Getting a haircut and perm in Seoul!

One of my main goals for this study abroad venture was to put in an effort to try things I wouldn’t be able to get done back at home in Philadelphia, so I decided that I wanted to get a completely new hair cut! It was always tough dealing with salons who wouldn’t really know how to style Asian hair or deal with mediocre salons in general back home, so I was really excited to get my hair done in Seoul! I had been putting it off for a while in part due to lack of inspiration, but also because I wanted the style to last for as long as possible back home. I had decided to stop avoiding it and googled a few foreigner/English friendly salons located in Hongdae and went from there. I was actually encouraged to book appointments through Instagram direct messages (DMs), so I messaged two salons to see who would respond first out of impatience. Thankfully, I received a response from a popular salon called Soonsiki and was directed to DM their head of house at their Hongdae location. All we had really discussed in that chat were available slots for a consultation, possible perm and definitive cut. I had booked an appointment for three days later and was later surprised to find out at the end of the conversation that my designated hairdresser, Yoniyoko (who was very kind and helpful), actually wouldn’t be able to communicate with me in English during the actual appointment and was using a translator. I wasn’t really phased by this as my comprehension is pretty good so I decided to just give the appointment a go and not be held back by the language barrier.

I arrived at the salon the day of my appointment and was really very impressed by the interior and thought it was a very nice looking salon. However, I also thought about it and I just feel like the aesthetic standard for a salon that offers perming and dyeing is higher in Korea than it is in the U.S. (this salon specializes in more trendy hair dyeing options). Anyways, I sat in a waiting area and had my backpack and literal sweatshirt checked in, which I found funny because I was checking in my old oversized hoodie. I was also given a robe, which a hair assistant helped me put on; totally unnecessary, but I guess it really helped in making the experience more luxurious and special. It was then that I sat down to have a quick consultation with an assistant (who I noticed also had an earpiece in) and I tried my best to communicate to her in my developing Korean speaking skills that I don’t have anything in mind and just wanted a cut that my hairdresser thinks would suit me. I got the message across and also gave other basic information about me like my occupation, hobbies, etc. Almost immediately after that, I met with Yoniyoko and she told me some ideas she had for a perm style and general hair style. I really just agreed with everything she said and told her that I’m leaving it in her hands, which I think she was kind of surprised to hear?

I sat down in the salon chair prepared to get a straight perm and bangs, although I had no idea how long the process for a perm was as it was the first time I was treating my hair ever. I also had no idea what exactly it would entail and was prepared to watch and be slightly amazed. Initially, I was also given a menu out of which I could pick a free drink and I thought that was so nice and it made me more excited. They gave me lemonade and some toast with butter/fig jam to munch on. I don’t want to describe the whole hair cutting process in detail because I quite frankly don’t even remember the steps of what happened too well, but it really only took her 25 minutes to wash and cut my hair. The other 2 hours was spent perming and washing it more. The perming process was really just applying the chemicals to my hair in order to change the texture into a more straight one (I was not aware that my hair could get even more straight and learned that I’ve always had frizzy straight hair), placing the covered hair in curlers, letting it sit, washing it, styling it with heat to further establish the new texture, and then applying a solution that would stop the perming process. I’m sure I’ve missed steps or messed up the order, but this is what I can remember. This took a while, but it was all very interesting to watch and it felt like the time had flown by with the number of times my hair needed to be washed and with all the brain power I poured into creating functional Korean sentences. It was very pleasant communicating with the hairdressers and assistants and they were very understanding whenever I needed a moment to come up with a word or pull out the Papago translator. I think my hairdresser was pleased to learn that she was working with never before treated hair as well.

I think one important thing was that I was given a lot of advice and recommended a few products for treating and styling the hair. One of the things that kind of made me surprised, was that I would have to style it everyday if I wanted to maintain a certain look. I am generally very low effort with these type of things so I was dreading having to do this everyday and knew I would give up eventually. I think it was valuable to realize as well that this is simply also a cultural norm in Korea to style your hair everyday as part of routine, while it is usually not in America.

At the end of the day, the bill was quite expensive. It was the most I had ever spent on a hair cut, but I don’t regret it at all. It was something I’m really glad I got to experience and I also love my new hair to pieces. I am trying my best to continue to style it! I also had fun at the salon and enjoyed talking to them and I’ve decided that I’ll be going back to get my bangs trimmed as well!

A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:

The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.

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