Frozen and Frizzy in Korea

cold and cranky
Frizzy hair and unrelenting cold makes me cranky!

I’m cold. Not in an emotional way, I’m physically cold right now. We just moved to Squaw Valley and I kinda forgot how cold spring is in the mountain areas. So what do I do? I put on more layers. I’m sitting around in leggings, sweatpants, a long-sleeve shirt, a fuzzy-fleece and slippers. As I chill here (pun intended) all bundled up, I am reminded of our winter days in Korea and my problems of fashion versus warmth. I’m practical, so warmth won every time. But still, I couldn’t help but compare myself to my Korean counterparts.

cold korea
A typical winter outfit for me. I still felt cold despite my puffy marshmallow look.

Korean women are incredibly stylish. They run around in stilettos all day with flawless hair and makeup, toting designer bags while sporting fashionable outfits. Amazingly they don’t seem to be affected by weather unlike myself. In the winter they wear the tiniest mini-skirts with only a layer of pantyhose and a thin jacket protecting them from the harsh weather outside. During my winter in Korea, I gawked at every skinny Korean girl that ran by me oblivious to the freezing temperatures. I was layered in long underwear, jeans, a down jacket, earmuffs, and a massive scarf and could still feel the cold. How do they do it?

Conversely, in the summertime, Korean girls are able to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants and not lose a single drop of sweat. Meanwhile, my hair frizzes out, I drip with sweat and I struggle to maintain an image of being cool and serene. It’s not easy to stand next to Korean women with their impeccable style and inability to sweat. It’s actually downright frustrating. In the winter I looked rotund in my down jacket and in the summer my head looked like a schvitzing frizz-ball, while the girls around me looked trim, fashionable, and pulled together year-round.

Interestingly though, it’s only Korean women around my age that are like this. All other ages follow a different seasonal dress code. They don’t dress for the daily temperatures, but for the general time of year. This means that as soon as it is fall, the heaters are turned on and people start wearing heavier clothes even if it isn’t that cold out yet. I came into my classroom in October and the thermostat was turned to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I wish I was kidding. Eighty degrees! My kindergarten students were roasting. One of them pointed to her sweaty forehead and said “Teacher, wet”. This was not a cold day, mind you. It was a nice fall day. The heater did not need to be on at all, but it was the fall season so that meant the heater should be on inside, regardless of the current temperature outside.

frizzy hair
Frizz! Korean girls never have to worry about frizz. No fair.

Every time an adult came into my classroom, they would turn the heater on immediately, not caring if the kids wanted it on. The little ones would beg me for the air conditioner, but the system would have already been changed to winter mode and could not be altered. It didn’t help that the buttons were in Korean. I felt bad for them, but it was worse for the teachers since we had to dress conservatively and teach in classrooms that felt like we had been transported to Bangkok. We sweated our tushes off in the fall, but come winter, the classrooms were freezing because the children came to school wearing too many layers. Yes, I know this is all very confusing. The heater goes on in the fall and then off in the winter, then back on in the spring. The only season that made sense thermostat-wise was summer because we were granted air-conditioning privileges.

I felt bad for them, but it was worse for the teachers since we had to dress conservatively and teach in classrooms that felt like we had been transported to Bangkok. We sweated our tushes off in the fall, but come winter, the classrooms were freezing because the children came to school wearing too many layers. Yes, I know this is all very confusing. The heater goes on in the fall and then off in the winter, then back on in the spring. The only season that made sense thermostat-wise was summer because we were granted air-conditioning privileges.

I remember one of my older elementary school children was wearing a down jacket over several other layers in class one winter day. I urged him to take off the jacket because he was sweating and panting, but he refused. He said he was fine. He was clearly not fine. My students complained that it was too hot inside in the winter because they wouldn’t take off any layers. I asked a different student why she didn’t just take off her sweatshirt and she said she couldn’t. I could see a long sleeve shirt under it so I told her she was absurd. She explained that it was underwear. This made me laugh because long underwear shirts may be called underwear, but they are still acceptable to wear in public. They cover all the necessary parts and aren’t even a little risque. In fact, they are usually kind of frumpy. The mere title of underwear, made the shirt unacceptable though. That was the last time I prodded a student to remove layers. Instead, I started wearing more layers and dropping the thermostat.

I asked a different student why she didn’t just take off her sweatshirt and she said she couldn’t. I could see a long sleeve shirt under it so I told her she was absurd. She explained that it was underwear. I laughed at this because long underwear shirts may be called underwear, but they are still acceptable to wear in public. They cover all the necessary parts and aren’t even a little risque. In fact, they are usually kind of frumpy. The mere title of underwear, made the shirt unacceptable though. That was the last time I prodded a student to remove layers. Instead, I started wearing more layers and dropping the thermostat.

In conclusion let me say this, mini-skirts are the wrong clothes for the middle of winter. They’re great for when you’re subjected to intense heat on the bus, subway, or work environment, but what about the time spent walking outside? And how do you walk over snow and ice with stilettos? How?! On the flip side, why layer your children so much that they sweat out all of their bodily fluids in the dead of winter? These are things I will never be able to wrap my mind around. If anyone knows whether or not the twenty-something-year-old girls in Seoul who waltzed around in mini skirts and heels in the winter were even the slightest bit cold, please let me know. Are they better at regulating their core temperature than me or are they just more hardcore about their fashion?

If you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter

4 thoughts on “Frozen and Frizzy in Korea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *