I've mentioned before that Koreans are the tallest of East Asians. Many others, Korean and foreigner alike have agreed with me on this observation. Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are all quite slim, but I believe Koreans have the highest average Body Mass Index as well. Yeah I just looked it up, and as of 2011 they do. I certainly don't feel any taller in this country than I did in the U.S.
Despite this, clothes shopping is a common issue foreign men and women face while coming here. People think we have an obesity epidemic in Western countries, but that's not an accurate description. Phrasing it that way makes it sound like we have all these huge fat people with no disregard for their health. America does have way more obese people that look more like cartoons than humans, but the problem is not simple enough to be separated into the Fats and the Fat-nots. That's a false fat-chotomy. People at every point on the spectrum has gained weight, shifting the entire curve to the right. So there are many many more overweight and slightly overweight people in America as well. It's hard to find pants under size 30 in the US, and many brands use vanity sizing:
I witnessed just how differently sized the people are here than in America when I went shopping with Tom and Kari in Nampo-dong. Nampo is a sprawling commercial district with outdoor markets and street vendors as well as modern boutique shops and of course, two big malls. It's also next to the Jagalchi fish market, one of the major attractions Busan has to offer. Joe is dying to take me back to Nampo because I can experience much more if I go with an experienced Korean at lower prices, so I'll write about Nampo another time. This time, Tom, Kari and I were just exploring, sampling the street food, and being Asian tourists, stopping to take pictures of everything. Kari actually did look around for some fashionable jeans, because a young, hip Korean pointed to the bottom of her jeans and said, “You, nooooo *crosses arms in X shape”. Her jeans are flare at the bottom in a boot-cut style. She doesn't wear a boyfriend cut, and it's not a full on bell-bottom but ANYWAY, the point is it's totally out of style in Korea. It's all about tapered cuts or super-skinnies.
And when it comes to being IN style, your options are highly limited. This is the most conformist country in the world. You have very few choices for fashion, so if you want to stand out, your only hope is to do mainstream really damn good. But today we're not talking about being stuntin' and shinin'. We're just some way-gooks (foreigners) trying to keep up as best we can.
Kari's attempt to find some stylish jeans ended in varying degrees of amazing failure every time. Funny thing is, she's not even big. She's a skinny tall blonde. And I don't go by American standards- American average looks fat to me. She's like 5' 9” size 6 skinny. But in the Korean clothing stores, the dialogue would go something like this,
“Hi. I want to buy jeans. Do you have my size?”
“Yeah, you just missed them. Turn around and walk ten steps right back the way you came.
Mostly, she'd show them her waist/hips and the manager's eyes would bug out and they'd say, “Nooooooooo” or direct her to the biggest section of the store. She came up empty handed every time. That means 90% of the girls I saw at orientation are fucked.
As far as shopping for guys? Well, Tom's too big for shoes but he did okay with X-large shirts. I have a 28 inch waist but those pants are always too tight for my ass and thighs so I didn't even try. My feet are high arched and quintuple wide so casual shoe shopping has never been in a reality for me. I guess I'll get back to you on that one. Here's some pictures from our excursion to Nampo.
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