Some of you might remember the blog post I wrote about my first experience with discrimination whilst living in South Korea (and if you haven’t read it yet, how dare you!). To give you a brief highlight, many Koreans did not appreciate my darker skin. And by “not appreciate” I mean that I was called “ugly” and “dirty” on a daily basis. Oftentimes, people would get up and move away from me if I sat next to them on the subway. You might be tempted to think I am exaggerating, however I actually have one of these moments on video, as a small Korean man called my blonde friend beautiful, then looked over at me and gave me the thumbs-down symbol, proceeding to tell me I was ugly and had a big nose.
I understand the cultural norms behind this – if you are darker, it means you work in the fields and are of a lower social class than those lucky enough to work in offices, flaunting white skin – however after month seven of twelve, I was ready to go back to a country where I wasn’t considered hideous.
As luck would have it, Argentina was just that country. From the minute I arrived in Salta, the locals approached me on the street multiple times, telling me I had the most beautiful and ideal skin color. My tan skin was actually considered a good thing! Taxi drivers stared at me in what, oddly, seemed like disbelief, and told me I was beautiful. They called me a princess.
I went from being a hideous and reprehensible creature to a pretty princess – simply by traveling to another part of the world.
I know what you are thinking: We all need to be happy with ourselves despite external influences. Yes, yes. We all know this. But it DOES hurt when you are berated with insults… and it DOES help when you are showered with compliments. You start believing what you are conditioned to.
So what lesson did I learn from this? I finally understood what my best friend had always told me: “There’s a sock for every foot.”
Applied, that means don’t worry about being society’s version of perfect or fitting into a mold of what beauty is supposed to be. Everyone’s idea of beauty is different and someone out there in this big old world is going to find you beautiful.