We really are dirty foreigners

Now, before you get all angry and leave some nasty comment – this blog post is referring to Korean scrubs, not stereotypes.

The winter weather is harsh on my skin.  So, I decided it was time to lose an inch of dead skin and get a traditional Korean body scrub.  I had scoped out a place that is on my way to work and decided to brave it on my own. 


Side note: I have gotten a Korean scrub once before, but in the States.  It was in Tacoma, WA at the Olympus Spa.  It was not the most pleasant experience, as just a day earlier I had run my first full-marathon.  I was SORE!  Also, I happened to be going with Micah’s mom and didn’t realize until I got there that you are required to be naked the whole time.  Talk about bonding. 🙂

I was a little apprehensive, but I had some foreigner friends who had gone in Korea and on their own – and they said it felt nice and the scrubbers weren’t too abrasive. 

Sorry – no pictures to accompany this – you’ll understand why.

There are jinjibangs aka “bathhouses/spas” all over Korea.  The one I went to looked a little cleaner and nicer than others I’ve passed by.  Most Korean men, women and children go there to relax, detoxify, and SCRUB! 

While women have the option of paying someone to scrub them (what I did), most women just bring their own scrubbing pads and scrub themselves and help in scrubbing others.  Seriously, I see them scrubbing themselves into a red mess.  Koreans are SERIOUS about having clean skin.  And it’s not just adults, the little kids are getting scrubbed too.  One little girl I saw was in the “butt-spanking position” and was getting quite a scrub down from her mom.  Another older women was on all fours while her daughter (I presume) scrubbed every inch of her.  It’s hard not to stare when that sort of stuff is going on around you.

Ok, so here’s how it worked for me:

  • I paid 5,500 won at the front counter – this is the price for access to the saunas/spa for as long as you want
  • I had to put my outside shoes into a locker and then move into the women’s locker room
  • Time to get naked – yes, all the way
  • I walked to the room where all the hot tubs, pools, and steam rooms are located and where EVERYONE is naked. 
  • I found the “scrubbing room” and gave the ajumma (old Korean lady) 12,000 won and she gave me a bracelet to wear with a number on it.  When they call your number, it’s your turn.
  • In the meantime, I MUST soak in the hot and cold tubs.  This helps make the scrubbing process easier.  This is where you just sit and take it all in.
  • Even though I’m Korean, I’m fairly certain my tan lines (from the Thailand trip) gave me away as being different – at least I think so.  I certainly got a lot of stares.
  • After a good half hour, my number was called and I was led to the scrubbing area.
  • I let her know right away that I was American and couldn’t speak English. She (the scrubber) was very friendly (and only dressed in panties). 
  • I laid on a slippery leather table and was doused with a couple buckets-full of hot water.
  • And then the scrubbing began.  They wear these scrubber-things on their hands and they get EVERY INCH of your body.  EVERY INCH.  They make you twist and turn and douse you every now and then with more water.  It actually felt kind of nice and much less abrasive than my first time.
  • I’m not used to doing this, and it’s been years since my last Korean scrub.  WIth that said, the dead skin that came off me was absolutely DISGUSTING!!!  I was filthy.  It doesn’t matter how much you scrub at home with loofahs…you will still have gross, dirty, dead skin come off you.  The Korean women lying right next to me (yes, they fit five tables into this small room) had half as much dirty skin coming off of them as me.  I was one dirty foreigner. 
  • A little more dousing, a quick massage, and then I headed to the showers with my new and extremely soft skin. 🙂

3 Responses to “We really are dirty foreigners”

  1. 1 stockk February 22, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Lisa, I feel dirty now–must get myself to Korean scrubbing spa!! 🙂 It sounds painful though!

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