographer: Asaf R

When Daddy-o came to town I really should have gotten the hint, but we had been on so many awesome dinner dates, museum trips, and discussions about current events and opera, I had a tough time pulling myself away.  Frederick, you see, was a great fan of classical music.  He was a particular fan of Wagner.  I thought he just dug the intensity of The Ring Cycle.  Then, I spent the day with Frederick and his father.  Turns out it was his fondness of the Führer which drove his musical education.

girl woman blonde hair fashion stairs stairwell sunshine summer people
Photographer: Ondrej Supitar

I couldn’t figure out why he kept commenting on my blonde hair and blue eyes.  What I know of my background is that I’m mostly of English and Irish descent.  My blonde locks are a product of an overly enthusiastic Korean hair-stylist.  It’s no secret these locks have seen their fair share of bleach.  I think we’d all be surprised at our genealogical backgrounds.  My grandfather was adopted and I grew up in a multicultural society, so culture was always an exciting means of expression rather than a tool of judgement.  Frederick’s father mused about how lovely it would be to have a cute little boy running around the house.  Wait – Frederick only wanted to hitch his wagon to an American.  Pops knew that I was a “Snow Mexican”, right?

wurst sausage food stand restaurant menu people German Berlin
Photographer: Dave Meier

That talk turned into a discussion about home decor.  Dad took out his phone and started swiping.  Pictures started popping up on Dad’s phone of his young Filipina girlfriend (she and I are the same age and his son is older than me).  Eventually, we got to the home bar.  Sitting on a rooftop patio in Itaewon drinking Pina Coladas, I discovered that Frederick was not just an opera enthusiast, but a history buff and a bit of a dick.  Frederick was the wurst.  The basement bunker bar was designed in red, black, and white.  Propaganda and paraphernalia covered the accent wall to the left of the bar.  Had I been dating a modern day Nazi sympathizer?

girl woman red head hair people backpack fashion view landscape blue sky summer lifestyle city town looking
Photographer: Chris Lawton

I wish I could say the story ended there, but expat dating is tough!  Sadly, Frederick got the better of me for one more date.  I needed arm candy for an event, and Freddy definitely fit the bill.  That night he asked me to be his girlfriend.  We went out partying at what was then the newest and hottest spot for Koreans and expats alike in Seoul.  Bumping into many of my friends, he didn’t hesitate to hold my hand or kiss me in front of anyone.  Then, we ran into a naturally red-haired, adorkably beautiful friend from my neighbourhood.  They seemed to recognize one-another, but I wasn’t sure how.  It wasn’t until Monday when I received the screenshots of their 4 AM time-stamped Tinder conversation that I knew it was over.

passport travel trip
Photographer: Ian Baldwin

I was wrapped up in his arms and he was telling another woman how much he wanted the D….C.

Here lies Episode I of the Expat Dating Diaries and the 7 Worst Guys An Expat Can Date.  

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That Girl Cartier - Dating - The Green Monster - American Passport

*Names and other incriminating details have been changed to protect the not so innocent.

The 7 Worst Guys An Expat Can Date

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Dave Meier

We have a tendency to get a little bit lonely living abroad.  Expat dating can be tough!  It’s not always easy to meet someone who speaks English, and if you haven’t been somewhere long then your foreign language skills might not be strong enough for the dating world.  Men we’ve met while living abroad and trying to feign off loneliness haven’t all been bad.  The stereotypes represented are just that, stereotypes and generalizations, so please take this all with a grain of salt and a bit of a laugh.  Before you go locking up your love and throwing away the key, see if you notice any similarities herein.  This is all about the very worst of the worst: The 7 Worst Guys an Expat can Date.

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Ben White

The Local

This guy just wants to date someone foreign he can show off to his friends.  It’ll be a fleeting romance.  You’ll wonder what exactly you both were thinking.  In Korea, they call this phenomenon “Riding the White Horse”.  I’ll leave you and your imagination to that one.  This isn’t always the case, of course, but as a caucasian woman with blue eyes and blonde hair I’ve found more often than not this type of local’s intentions are pretty transparent, and they’re simply not for me.

