I’m 26 and I’ve never had a professional manicure. I’m sure there are girls rolling around in disgust at this fact and I’m sure there are others in the exact same boat. I’ve just never seen the point. I can shape, and cut and paint my nails at home and since nobody ever really pays attention to your nails anyway, there’s not really much point.
Nails are a solid “thing” in Korea. There are nail shops everywhere that require appointments. All the ladies have their nails done in the latest nail art with studs and stickers and what not that leave me questioning how they get any work done with such masterpieces on the top of their hands and whether they wear gloves or forego them to show off their beautiful nails.
As a Christmas present, my sister gave me her (out of date but still good) manicure voucher. I had to walk a whole 30 steps across the road to get it done. It was fairly quick, a shape and varnish with a gel varnish that lasts 2 weeks. Lovely. The lady wondered if there was “anywhere to get this taken off in Korea”. As I tried not to laugh, I assured her that I could probably find somewhere.
Today, I found that somewhere. Actually I found it on Friday but since you need a reservation and I didn’t have one I had to wait until today. I asked to simply take off the gel varnish and paint on a clear colour. A simple job, I thought. In and out in 10 minutes,I thought. Be grand, I thought. I should stop thinking. This was like an operation, scheduled, clinical, precise movements, an art.
I can’t even remember what happened first, it took so long. That’s right she filed down the nail varnish, then covered my nails with tin foil and remover on the inside. Wait awkwardly for a few minutes. Remove tin foil and take what looked like a mini chisel to fully remove the varnish. Excellent, job done. Or so I thought. But no. But nails had to be filed one more time. Then dipped in lukewarm water. Then she put some white liquid followed by an oil on my cuticles. Lovely. By this stage we had run out of conversation although in fairness the first half hour was completely in Korean and if my hands hadn’t been covered in all kinds of oils I would have given myself a clap on the back!
She proceeds to cut away stuff from my cuticles after which she finished filing them before finally getting out the nail varnish. This epic journey to the nail varnish was nothing compared to the woman sat next to me. She had been sitting there when I arrived and was STILL getting her nails done. STILL. And she was only getting the one where the top of the nails are all glittery. I’ve never seen so many different layers of glitter nail varnish in my life.
Finally I reached the end and all that was left was to dry my nails in a dryer while explaining what a Kindle (which I had been reading) was. The cost for this? 33,000won. The lady next to me who finally finished paid 50,000 for hers. They also have a file on each customer and honestly every kind of colour, texture, art, glitter, sticker, and anything else nail related you can find.
Honestly, I’m probably never going to get it done again. It took just under an hour for the most basic thing. I got really bored after 15 minutes and couldn’t text, or really read or do anything really. However, if nails is what you’re into, Korea is the country for you.
P.S. No pictures because I couldn’t use my phone, obviously.