Of Drowning, The (Non)-Dutch Queen and Peanuts: Lessons Learned from the Lab

While the lab is supposedly where great innovations and research are made, apparently it is also where a lot of hilarious conversations take place. I recently finished the phase of data collection for my thesis. It was conducted in a video lab as a group of 8 (with me being the only non-Dutch) with each of us ‘owning’ and testing a different variable.

One of the greatest lessons we learned over the course of 2 weeks is how hard it is collecting data from 150 people in a lab with no ventilation…. on 9-5 shifts without a proper lunch break. So, with this going on, we tried to ease the bore with lots and lots coffee topped with ridiculous talks and jokes. Instead of saving all the amusement for myself, I thought it would be fun to share it with with you. Here goes:

Of the Dutch Royal Family

I told a few of my lab friends I saw Queen Maxima at the opening of Leiden’s Asian Library the other day, and this started a very hype conversation about her. Turns out, the Queen of the Netherlands is NOT Dutch. She is from Argentina, and is the daughter of Jorge Zorreguieta, former Minister of Agriculture who reigned during a dictatorship and a period of repression that killed more than 10,000 people. Because of his background, Queen Maxima’s father was not allowed to attend the royal wedding nor her inauguration.

The process of how they met is apparently quite secretive. What has been stated is that William and Maxima met in Seville, Spain, during the Seville Spring Fair. However, at the time, he simply introduced himself only as “Alexander”so she did not know he was a prince, and thought he was joking when he later told her that he was Prince of Orange. However some sources also believe she actually knew all along and actually planned  the meeting. MINDBLOWN!

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We also talked about the King. Apparently there is a Dutch show which dubs royal conversations. The king is nicknamed “Willy” and he is dubbed in a ridiculuous Den Haag accent, which he doesn’t really have. No, I did not know there is a Den Haag accent either.

Of the Thijs Solidarity Group

One Friday evening, we were talking about weekend plans. My friend Thijs said that he will attend a social meeting with everyone in the Netherlands who is named “Thijs” at a café called………………. Yes, you guessed it, Café Thijs!! He will be attending with his friend who is, of course, named Thijs, and will meetup with a colleague of his mother who need not I tell you, is named Thijs.

I was told that this all started when two Thijs’ accidentally met at a party, they decided to make a group whatsapp and invited all Thijs’ they managed to reach in the Netherlands. It now contains about 250 people. The Thijs’ started building strong solidarity with each other. On one occasion when a member receieves a parking ticket, everyone would chip in 50 cents to help pay the ticket. How hilarious, I am still amused every time I think of this.

Good idea

Of Drowning and Being Drunk

At one point I told them that a Korean student’s body was recently was found in the river after being lost almost 36 hours. Apparently, the poor guy was last seen at a bar, where he refused to come home with his friends because he was still having some fun. This is the conversation that occurred between us:

X: “He was probably drunk. That is a normal happening here. My parent’s friend also died that way last year, he was the bar sommelier. He was drunk and peed in the canal, which is why he fell in. ”

Y: (trying to explain to me the logic) “You know how when you pee you feel tipsy? Imagine that plus being drunk. It makes total sense that people fall off”.

Me: “…but are the canals that deep?”

Y: “Not really, but usually people are drunk in the wee of mornings when people aren’t around to help.”

Y: (…suddenly carrying on to a new-but-somewhat-related topi) Do you know that dying by drowning is the happiest death.

Me: WHAT???

Y: “Yeah it is said that there is a chemical in your brain that only recalls good memories. So your life flashes by you, but only the good ones.”

As a cycled home that day, this story still echoed in my head. I wondered, who on earth tried drowning themselves just to find out all this……..


Of Peanut Allergies

At lunch time on the first day of data collection, one of my fellows was about to take her peanut butter sandwich out of her bag, but before that she turned to me and ask: “My lunch is peanut butter, is that okay?”. I was confused with the question but shook it off and said it is totally fine. Only until a few days later, while we had a now show (i.e. a participant not showing up for her appointment), 3 of us started to have a conversation about peanuts. Apparently, a fair amount of people here in the Netherlands (and probably the West?) have peanut allergies.

As a child, my friend said her brother had a best friend who had this peanut allergy would come over to their house and play. But the best friend’s mother made sure my friend’s family new of his condition and how to utilize a syringe of allergy medication if he had a sudden attack. Another of my friend babysits a child with peanut allergies. One day the child was out with his mother and passed a bakery. This was when he had his allergy attack. Even the smell of peanuts elicited a reaction. WOW.

But sadly, a lot of people use the fact that there are people who have allergies (peanut, gluten, lactose intolerance) to lie about themselves. One of my fellow’s bestfriend works at Netherlands biggest psychological clinics specializing in teenagers. The clinic found a 50% rise over the last 5 years in teengers with anorexia lying that they have some kind of food intolerance. Sad ☹

Of Sleeping Early and Being Tall

I recently read a book called “Happiest Kids in the World: Raising Kids the Dutch Way”. It was mentioned that the Dutch are tall because as a child, the Dutch get really long hours of sleep. I asked my friends whether this is true, and one said it is true that she did have to go to bed reeeeeaaally early and had really strict rules at night. She really is tall. While another friend said she really did not have to go to bed early because her parents work late and her baby-sitter was really chill. Now she wonders whether that is the reason she is not a typical tall Dutch (she’s still taller than me though >.<). Nevertheless, this is not a sample I can generalize. When I have kids and make my kids sleep early, I bet they will still probably be relatively short 😀  short.gif

Of misconceptions on Indonesian Food

On a different day, a fellow said that she went to a Chinese restaurant with her mom and ordered an Asian Table. I was confused, what is an Asian Table? “Oh so it’s a table they fill with different Asian dishes you can choose from. There are things like rendang and babi panggang.”, she said. “Oh they’re Indonesian food!”, I said and was met with quite a surprise. They usually eat rendang and babi panggang at Chinese restaurants, so thought the dishes were Chinese all along.

Fortunately, they did know nasi goreng is Indonesian. In fact, one fellow’s grandfather was a Marine during the colonial times in Indonesia and learnt how to make good nasi goreng while he was there. My friend shared that her grandfather only cooks the dish on special occasions. Eventually she learnt the recipe and often cooks it on her own. She LOVES it.

Social Media and The Dutch

If there is something I would love Indonesians to pick up from the Dutch, it is their social media habit. Unlike most Indonesians, they are careful about posting on social media. But they FLOOOOODDDD the chatrooms they share with close friends. Even on the thesis whatsapp group: Grabbing lunch, on the train, there is always random selfies being posted in our group 😃

Of Excitement to Share their Culture I Have Not Seen Yet

During these few days, they have (in great excitement) introduced me to various Dutch snacks and candies like Kruidnoten, which is a snack associated with the Dutch Sinterklaas (Santa Claus), and drop, which is a licorice candy.

Recommendations of fun places also came streaming in. They showed me where I can learn to ski even in the Netherlands where snow is rare. They also shared their reference of fun places in Amsterdam, s most of them are from Amsterdam (5 of 7 to be exact) and commute to campus. Some things they recommended me to do while in Amsterdam: attend a peep show and go to Chin-chin resto (which is a chinese resto with arcade games). They also were very excited to introduce a tower behind Amsterdam Centraal where you can a beautiful birds eye of the city.


Really this list of interesting facts and findings can go on and on. Despite the challenges of data collection and my newly found addiction to coffee due to this new routine, I really did have a very enjoyable time these past few weeks. We shared so many stories, be it weird things or just mundane everyday happenings. While this post is meant for fun and be educative, it is also addressed my dear non-Dutch friends who recently asked questions and were worried of not getting along with their Dutch mates. Trust me, they are probably some of the most chill people I have ever met!

As an encore, here is the 3 of us (faces blurred to respect privacy) in the photocopy room printing 2000 pages of experiment material. We got tired so we brought chairs from the computer room + coffee from the campus cafe and made ourselves at home …..

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Prague: History within its Cobbled Streets

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Prague ❤ It was the hidden gem of our travels: we did not expect anything from it, googled nothing of it, but had some of the best days in it. It’s graceful architecture bedecked with history and lip smacking food, all affordable for our budget pockets!

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I would like to start this post by sharing a tip for you fellow travellers that applies to any destinations you head to: attend a free walking tour the moment you arrive in the city or town you are visiting. If you are not familiar with a free walking tour, the idea is that you go on a 2-3 hour walk with a guide, usually in groups of 10-20 people, and pay the guide as much as you enjoy the session right at the end of the walk. This is a good way to orient yourself with the city and its attraction while getting useful tips and discounts that comes in handy for the rest of your stay! My personal favorite free walking tour company in Europe is SANDEMAN’S NEW EUROPE TOUR as they have well-informed guides who always know how to make everything more interesting.

We took the free walking tour with Sandeman’s in the wee mornings in our first day in Prague. Our guide’s name is David, an American who has 3 Master degrees in various areas of study of Eastern Europe. He has spent the last 3 years living in Prague (and does not plan to move anytime soon) and knows so much about it that at times his stories can be overwhelming (well listening centuries of history about a country in just 10 minutes makes you feel like that). But boy, he was definitely the best tour guide we had yet: he was engaging, his talks were interesting and funny most of the time. So he is forgiven for talking 100 miles per second 😝 Before I write anything else, here is a picture of our tour group.

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Among other things, here are some of the interesting things we learnt from Dave and the attractions we visited:

The Astronomical Clock

The Astronomical clock, located in front of the Old Town Hall, is one of Prague’s most famous attraction. The dials on the clock display astronomical information, such as the positions of the sun, moon and constellations of zodiacs. This astronomical clock is the third oldest in the world and the oldest one currently operating. On the hour, every hour, a procession of 12 apostles appear from clock with Christ marching ahead of them, while figure of death strikes the bell. Unfortunately, according to Dave, it is also considered the world’s second most disappointing attraction, following the Monalisa. Dave suggested, instead of coming to look at the clock, come and face the audience. Their disappointed faces are much more amusing than the clock.


Prague Castle Lights and Rolling Stones

Prague is also the proud owner of the largest castle in the world. Prague Castle, or Pražský hrad, was built sometimes in the 9th century and remains the world’s largest castle today. It is currently the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic.There is an amusing trivia about Prague Castle I learnt from David. The Czech Republic officially became a democratic country in 1989 through the Velvet Revolution, bringing an end to its long history of communism. Soon after, Václav Havel, a former dissident, was elected as the country’s first president. One of the things he did upon being appointed was renovating the Prague castle with the help of several well-known architect and interior designers of the time. This was done parts of Prague castle can be open to public sooner or later. Meanwhile, President Havel also had the hobby of holding concerts for his people. One day he invited Rolling Stones to play at one of his concerts. He soon became good friends with the band, and the band would come to Prague 3-4 times a year under the invitation of President Havel. When the Prague Castle renovation was finally over, he invited his pals once again and proudly gave them a grand tour of the palace. After his grand tour was over, the guys said something along the lines of: “Vaclav, this is good and all, but it is such a shame that this beauty cannot be seen at night. You should put up lights so the beauty of the castle can be seen at anytime of the day”. President Havel said: “ That’s a good idea, but we just ended a revolution and is just getting back on our feet. We cannot afford that.” So what did the Rolling Stones do? They paid €32,000 to put up lights around the castle. When the lights was ready to be lit, Woods handed President Havel the remote control. When Havel saw the Castle light up, he was said to have danced the night away like a giddy little kid! These lights, are the lights you see shine bright in pictures of Prague Castle at night 🙂

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Here is some more views from and on the Castle:

The Jewish Quarter and Hopes of the Children

While the rest of Prague is “fun” and beautiful, one corner of Prague is especially heartbreaking: the Jewish Quarter, otherwise known as Josefov. This quarter survived the Nazi occupation mainly because of Hitler’s “retire plan” where he wanted to create a “Museum of an Extinct Race” after his mass murder acts. Artefacts from Czech Republic and other Nazi occupied countries were transported to this quarter to become part of the exhibition. This quarter consists of six synagogues, including the Old-New synagougue which is Europe’s oldest active synagogue, and the Old Jewish Cemetery.

Old Jewish Cemetery

The Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the most important historical monuments in Prague. It was active from the 15th to late 18th century (lasting about 348 years). This cemetery was the only location where Prague Jews were allowed to bury their deceased. The space was (and is still today) very cramped so did not fit enough bodies, so they had to be stacked on top of each other in as many as 12 layers. Some 100,000 Jews are known to have been buried here. Due to the Jewish faith not permitting to move the dead, none of the bodies were relocated even after the policy ended. Unfortunately I do not feel comfortable and would feel rude to take pictures of places where the deceased rest, hence no pictures are available of this cemetery (even though technically it is a museum so you will find plenty pictures online).

Pinkas Synagogue: Memories stay forever

They say people die, but their legacies stay forever. This is indeed the case for Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Friedl arrived from Vienna to the Terezin ghetto, a concentration camp 40 miles from Prague, in 1942. There, she was devastated to see that 15,000 children who were among the 150,000 people in the camps receiving no education. She thought, as an artist, the least she could do was hold art classes and she did just that despite her limited resources. A few days a week she would have these imprisoned children draw their dreams upon leaving the camp, creating a sense of hope amidst their dark and scary life. It was also a way to release emotions, build imagination and self-expressions – a therapy helping children escape the harsh ghetto life. Some drew themselves going on holiday with family, finally returning home or travelling to Palestine.

Sadly, Friedl’s husband was called to Auschwitz for his labor and Friedl did not dare send him alone. But indeed like many other stories we heard, only men were needed and spared, so Friedl was killed along many others upon her arrival at Auschwits. However, it turned out she left a legacy: 4000 of the children’s drawings stuffed in 2 suitcases found in Terenzin after the war. While Friedl and most children perished in the war, the stories and memories remain through these pictures that are now on exhibit at the Pinkas Synagogue. Beyond that, without Friedl even realizing, she has created the foundations of art therapy, used across the world to help people undergoing many psychological problems.

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As you may have realized by now, we learnt a LOT during this tour. I would say this is barely 10% of what we learnt. However we’d like to note that the tour doesn’t go in museums, synagogues and the castle. We sort of just stood in front of them as David told his story. My husband and I did eventually visit these attractions again on our own to see more thoroughly the insides of it, which is why we have pictures of them in this post.

Now, what is a trip blog without some practical information. Here is some PRACTICAL INFORMATION on our stay:

How we got there:

We took a train from Amsterdam to Berlin, and then a connection from Berlin to Prague. The train from Berlin to Prague had the most picturesque views. Also, the train compartments were that similar of the one’s you see on the Hogwarts Express!

Money and Exchange Currency:

Because we arrived in Prague late at night (almost 11 PM), we planned ahead and actually exchanged currency at GWK Exchange in the Netherlands. They have a bad bad bad exchange rate (it was 10% less than what we should have gotten), but it did the job.

If you are exchanging money in Prague, beware of tourist traps. Some are even worse than GWK, only giving 15czk for 1 Euro (it should be about 27czk if not mistaken). Have a look at the Prague Honest Guide Vlogger here if you are interested in (how not to get caught) these tourist traps. As where to exchange money, you can also refer to this video made by the same guys. I know, they’re great!

Our Accomodation:

We stayed at A&O Metro Strikov which is about 20 minutes off the Old Town, which is quite far. However, in this peak summer, I’d say this choice of accommodation is one of the best choice we made: the 4 bed dorm we were supposed to stay at turned out to have no other occupant so we had the room to ourselves! It also was the dorm with 2 single hotel beds that were joint together like a queen sized bed plus 2 bunk beds. Of course we claimed the single beds. The room also had a tiny bathroom and a separate one with just toilet and a sink, it really felt like a 200 Euro hotel room instead of a 9 Euro per bed price!


Each day, we bought a 1-day pass that costs 110czk (about 4,2 Euros) at the Tabac (tobacco stand). You can also get them at the metro station, Public Transport Information Centres and from ticket machines. These buses are valid on all means of public transport within the city (metro, tram, buses). Be sure to validate your ticket in the little orange box upon purchase!

There are also other availables passes and single passes. This link is quite comprehensive page summarizing them.


Prague has abundant traditional dishes you can choose from, all at reasonable prices.

For street food, we tried Trdelník, which is a street pastry you can buy almost anywhere around Prague. Like waffels, they have a variety of sweet flavors. I bought mine for 5 Euros (I had no currency left at the time).

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For lunch, we tried eating traditional Prague meals at Maitrea, a VERY VERY recommended vegetarian restaurant. The dishes we ate are supposedly meat dishes, but we cannot find a halal version so we opted for a vegetarian version. We had Spicy goulash with vegan “meat“ pieces, served with wholewheat dumplings or baked potatoes for 210 CZK, as well as traditional “Svíčková“ which is vegetarian “meat“ slices with a vegetable cream sauce, served with wholewheat dumplings, lime, whipped cream and cranberries for 205 CZK. Dang they were scrumptious and VERY affordable! You can find more about Maitrea on its website.


I can go on and on about Prague. It is truly beautiful and treasures so many history. I hope you find this post entertaining or informative, even if it is the slightest. If you ever do decide to visit Prague, make sure you spend a few days there so you have enough time to take in all its beauty ❤ I assure, you will not regret it! You can see a 1-minute video of our trip to Prague here.

Thanks for reading!


The South Korean Plastic Surgery Boom: Going Under the Knife as a Means of Emotion-regulation Consumption

This was a final paper I wrote for my “Emotions and Irrationality in Economic Behavior” module as part of my Masters in Economic and Consumer Psychology at Leiden University. I thought I’d share it rather than just having it sit on my laptop forever. Enjoy!

1.      Introduction

South Korea is currently experiencing a booming phenomenon of people undergoing cosmetic surgeries, with 980,000 recorded operations in 2014 alone – making it the nation with the most plastic surgeries per capita in the world (ISAPS, 2014). In fact, these figures are likely to be much higher because a significant number of surgeries go unrecorded (Holliday & Elfving-Hwang, 2012). This plastic surgery boom in South Korea is a consumer culture phenomena that began in 2009 (ISAPS, 2014) alongside the rapid economic boom experienced by the nation.

The biggest factor that contributes to the cosmetic surgery phenomena in South Korea is the normalizing and homogenizing of beauty standards (Kim, Seo, & Baek, 2014). While interest in physical appearance has deep roots in the history of South Korean beliefs (as will be explain in later in this passage), the homogenizing of ideal beauty standards is mainly glorified through media, particularly popular culture – such as through actors and actresses of Korean Drama and ‘idols’ of Korean Pop-groups (Kim, 2003).

The role that the media and technology partakes in homogenizing an ideal standard of beauty that in turn catalyzes the positive view of plastic surgery is not surprising (Davies & Han, 2011). This is because South Korea has been stated to also be the worlds’ most wired society with a rate 97% rate of national broadband penetration (Davies and Han, 2011). Of all the South Korean citizens, it is the youth under 30 that makes up the majority of internet use, with a usage rate of 99% (NIA, 2008), demonstrating media and technology as an inseparable element of youth culture.

It is also not surprising then, that the primary consumer of plastic surgery is youth, namely adolescents and young adults, with studies showing that 70% of people undergoing plastic surgery as being high school students (Davies and Han, 2011). The cosmetic surgery is so prominent to the extent that it has become a common gift from parents upon high school graduation. It also must be noted that while both men and women are interested in plastic surgery, it is mostly women who eventually go through the procedure. Kim (2003) explains that this is ultimately because beauty is seen to be compulsory for women, while for men it is not necessarily so.

While media and technology had pre-existingly been explained by numerous articles to be the ultimate cause of plastic surgery boom in South Korea (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2004), the underlying cognitive and emotional process of consumer’s interest and eventual decision has yet to be specified. This essay intends to fill this void and put forward some existing arguments as to what is driving this phenomenon and the psychological process to how consumers decide on cosmetic surgery.

2.     Theoritical background

This essay will analyze the South Korean plastic surgery phenomenon in two aspects, the motivational aspect and persuasion effect, which are actually intercorellated and often overlap, but own its theoretical inference.

The motivational aspect elaborates how idealized standard beauty portrayed in the media form body image, and in turn affects the emotional state of Korean women – particularly the youth. It is important to note that the term “body image” refers to the perception a person has towards their physical appearance, along with feelings regarding this perception (Dropkin, 1981). The body image is also considered as a social expression and a way to exist amidst society (Cohen et al., 1998). Because of this, one become’s sensitive as to how society not only view their body image, but also the what the ideal body image in the society might be.

As we will quickly find out later in the passage, one of the most influential influencers as to the definition of ideal body image, is the media. When one perceives that they do not meet the standards of ideal body image portrayed in the media, they will experience dissatisfaction with their body. Dissatisfaction itself is defined as a negative emotion of distress where the person experiences feelings of unfulfillment, thoughts of ‘what they are missing out on’ and having the emotional goal of finding a way to act upon the situation (Bougie, Pieters and Zeelenberg, 2003). In other words, feelings of dissatisfaction play an important role in motivating people to do something to close the cognitive dissonance and relieve their negative emotions.

