Culture K-Beauty Lost in translation

What’s your blood type? What a small face! Odd Korean questions & compliments


Many Korean people (a whopping 75%) strongly believe that blood type is closely related to personality traits and they would go as far as stereotyping people according to the blood type (Why do Koreans say they are a nation of “Pure Blooded Koreans”? Can we debunk the myth?). If you go on a blind date in Korea, the chances are very high that you will be asked what your blood type is, so make sure to know your blood type beforehand. While many will just laugh it off and say they are just doing it for fun’s sake, some are really serious about it. 

Okay then, let’s take a close look at the story behind it. Originally, it is believed to have all started when a Japanese professor named Takeji Furukawa published his work titled, “The Study of Temperament Through Blood Type” in 1927. Although it was largely regarded as non-scientific due to the lack of credentials, the idea must have been very intriguing because it quickly gained popularity. In the 1970s, the idea was further amplified with a publication by a Japanese journalist who was an advocate of the professor’s idea.

Since then, it made its way over to Korea and became a popular belief. Another thing to consider is the fact that all elementary school kids have to go through a mandatory annual student health examination (which included blood type testing until 2016), and it could have contributed to the proliferation of this idea because they are more sensitive about such theory than the kids in other countries who do not know their blood type. 

All right, that ought to be enough for an introduction so here is the fun part. Below are the descriptions commonly used to illustrate the characteristics of each blood type. Take a good read and compare with your own self-assessment to see how (in)accurate they are.


– Conservative / Introverted.

– Find difficulty in expressing emotions or trusting others.

– Often called a fundamentalist and a perfectionist. 

– Have a strong sense of responsibility at work, and easily gain the trust of the organization. 

– Always make plans with extreme caution, but often seen as lacking flexibility.

– Look like a hard worker, but you can be a party animal in disguise.

– Can be quite adventurous when dating.


– Inquisitive / Full of curiosity.

– Have an endless stock of topics for conversation.

– Full of original ideas.

– Exceptional ability in project planning.

– Have a strong interest in new things and often have trouble focusing.

– Sometimes called inconsistent.

– Prefer working at your own pace than in organizational settings.

– Compassionate and tender-hearted but sometimes seen as too nosy.


– Personality – Warm-hearted / Behavior – Goal-oriented.

– Not bothered by minor obstacles and have the ability to focus on given tasks.

– Strong sense of comradeship, often assuming the leadership role within a group.

– Often seen as a romanticist pursuing dreams, but can be surprisingly cool-headed in pressing situations.

– Hate losing and competitive- can be seen as condescending and self-complacent.


– Unpredictable – different characteristics depending on which side of the A&B combination gets ignited.

– Superb ability to adapt to any given situation.

– Objective in making decisions, thus less prone to making mistakes.

– Often seen as someone who is easily led, but also can be wishy-washy.

– Prefer to keep personal life private and do not care much about those of others, either.

So… how accurate are they? The Korean Society of Hematology officially announced that there is absolutely no scientific basis for this belief and personality is a byproduct of environmental factors such as family and education. In fact, many experts say that it should be attributed to what’s known as the Barnum effect, the tendency to embrace certain information as true and relevant to oneself.

Examples include character assessment tests, horoscopes, tarot reading. The similarity between them is that the descriptions provided are so vague, they can be applied to anybody, leading people to falsely believe that they are actually tailored to their unique circumstances when in fact, they are not. Maybe it’s because our desire for seeking explanations to what happens around us is deeply embedded in our human nature and these are effective tools in alleviating our uncertainties. And of course, you have to factor in the entertainment value they provide – don’t we feel a little better when our horoscope (or a fortune cookie?) says something hopeful? 

A bonus story – there is even a compatibility chart between blood types to show how good of a match they are (chemistry). As you might have guessed, a research survey conducted in 2014 by a Korean matchmaking company 듀오 Duo concluded it was baseless. They closely examined 3,000 couples and found that blood type had no significant impact on the possibility of a couple getting married*. Well, there you have it. Do you believe the theory? Then you must be blood type B! (sarcasm)

*Of the total 3,000 couples, the most were “Male Blood Type A – Female Blood Type A” couples (350), followed by “Male Blood Type O – Female Blood Type A” couples (296), and “Male Type B – Female Type A couples (293). The least was “Male Blood Type AB – Female Blood Type AB” couples (34).

