With an hour to kill before the movie we were going to see, Kay (Korean English teacher colleague) decided that now was the time to address my increasingly regular and panicky musings about where on earth I’m going to find summer clothes to fit me.
Korean women are impossibly petite. I’m talking an average of size 8 (UK sizing), here. I once saw a colleague stepping on to some scales, and she was – to my horror – less than half my weight. When you browse through the women’s clothes in a typical shop, you would swear that you were actually in the children’s department. I feel like a giant. And where is one to find giant-sized clothes?
It is a problem, you are a big girl, Kay agreed seriously, in that delightfully honest say-what-you-see manner that Koreans tend to have. But there are bigger Korean girls, too. They must buy clothes somewhere!
With this comforting thought in mind, we wandered over to Shark Zone – a mall that reminds me more of an indoor market, crammed with small, open-front shops selling jewellery, clothing, shoes, and so on. Before long, we found a stall run by one of said “bigger Korean girls” – still smaller than your average overweight Westerner, but not intimidatingly tiny, either. We browsed through the racks, and to my delight I found several items that looked as if they might not only fit me, but also serve as the loose-fitting, light, cool clothing I want in preparation for the nightmare Asian summer months ahead of me. Kay haggled on my behalf and struck up a friendly conversation with the girl, who, before long, was bringing us armfuls of stuff and holding things up against me as they discussed me in Korean.
One things that always amuses me is the appearance of random English words and phrases in Korean conversation. They’ve just adopted them into their language (leading to Konglish, which is a phenomenon I really must blog about in more detail soon), and of course they jump out at non-Korean speakers, sounding very comical when nothing else can be understood. In the case of Kay and the shop owner, the words were “big size”. I couldn’t help laughing. It seems to mean something slightly different than it would to us, but I can’t quite put my finger on the exact meaning. Maybe free size? I don’t know. Anyway, they kept saying it, pronounced in Korean fashion, meaning that ‘big’ became ‘pig’ thanks to the interchangeable b/p sound. That, combined with the ‘i’ in ‘big’ being a double ‘e’, and the ‘i’ in ‘size’ being a two-syllabled ‘aa-ee’, and of course the obligatory ‘uh’ at the end: peeg saa-ee-suh! It was cute rather than upsetting. ;)
Anyway, the woman was lovely, and helped me to pick out several items I liked. I firmly stood my ground when they tried to make me try on a cutesy, girly, pink monstrosity (must remember to blog about Korean fashion soon, too), and when she was calculating the total price – complete with generous discount – and packing my purchases, she threw in a pink, teddy-bear-decorated hoodie, telling me (through Kay) that it was a free gift to encourage me to wear pink so that I could see how much it suited me.
But seriously, is this really for wearing in public, like, outside, I mean, in front of people?! I asked in genuine disbelief as we examined it later. Kay nodded. It’s for when you want to look cute, she said. We looked at it for a while. And not like a small child? I added, seeking clarification.