The second part of this essay opt to explain how undergoing plastic surgery have been proven to be an appealing consumption choice to regulate negative emotions. Here, we use Emotion Regulation Consumption coined by Kemp and Kopp (2011), which proposes that one may consume a service for the purposes of alleviating, repairing, or managing an emotion in the short term. Of course, this choice of consumption does not come automatically. Plastic surgery company has taken the homogenizing of ideal beauty to massively advertise their services through advertisements that induce hope.  We will see how hope plays an important role in the final decision of plastic surgery.

3.     Idealized Standard Of Beauty and Negative Body Image

South Korea’s interest in physical appearance has been around long before modern times. Holliday and Elfving-Hwang (2012) suggest that it roots back to the traditional belief of physiognomy – in which facial features determine a person’s character and fate. In example, women with round eyes are seen to be sexually attractive and a moon-like face is related to fertility (though it must be noted that preferences for round faces no longer holds this day). However two things must be noted about the physical appearance in traditional South Korea. Firstly, while round eyes and moon-like faces are considered a beauty, they are not the typical genetic features of South Koreans, as the common South Koreans have smaller eyes, flatter nose, rather square face. Secondly, physiognomy is treated more like astrology – it infers luck and fate but do not determine social status or treating people based on their looks (Holliday and Elfving-Hwang, 2012).

This deep rooted interest in physical appearance (that does determine social acceptance both in mundane social life as well as work life), only became a homogenized ideal beauty in the general public after the spread of Hallyu (Korean Pop Culture) through the media in 2009, particularly through the significant influence of celebrities staring in Korean Drama or Korean Pop-groups (Kim, 2009). Simply put, the media, along with the actors that are portrayed in it, do not glorify the general South Korean genetic features: smaller eyes, flatter nose, and rather square face. Korean celebrities seen in these media emulate rather distinctive facial features instead: high nose, narrow faces, and “double-eye-lids” (Holliday and Elfving-Hwang, 2012). For example in Figure 1, which is a profile of Miss Daegu (regional contest as a preliminary for Miss Korea) contestants 2013, we see how beauty is defined by these specific characteristics.

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Figure 1. A Profile of Miss Daegu Korea 2013 Contestants (source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/25/miss-korea-contestants-2013-photos_n_3157026.html)

This homogenized ideal beauty portrayed in the media has led many South Koreans, especially adolescents (who are vulnerable to social comparison), to develop negative body image. This is not a peculiar phenomenon, as past research has justified the role of media, particularly Television and Magazines, as the strongest factor that influence body image perception in adolescents all over the world (Hargreaves &Tiggerman, 2004). This homogenized ideal of beauty transmitted by the media leads to self-evaluation and realization that their selves do not fit in this category of beauty, leading to a feeling of dissatisfaction with the body image (Hargreaves &Tiggerman, 2004).

As in most places around the globe, dissatisfaction of body image has been seen to be more prominent in girls and women than in boys and men (Wiseman, Sunday, Becker, 2005). This is especially the case in South Korea where women are dictated as having to be beautiful (Kim, 2009), and is continually fostered by the collective nature that nudges social conformity (Kim, Kasser & Lee, 2003). In regards to youth as the target group of plastic surgery, this negative body image formation and body shaming is also magnified by the influence of peer pressure and peer evaluation, especially if this influence takes the form of teasing/bullying (Markey & Markey, 2009).

Hargreaves & Tiggemann (2004) explains that media influence body dissatisfaction in girls through 3 things: Firstly, body dissatisfaction increases following repeated exposure of idealized female images, particularly idealized facial features in the South Korean plastic surgery phenomena. Secondly, body dissatisfaction is created through perceived pressure from media (Thompson et al., 1999). Last but most importantly, body dissatisfaction is contributed by and can only happen if, a person internalizes the body ideal (Thompson et al., 1999).

As previously discussed in the theoritical background, dissatisfaction itself is defined as a negative emotion of distress, where the person experiences feelings of unfulfillment and being undecided, thoughts of ‘what they are missing out on’ and having the emotional goal of finding a way to act upon the situation (Bougie, Pieters and Zeelenberg, 2003), in other words negative body image reinforce the person to find a solution to close the gap of cognitive dissonance as well as relieve the dissatisfaction. In the following section, it is explained how plastic surgery becomes available in the cognitive scheme and hence a popular way to close this cognitive dissonance.