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Taylor L. Spurgeon

The Green (CARD) Monster

This fellow might come from a country with a less than ideal passport situation.  Alternatively, he might have visions of moving to a different country for fame and fortune.  The Green Monster just wants you for your connection to your home and native land, land of hope and glory, or the home of the brave (most likely the latter, in my experience).

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Amanda Jordan

The Military Man

The Military Man tends to want to settle down.  Being deployed over and over again means he’s a lone wolf.  More often than not he’s “exclusively dating” a few lovely ladies.  They really do want to have their white picket fence and 2.5 kids, but the struggle is real when living in what amount to dorm rooms.  If you find a diamond in the rough, he will be the most loyal, caring gentleman in the world.  The standard review of the Military Man is that he’s a dirty dawg.

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Frank McKenna

The Eternal Expat

Flitting from city to city and country to country “sampling the local fare”, this guy has found a good life.  Probably considered to be generically attractive from a North American perspective, he’s got a charming personality.  Somewhere down the line he was likely a varsity athlete or fraternity brother.  He’s got natural game and women everywhere swoon.  He’s never settling down in one place, and for him you’ll never been enough.

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Ben White

The Lifer

Like the Eternal Expat, The Lifer doesn’t want to return home for fear he’ll just never have it as good.  He’s a 6 at home, but a 10 abroad.  Out every night of the week, he’s got a local girlfriend, but still crushes Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid on the regular.  With expat dates across the city during the week, he’s got a locally-sourced meal every Sunday night.

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Ben White

The LBH

The LBH or “loser back home” is a nightmare for both expats and travelers alike.  This guy has no social skills, but collects friends like Pokemon cards (note: he’s got a fat stack of those back home, too).  He’s likely well-educated (at least a Bachelor’s degree) and assumes that because he’s foreign (read between the lines here, ladies) he’s got something over the rest of the males in the country.  He’s not picking up the cheque anytime soon (which is fine, but let’s at least go Dutch) because he’s got massive student loans in arrears.  He probably has an acoustic guitar at home and has learned to play all of 3 chords.  Avoid this one like the plague…his friends are way cooler than he.

Expat Dating - That Girl Cartier

Photographer: Freestocks.org

The Travel Romance

This one shouldn’t be avoided altogether, but you must know upon entry that your risk of heartbreak is about 90%.  Meeting in vacation mode gives you the opportunity to live without the stress of work and other responsibilities at home.  You both are at your best around one another.  You’re swept up in the bliss of being in a new place with new adventures at every turn.  Give in to the Travel Romance, just don’t give away your heart completely.  It will fly away to the other side of the planet to taunt you with ransom letters every time your time-zones allow you to connect.

Have you had an expat or travel romance which has stood the test of time?  Make sure to leave a comment below!  If you’re in Korea, check out this list of stellar date spots in Seoul.  From the budding romance to a tale as old as time, The Toronto Seoulcialite has got you covered.

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That Girl Cartier - 7 Worst Guys an Expat Can Date

 

Winter Wonderland: Beating Dry Skin in Korea

Miracle 10 Skin Care Yorkville Toronto

From the time I was 8 until I was around 10 years old, I had some strange breakouts that plagued me (and my poor Mother while we were in France!).  I got teased quite a bit because of it.  When kids called me the traditional, silly, childhood names reserved for acne I wasn’t really bothered because they were mislabeling the issue.  They weren’t zits, but nobody really knew what was going on with my face.  At one point it all just cleared up, and since then I’ve always been the kind of person who found pride in being able to wash my makeup off with soap and water and still have pretty flawless skin.

Since coming to Korea, I’ve made much more of an effort to use a proper cleanser to take off my make-up before bed.  Since I’ve started teaching, my crows feet and forehead wrinkles have gotten out of hand.  It’s sudden, too.  I woke up in Osaka, Japan last summer and smiled at my reflection in the mirror while putting on make-up.  To my sheer horror, there were crows feet.  Aging: not a subtle bitch!  That’s actually why I decided to get botox once I moved to Seoul.

When I wrote this article, I hadn’t gotten botox, but you had better believe that my medicine cabinet had more than a few moisturizers.  Even with my twice daily moisturizing routine, the air quality in Korea combined with the dry winter cold (they don’t heat places like they do in Canada!  I’m constantly wearing my winter coat indoors) has left my skin really dry.  I know that a lot of my friends have had their fair share of weird and unexpected changes in how their bodies react to things in Korea, but the most common issue (beyond gut rot) has been related to skin.

