One size fits all in South Korea, as long as that size is small
November 10, 2015 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm Korean (but grew up in California) and when I think about maybe living in Korea for a bit I don't think it's the language or cultural differences but this that would stop me from moving there. I went to Korea a few years ago and went to a couple of shops and faced this exact thing. I think I'm pretty average sized, even small on an American scale and the clothes there are TINY! The first shop assistant looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if they had any other sizes and by the second shop I was depressed. I was depressed at how fat I was compared to the "norm" rather than astonished/annoyed that they did it this way.

I spent the rest of my trip buying Korean makeup instead which thankfully is fab and fits all sizes.
posted by like_neon at 11:40 AM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

"Kim holds out hope that Korean culture will become more inclusive"

It's a nice idea, but in my limited experience the sentiment is not there. I know young women who were shamed into getting plastic surgery by their own mothers because their eyes were "too small." Telling someone they're too fat, their butt or boobs or even calves are "too big", etc. are perfectly acceptable thing to say to a near-stranger.

Dear Square Peg,
You will fit into the round hole. If you don't fit into the round hole, we will shame you into cutting pieces off until you do fit.


posted by 1adam12 at 12:03 PM on November 10, 2015

I was in Tokyo in the spring. An awesome experience but, like Korea, Japan is not for the plus sized. There were many woman's stores which just didn't carry anything larger than a size 6. The clothes I bought: a woman's t-shirt size XL (I usually wear a size 8) and a couple of trendy j-pop men's tops.

My male companion was 6'2" and 250 pounds he didn't fit into some of the smaller restaurants let alone the clothes.
posted by Gwynarra at 1:11 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm 6' and wear a mens Medium in the US, but its hard to find clothes in Japan. I ended up buying like an XXL shirt at a Japanese Uniqlo one time, for example. And even then it doesn't fit right --- its designed more for a heavier but still shorter person. But of course it's very rare for men to be 6' or more there, so it makes sense they don't really stock clothes like that.

I know a couple of plus-size Japanese people and they obviously have clothes, so its certainly possible.

My Japanese wife has the opposite problem here in the US, even the smallest women's size is sometimes too big for her. So we usually just save up and do all her shopping when we visit Japan (especially shoes).
posted by thefoxgod at 1:50 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was an expat in Singapore about 15 years ago and was a US size 4. (Those were the days!) I would regularly be turned away by the shop assistants, who were renowned for their tact, and told that I was too fat and we have nothing in your size. Occasionally they did but mine was the largest they carried. So far as shoes, forget about it, I was a size 9 and the sizes there basically stopped at 5. Shopping there was quite the depressing endeavour.
posted by Jubey at 2:30 PM on November 10, 2015

Jesus, that's depressing.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:49 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jubey, how times have changed! My wife and I visited Singapore from Japan a year or two ago and she was thrilled that she could actually find clothes in her (fairly ordinary American) size there.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:07 PM on November 10, 2015

Even Spain was somewhat like this for my wife. She's 178cm and a size 10 or 12, so hardly a giantess. While there were a few garments available, overwhelmingly, nope, everything was too small. Footwear too, for a size 41 ladies.
posted by wilful at 3:52 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had to buy a bathing suit in Thailand, same thing. I'm 5'4" and at the time was about 115lbs. I bought the large but should have gone for the extra large since when I put on a few pounds things got uncomfortably tight. My partner, at 130lbs, a bit taller than me, was SOL.
posted by Cuke at 7:22 PM on November 10, 2015

I am very average sized- I am slightly big for a woman and slightly small for a man- at least here in the US. I love Korean clothes and buy a lot of them online. In Korean sizes, I am a XXL in women's and a large in men's, roughly.

I always assumed this was because Americans are just bigger than Koreans? I have had two family members and several friends spend time in Korea via the military and English teaching jobs, and every one of them was vastly taller than the locals. Even a girl I went to high school with, whose mom is a first generation Korean American and whose dad is African American, towered over her Korean family, despite being considered rather small here.
posted by Athene at 8:25 PM on November 10, 2015

To bring this back to the country in question, I do find this part of the culture ever so slightly ironic. The reason being: I can't count the times I've asked the following question about items in Home Plus, and large supermarkets in general:

"Why the fudge do they think we all want super-sized family packs of shower soap, toothpaste and goodness knows what else? Not everyone lives with their family!"
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:55 AM on November 11, 2015

And yes, eating disorders are widespread in Korea, with a 2009 study that showed that almost 1 in 5 women were "undernourished," and the rate is similarly skyrocketing in Japan.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:04 AM on November 11, 2015

jfwlucy: "And yes, eating disorders are widespread in Korea, with a 2009 study that showed that almost 1 in 5 women were "undernourished," and the rate is similarly skyrocketing in Japan."

The rate of obesity in Japan is also skyrocketing. As was predicted years ago, Japan is rapidly becoming more and more like America when it comes to food and food-related problems.
posted by Bugbread at 6:42 AM on November 11, 2015

Also ... Guatemala. I'm a 6'1", 200 lb guy. Store clerks would laugh when I asked if I had jeans in my size. On the other end ... the Netherlands.
posted by falsedmitri at 6:58 AM on November 11, 2015

It's quite odd, I buy most of my clothes online, and quite a few of these come from Korea, and they are mostly pretty large and loose outfits. Maybe the suppliers of these plus sized clothes (I'm very short, but fat, so have to get a size 14 UK most of the time) only do export business?
posted by Alnedra at 6:18 PM on November 11, 2015

I can always find shirts that more or less fit me in the UK, but trousers always stop just one or two sizes short of fitting my hips. I look around at people on the street much larger than me and wonder where the deuce they must shop. This is allegedly the most obese nation in Europe, but nobody carries off-the-peg men's trousers above a 42" waist!

I finally gave up and started internet-ordering trousers. It's a frustrating mess of trying things on and sending them back. If they'd been in the damned shops I could have short-circuited this process!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:16 AM on November 12, 2015

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