Reverse Culture Shock #4: Nail Polish

When I was a young child, I had a cheap red ‘nail tint’ which I think meant that it was edible…not that I tried. While I don’t remember ever having my own nails painted red, my favorite childhood doll’s fingers proudly exhibited my attempts to paint her nails. Some time in middle school, I renewed my interest in nail polish and I went through a phase of randomly dabbing on multiple nail polish colors on each nail (and then repainting any chips with a new color). In high school, I rarely painted my nails and was not allowed to have nail polish for neither marching band competitions nor when wrestling was in season. When I did paint my nails, I opted for either dark blue or black. If any paint ended up on my fingers (around the nail or on my palm or between my fingers), I usually hoped it would come off in water either that day or the next. 😀

Anyway, when I was in Korea, I renewed a slight interest in nail polish and picked up a light purple. After wearing the color a grand total of twice, I picked up a shimmery navy blue which I actually don’t remember ever putting on myself. Later on, I picked up a black nail polish which I wore a couple of times. I was surprised when the color was pleasantly received by coworkers and students.  At all the schools I was asked if I had a ‘manicure’ to which I was like–no….I painted them myself. (That was when I would receive shocked expressions from the teachers.)  On that note–turns out that ‘manicure’ is a borrowed English word used by Koreans to mean nail painting (not for the full-out manicure Americans think of when they hear the word). Anyway, when I taught at the elementary school, there was a bit of a ‘shock’ value but that was only because of the fact that I was wearing nail polish (not the color).

I’m back in America and I really want to buy nail polish. Of course, the only color I really want to buy is black. I am reluctant to buy it because I have not seen anyone wearing black nail polish. I remember the negative connotations that attach to black nail polish–’emo’ or depressed or druggie or something or other. Even though I am personally indifferent to what people may attach to my finger nail color, I do not want to receive skeptical glances from coworkers and/or supervisors.

Anyway…while black is not a widely popular color in Korea, I miss the elegance that it represents there:

A poster outside a nail salon in Korea (parking lot next to it)

A poster outside a nail salon in Korea (parking lot next to it)







One comment

  1. Anonymous · · Reply

    Tell me about conotations, if you don´t say hi or give the greeting of the day they look at you with indifference. If you don´t stand up or kneel with them in church they look at you like something is wrong with you.. I tell them, is all created by man. What you all are looking for in church I already have it. 🙂 this is one of the many reasons i really don´t attend the churches here.

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