My face is the biggest concern because that’s the only place where the dry skin actually feels itchy.  I don’t want to constantly be scratching my face – I’m (finally) trying to be good to my skin!  One of my kindergarten students actually pointed out that I had some red patches along the lower half of my face closer to the jaw-line.  My bronzer or blush actually clumps up in these patches.  It’s not pretty, y’all.

Miracle 10 Spa in Yorkville Toronto

I think it’s important to note that while this is in no way a sponsored post, The Plastic Surgery Clinic and Miracle10 skincare were in a Brand Ambassador-style partnership back in 2014 and 2015.  Miracle 10 skincare had been very good to me when I was in Toronto and had my lifestyle blog up and running, and my Twitter feed was more Toronto-centric.  I had been given the entire starter line of skincare products  ($249.00 on their website) tailored to my particular skin type.  The scents are very, very subtle (which I loved) and my skin felt fresh, clean, and healthy.  After running out of the products I unfortunately just did not have the money to purchase the set, but now that I’m getting older I think it would be a really wise investment (especially with this air quality and pollution in Asia).  Since their products are available with international shipping on miracle10.com, as well as on The Shopping Channel and Amazon.com, I can’t imagine I’ll have a problem getting them shipped to Seoul.  Fast forward to cleaning out my Busan closets and going through my  beauty collection, I found I actually still had quite a bit of one product left: Super C.

Miracle 10 Super C

Super C is designed for Normal/Maturing and Delicate/Dry Skin.  It helps to refine the appearance of fine lines, refines the texture and tone of the skin, and aids with skin brightening and fortifying.  When I see skin brightening in Korea it usually means whitening agents (eek – bleach!), but since this product is from Canada I felt fine going right ahead.  The Miracle10 skincare  website also provides the following information:

Your unique skin type may need a little extra boost to help it look its radiant best. Super C is 100% pure Vitamin C. This powerful anti-oxidant helps to repair the look of sun damage, hyper-pigmentation, and the signs of aging.

Super C
100% pure topical vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) is a highly stable antioxidant powder formulated to dissolve into and instantly supercharge any Miracle10 gel or cream formulation. Powerful antioxidant properties may help to repair and heal damaged skin. Super C assists in collagen production and the repair of sun damage to restore vitality, clarity and refinement to all skin types.

Features

  • Over time, skin becomes accustomed to certain ingredients, so it becomes important to adjust your skin care system.
  • This powerful antioxidant instantly dissolves into and supercharges any Miracle 10 cream or gel.
  • Improves skin texture and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Within 2 days and 3 applications my dry patches are almost entirely gone.  I’m pretty thrilled with the change in how those dry patches reacted, and wanted to pass on this little beauty fix to you!  Have you tried any of the Miracle10 products?  Are there any Korean beauty products that corrected an unexpected problem?  Let me know in the comments!

That Girl Cartier Was Born

That Girl Cartier - Cass Blue Playground

That Girl Cartier Was Born

In the summer of 2009 I started working for an online dating company.  There are plenty of interesting things you learn working for a website such as this.  Coding was not one of them, as you’ll soon understand.  On the internet, you can be anyone.  Take Paige, for example.  Paige was some sort of administrative assistant IRL, but online she was known as the sexy teacher by day, medieval fantasy fiction writer by night “Piage”.  All the customer service reps assumed that, much like Kanye typo-ed “cray”, she had simply misspelled her own name when creating her log-in credentials.  In the spirit of solidarity, we all misspelled our own real names.  Tila became Tilo, Brandi became Branki, Poustie-Rothberg became “P*ssy Rock”, and Carter became Cartier.   We were already a pretty eclectic bunch, but once the obnoxious names were included we became unstoppable (in our own minds, of course).

That Girl Cartier – Today

That Girl Cartier in turn became my alter ego.  Cartier is wild and uninhibited.  Cartier books flights to luxurious, far-away places at the drop of a hat.  She knows and buys quality.  She was a party-crasher until she got invited along for the ride.  Eventually, the ridiculous roller-coaster car flew off the rails, but it still seems to be soaring.  Sometimes I wonder where Cartier ends and I begin…