Jay’s Hair Dressing: Expats adore Jay and his handy assistant, Rachel. Together they provide top notch service with style. Jay studied at Vidal Sasoon and Tony and Guy in the UK, and his English is perfect. His preferences are more on the hip and trendy side and he is extremely honest and helpful. He will even order you lunch if you are hungry! Jay and Rachel also provide great color, and haircare advice.
Jay is located in Itaewon just passed the fire station. You can make an appointment by calling:
070-4227-6158 or 010-3127-3177
Zen: Expats have nothing but wonderful things to say about Zen hair salon and the owner, Johnny. Johnny is Korean but speaks excellent English and had worked overseas (England) for many years before coming back to Korea and opening his own shop.
To get there, take line number two to Ewha Women’s University Station. Leave from exit one and go straight. Take the first right and walk for approximately one minute. Zen hair salon is located on the top floor (5th) of a building to the left of the street. To make an appointment, you can call Johnny at 363-4253 or 010-5586-0243.
Aveda Salon: There are several Aveda’s in Seoul (in Gangnam and at the Express Bus Terminal) but the best branch appears to be in Samseong-dong at the COEX Mall. A very stylish salon, this one is found in the basement area of the Grand Intercontinental Hotel. Some of the staff speak English quite well so you can easily tell them what you want done.
To get there, take line number two to Samseong Station. Enter the COEX Mall and you will find plenty of maps/English speaking information staff who can give you a map and send you off in the right direction.
Other Types of Salons
Although the listed hair salons are well used and enjoyed by some of Seoul’s expat population, it should be noted that many expats simply choose to get their hair, manicures and pedicures at local, independent shops which are found in every neighbourhood. Every expat has their own little place where they trust the staff and go regularly. Since this is usually the case, most expats find their hairdressers by word of mouth from other expats who live in their immediate area. It costs next to nothing to go in for a quick trim, wash and style (about 10,000 won in most places) while perms are a little more expensive and can range from 50,000 won to 150,000 won (depending on what you want done and the length of your hair). Getting highlights for your hair, in Seoul, is not popular and you won’t find many hairdressers (English speaking or not) that will be able to highlight your hair.
While one might think the language barrier will be problematic if you get your hair done at a Korean speaking salon, keep in mind that a lot of hair dressing terms are Konglish, so bangs are bangs, wavy is wavy, straight is straight, and so on. Also, using your hands to show how much you want cut is usually sufficient information for the average Korean hair stylist (who, by the way, are extremely good at what they do).
You’ll find places to relax and get your nails done literally everywhere in Seoul. In Korea, both men and women take great pride in their appearance and regularly go for manicures or pedicures, which are inexpensive and of good quality. Sanitation is not an issue in Seoul – Korean beauticians are fully trained at beauty schools and keep clean and sanitary boutiques. The average manicure will cost on average 12,000 won while a pedicure is more expensive, about 30,000 won. If you want a mani/pedi together, expect to pay about 40-50,000 won. Price varies according to what kind of manicure/pedicure you want, and whether or not you choose nail art.
Where should you go? Well… anywhere. You will not likely find many English speaking beauticians, and prices are generally the same wherever you go. The key is to shop around – if you get regular manicures or pedicures, try a different place each week or so until you find a beautician to your style and liking. Most beauty shops have English signs with ambiguous names like “Nail Love” or “Beautiful Nails”, so you’ll know a manicurist’s shop when you see it.
If you can’t live without waxing, you will be disappointed to learn that Koreans hardly wax at all. There are a few places in Yongsan-gu where you can get a wax done, but they are expensive. Try Day Spa in Hannam-dong (793-0777) or Green Turtle on the main drag in Itaewon (790-6696). Day Spa is more expensive but gives better quality waxes (prices range from 20,000 won to over 100,000 won depending on what you want done). Green Turtle’s prices range from about 20,000 won to 60,000 won. English service is available (as is the norm in the Itaewon area).
There are a few spas around Seoul, enabling you to treat yourself to therapeutic massages, facial and make up treatments and various other types of therapy and relaxation techniques. One is the previously mentioned Day Spa, and some others worth mentioning include the Institut de Guerlain and the Away Spa. All offer massage, aroma therapy, make up, facials, waxing and much more. Expect to pay for the quality of the services offered – these are high end spas and treatments/packages can cost upwards of 500,000 won. Of course, there are also more affordable packages available. For more information, you can call their reception centres.
Day Spa: Located at the entrance of the UN Village in Hannam-dong. Telephone: 793-0777
Institut de Guerlain: Located at the Shilla Hotel in Jangchung-dong, Jung-gu. Telephone: 2232-1167.
Away Spa: Located at the W (or Walkerton) Hotel in Gwangjang-dong, Gwangjin-gu. Telephone: 2022 0450
To experience something both truly Korean and extremely relaxing (not to mention, affordable), try spending time at one of Seoul’s many jjimjilbang. Known in English as a bathhouse or sauna, a jjimjilbang is a Korean institution dating back many generations. Korean families will usually spend a Saturday or Sunday at the jjimjilbang, young lovers will have dates there and elderly Koreans will spend lots of time in the rejuvenating baths.
Costing anywhere from 5,000 to 12,000 won for about 24 hours (if you wish to stay that long – there are sleeping areas), those working at the jjimjilbang will provide you with towels, a set of pajamas, and a key for your locker to keep your personal belongings. You will go to the room designated for your sex (women on one side, men on the other), and to enter the baths you must be completely naked. This is hard for many expats at first, but after your first experience you’ll want to go back – often! Depending on how good your local jjimjilbang is, you may have several different baths with different temperatures and minerals to aid specific health issues (one is good for pregnant women, one is good for poor circulation, etc.). There are also several different types of sauna, from icy cold to boiling hot.
When you’re finished soaking and baking in the saunas, you can put on your pajamas and head for the common room, where the men and women can mingle, eat some food, watch tv or sit in some communal saunas. There also may be an area for “Dr. Fish”, where you can soak your feet and have them nibbled by small European fish until they are soft and smooth. There are also areas to go to the gym, get a manicure or get a Korean style massage (ouch!) or scrubdown (yikes!).
Jjimjilbang are also a good overnight option if you’re on a budget and need a place to stay (or if you were up too late at the clubs and need a few hours sleep before the subway starts operating again!).
While there aren’t any “special” etiquettes in the jjimjilbang, you should be aware that men or women (especially women) with tatoos will be stared at when in the “naked” section of the bathouse. While this opinion is changing among younger Korean’s, tatoos still carry a heavy negative taboo with older Koreans. For a foreigner who is naked for the first time amoung a group of strangers, the extra attention can make things expecially awkward. However, the overall experience of the jjimjilbang is incredibly rewarding and unique, and should be experienced regardless of any personal hurdles you may have to cross.
If you’re not sure where you might find a jjimjilbang in your neighbourhood, try the Seoul Leisure Sports Club in Ogeum-dong, Songpa-gu or the Gold Spa in Seocho-2dong, Seocho-gu. Probably the most famous is just outside of the Youngsan train/subway station called Dragon Hill. If you need more information on these jjimjilbang, you should call the tourist information line since you won’t find many English speakers at thejjimjilbang, however most workers at Dragon do speak English as it is a huge tourist destination. Tourist Information Line: (02) 1330.