Once in Korea, I was told by an adult student that my brother (based on a photo) was more handsome than I. I laughed, and she was like, "Really! He's more handsome." What good can come out of this uncalled for comparison? Is the implication that I should now go get plastic surgery??
Another time, an adult student said that I am "kind of handsome." Perhaps she didn't realize how unflattering that sounds.
Better to say nothing at all than to say such complimsults (I just made up this word.)
Chinese people also tend to be blunt about physical appearance, nicknaming people "fatso," asking what happened to your face, etc.
Last week, at the beginning of the week- a little girl came up to me and said several times, "Teacher is handsome". I said, "Thank you very much". I took it as a compliment but I wasn't too flattered, as I know Korean people often just throw these words around.
At the end of the week the same girl came up to me and said, "Teacher is ugly". I said, "that's not not very nice!" and she repeated, "Teacher is ugly".
I said, "why?" She said, "your hair is no good!". I laughed, especially as I new I was having a bad hair day and probably in need of a haircut. So I decided to be thankful for her feedback.
So this makes me wonder if the word ugly is a correct translation. Could 못생겨 mean something less harsh than the word ugly, like having an unkempt appearance? Because ugly means something very horrible- repulsive and hideous, not just you're having a bad hair day.
Also I have noticed that adults also throw around these words and call each other beautiful and handsome, without necessary having a romantic/sexual interest in the person. Also I have been called handsome by many guys as well in Korea, which was unusual for me. People can also call you handsome to try and flatter your ego when they want something or are looking for a favor.
No. It means ugly. Koreans are just blunt about appearances. My coworkers will tell me I look sick or tired without batting an eye. It sounds like your student was displeased witb your appearance that day. She just didn't have the more direct words yet to say exactly why.
I'm curious why you are not used to appreciating someone's appearance without sexual attraction? Korean men are a little looser with showing affection to their friends. Its pretty refreshing.
I know it means ugly, but I don't think it has the same connotation as the word ugly. Do you understand?
I also didn't say anthing about what I appreciate or what I am not used to appreciating. I just find it unusual and superficial the way they tend to throw around these words, and I have worked in 7 different countries.
Generally I have no need to comment on people's appearances at all. I only tend to call my girlfriend beautiful.
If you call someone ugly in an English speaking country you may face a negetive reaction or seriously hurt someone's feelings. In Korea too, it's an offense to insult someone in a public setting. So I think it's important to teach students not to go around calling people ugly.
In response, I asked the class whether or not they thought that particular girl was beautiful or ugly, and the boys said ugly. So it just shows how superficial they are when it comes to throwing around these words.
I'd say it's like unkempt like you said. Sloppy, awkward, uncool, tasteless, unfashionable are some other words I think are similar in connotation. It is true that Korean people are upfront about physical traits, but I think it's not as much of a value judgement as in the west. I think it's more just their personal opinion. It definitely causes some culture shock to some people.
That people throw them around so casually could mean they are less shallow--they realize these things are superficial and don't place too much meaning/worth in appearance, which allows people to express such things without the danger of offending people on the one hand or coming off as flirtatious on the other. That to me would be the more obvious explanation. That English speaking cultures are so careful with these words is a sign that appearances are given way too much importance.
I think it's part of the 외모주상주의 (lookism) culture. The pressure to be thin and pretty is extremely high in Korea. I've never had someone flat out call me ugly, but I'm always told that I "look sick" whenever I am not wearing enough makeup. I feel like it's a way of signaling that someone isn't following the rules or standards set by society. My friends told me these comments usually aren't meant as personal jabs. They're a blunt way of showing concern. However, saying "you are ugly" seems like something totally uncalled for.
I've lived in both Seoul and Busan, and the atmosphere in Seoul is much colder. People are busy doing their own thing and have a lot on their minds. Unfortunately, a lot of overworked people crammed into a high density space all trying to make a living doesn't always foster kindness. The levels of stress and competition in Seoul are through the roof.
(1) 못생겼다 describes something that took place in the past but the result is presently felt and may continue to be so.
In English, it is closely expressed by the present perfect: has been, meaning "was and still is".
못생겼다 = (was & is) ugly
(2) To describe a complete past,- "was but no longer is (at least till now)", probably it's best to use the distant past tense (past perfect)
못생겼었다 = (had been) ugly / used to be ugly
or to make use of some time adverbs or adverbials e.g. once; in youth; before surgery etc.
그녀는 "한때" 못 생겼어요 = She was ugly "once".
☆☆☆ Grateful for corrections/feedbacks from Native or Fluent Korean speakers.
In Korea I found that it's quite common for people, especially students to comment or make a judgement (in English class) about whether or not someone is "handsome" or "ugly". It's even in some of their English textbooks. They just throw these words around without really understanding the real meaning and implications.
I'm afraid it's not :( From Naver Dic: 못생겼다: 생김새가 보통에 미치지 못하다. https://ko.dict.naver.com/detail.nhn?docid=13882100 Only mentions the physical shape being below average.
I am wondering from a cultural standpoint...
In my culture any comments on a woman's appearance that isn't positive is frowned upon heavily, or the comment is used to show that you dislike the person. It is seen as more of an insult than just a difference of opinion. For some reason, comments about men's appearances are both said less and aren't taken as seriously (Though I will say that this is changing to about the same level of insult as with women.) So basically you almost never should say that someone is ugly in my culture unless you want the person you are calling ugly and probably also the people around them to dislike you, and it is seen as a negative thing to say.
But this a Korean course, so would it be offensive to say "너는 못생겼어요." to a close friend in South Korea or North Korea, or is this seen as somehow considerate, or as maybe way of showing raw honesty?
I probably won't be saying this sentence because of my culture, but I would still like to know from people native to North or South Korea how they feel about this, about how and where this sentence would be used, and about how normal or rude it is to say something like this in Korea.