Every day, about a dozen Koreans tell me that I am handsome. We were warned about this at EPIK orientation. They told us that men would constantly be told that they are handsome, and women would be told that they are pretty. One particularly honest lecturer told us that the more often you hear it, the less likely it is true. Koreans love flattery, and they will pile it on.
At first I ignored the compliments. I said “thank you” and never gave them a second thought. As the weeks went by, and I continued to hear it all the time, my resolve began to fade. You know what…maybe I am handsome. Sure, one or two times is flattery, but five or ten times has got to be honesty.
The fact that I have been losing a bit of weight only served to perpetuate this illusion. Let’s be honest, I look a lot better now than when I landed in Korea. They probably were just being polite at first, but now….now they’re being honest.
“They say you are what you eat, but I don’t remember eating sexy beast this morning.”
Last week, my sister told me that she thought I had lost some weight. I told her that I knew I had lost a bit, but I wasn’t sure how much – maybe a few pounds. That night, she sent me an email with before and after pictures side-by-side. I was amazed. I really have lost a lot of weight. Damn I look good.
Damn right I’m handsome!
Of course I had to get a reality check sooner or later. I’ve lost some weight, but I’m not exactly skin and bones. It will take a few more months to reach my ideal weight. Leave it to a Korean to kick my ass back to earth. I was out to dinner with a Korean girl, and we had this conversation:
Her: I think you have lost weight.
Me: Oh, thanks for noticing! I’m pretty excited about it.
Her: I’m a little worried.
Her: If you keep losing weight, and become handsome, will you still like me?
Her: What did I say?
Me: I’m glad you think I have the potential to be handsome someday.
Her: You are welcome.
Of course, she didn’t mean anything by this. She realized a moment later that she had said something wrong, but I decided not to dwell on it. Her intentions were good, and English isn’t her first language.
Though they are exceedingly polite in formal situations or with acquaintances, Koreans tend to be completely honest with friends. I find this refreshing, even if it’s not always healthy for my ego. Ultimately, I appreciate the fact that she didn’t beat around the bush. I can trust my Korean friends to tell me the truth in situations when most Americans would rely on flattery.
Until next time.