RELATED : Koreans believe their future is predetermined, including how good of a match you are with your significant other.

Odd Korean questions & compliments – WHY DO KOREANS ASK IF YOU ATE?

Shik-sa ha-sheo-sseo-yo? 식사 하셨어요? (polite formal) / bab meo-geo-sseo? 밥 먹었어? (casual) “Have you eaten? ( = Did you eat yet?)”. It sounds like the first thing you would hear when you visit your grandma’s house. But for Koreans, it’s a greeting expression used as frequently as annyeonghaseyo 안녕하세요(literally “Are you at peace?” = “How are you?”). Why would they want to know if I ate? Many believe that it has its origin in history. In the agricultural society of Korea, meals were an important event of the day, because it did not only provide energy but served as a coagulant that brought the labor forces and community together. And through the difficult times after the Korean War which destroyed the nation to ashes, skipping meals was common, and asking if someone had the chance to have a meal naturally became a way of checking in on each other. And times have changed and so has the expression’s meaning. It’s the same as asking “How are you?” in English, which you would usually answer by saying “fine, thanks,” even if you weren’t. So when asked as a greeting, don’t take it at face value and just say “I ate,” or “I haven’t but I will soon.” And if the person asking was actually interested in knowing whether you ate, they would also say something like, “I was going to ask you to have lunch with me,” so you would know the difference.

Learn some basic Korean expressions.


If you decide to dine alone at a Korean restaurant, don’t be surprised or offended if you find people looking at you with a strange look. In a collectivist traditional Korean society that valued the sense of unity and belongingness, meals were an important bonding ritual, so they were to be had with family, friends, or co-workers. This notion is so deeply embedded in Korean people that dining alone in a restaurant are not something they are used to seeing. So people might look at you like an oddball or the owner ajumma 아줌마 would even ask why you are eating alone, but it’s all out of fraternal concern. But as times have changed and people are running both out of time and space, so has the meaning associated with a meal. It shifted away from a bonding ritual to a regular exercise from which you need the energy and nutrition required to make it through the day. Reflecting the social changes, many restaurants are introducing honbap 혼밥 (solo-dining) and honsul 혼술 (solo-drinking) menus and places targeting the busy modern-day Koreans.


Odd Korean questions & compliments - You have a small face!

“Wow! Your face is the size of a fist!” If someone says this to your face, don’t panic because they’re not trying to pick a fight with you. Rather, it is a genuine compliment coming from the heart, because one of the most important standards of Korean beauty is having a nicely proportioned body, and they consider pal deung shin 8등신 (“eight-head figure”)” to be ideal. Hence, having a smaller face is admired (especially among the younger generation) as it makes it easier to achieve that ideal proportion.

 one of the most important standards of Korean beauty is having a nicely proportioned body, and they consider pal deung shin 8등신 ("eight-head figure")” to be ideal.

Another belief is that having a smaller (slim and thin) face gives a more youthful look and it makes facial features look more well-defined and thus photogenic. So how conscious are the Koreans of their face sizes? Well, their fascination with small faces can be easily seen on TV, where celebrities with unusually small faces are asked to hold up an object adjacent to their faces for quick measurement, with some even whipping out measuring tools.

RELATED : Why are cleavages a “no-no” but miniskirts are ok? Why are guns, knives, tattoos are blurred on TV? Even brands and logos? Why do Korean TV shows have subtitles?

But one of the most convenient and popular way to measure if your face is in the “small” category is to hold up a CD Rom above your face. If it totally eclipses or covers most of your face, it is super small! But this big trend over a tiny ideal doesn’t end here. There is even a study (The Standard Figure of Korean People) which measures face sizes. According to the study, the average face length of men and women was 23.6 cm and 22.3 cm, respectively. I know you already took out your ruler – how do you measure against these numbers? Do you fall within the Korean beauty standards? Uh oh… Why the long face?

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