4.     Appeal of Plastic Surgery

The cosmetic surgery clinics in South Korea have strategically taken keenness in the idealized standard of beauty created by the media, to an advantage. This is done by proliferation of advertising in public spheres where most of their targeted consumers will see as they commute – such as in subways, subway stations, terminals, billboards, etc. (Ee, 2015; Bloomberg News, 2013). Evidently, the idea of these advertisements is to plant the idea of plastic surgery in the cognitive scheme through repetitive/continuous exposure to advertisements.

Most cosmetic surgery advertisements in South Korea show before and after of cosmetic surgery, as exemplified by Figure 2. and Figure 3. Holliday &  Elving-Hwang (2012) suggest that these before-after visuals try to induce potential customers of thoughts of what is and what could be (Holliday & Elfving-Hwang, 2012), which in turn elicits an emotion of hope. In other words, from the advertisement, consumers are able to infer that an ideal physical feature is attainable, regardless of how far the current state is from that ideal. Indeed, past research has proven that inducing hope through advertisements is an effective strategy to draw consumer’s attention to the advertisment (Plutchik & Kellerman, 1980). Additionally, consumers are  strongly motivated by the experience of hope, increasing readiness for change (Van der Pligt & Pliegt, 2016). We can thus conclude that the plastic surgery companies’ strategy to induce hope is perfect in a sense that it corresponds  to the dissatisfaction of body image as discussed earlier.

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Figure 2. A Plastic Surgery Advertising in a Subway Station In Gangnam-Seoul (source: http://www.weonthecusp.com/pain-is-beauty-plastic-surgery-in-south-korea/)

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Figure 3. Another Plastic Surgery Advertising in a Subway Station In Gangnam-S

eoul (source: http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2014/s4129279.htm)


Hope, along with other factors of attainability (i.e. affordability), as well as social comparison (i.e. repetitive exposure to ideal beauty images on TV) and social pressure factors (i.e. friends also undergoing surgery), become a strong motivator to undegro plastic surgery and override the pain as well as take the risk of adverse effects of physical injury and nerve damage (Rountree & Davis, 2011).

Refering back to the theoritical background, it can be seen that the decision to undergo plastic surgery based on dissatisfaction of body image is considered Emotion Regulation Consumption, or the attempt to alleviate and repair an emotion (Kemp & Kopp, 2011). Moreover, the fact that people are even more encouraged to undergo plastic surgery because of social pressure is what Sivanathan and Petitt (2011) states as a consumption to protect the self to look a way the society dictates. In the following section, it will be explained whether this attempt of emotion regulation is succesful, and what further effect it brings to the society.

5.     Psychological & Societal Implications

Psychological Implications

As been described earlier, consumers of plastic surgery in South Korea began this journey with a feeling of dissatisfaction with their body image due to media and societal factors. Then the relevant question would be: had this consumption brought positive psychological effect after the surgery?

Generally, the answer is, yes. In her article “The Real Me”, Huss-Ashmore (2000) elaborates that people who had plastic surgery describes it as a “healing experience”, in which they become better people by simply look better. This finding is not new, as plastic surgery around the world has been proven to provide significant improvement of body image and self-esteem (Klassen, Jenkinson, Fitzpatrick, Goodcare, 1996), and a general boost in quality of life (Honigman & Castle, 2004).

Additionally, a psychological implication unique to South Korea is also found.  In a series of interviews, Huss-Ashmore (2000) found that people who undergo the knife perceive that they are more accepted in the society – sensing that people treat them differently after their beauty enhancement. The finding of Huss-Ashmore (2000) is different to that of the Western world of plastic surgery, where it is stated that in to most plastic surgery patients in the West, the utmost importance of plastic surgery lies not in the “objective beauty of visible results”, but in the consumers personal feelings towards their change (McGrath & Mukerji, 2000). Again, here we not only see the powerful role of Korean social and collective nature in determining lives of most individuals, but also the important social stigma of beauty in Korean society.

Of course, plastic surgery also comes with negative outcomes. Honigman and Castle (2004) that those who had unrealistic expectations to begin with or have a past of and depression will often be dissatisfied by the results and lead to repeated procedures, if not, social adjustment problems (e.g., isolation or family problems), self-destructive behavior and depression. Moving forward, it becomes important for medical providers to understand the existence of such type of people and anticipate these post-surgery reactions, so they can contribute in the well-being of patients beyond physical satisfaction.

Societal Implications

As a booming phenomenon, plastic surgery boom not only has implications on individual level but also collective level. One of the most prominent implications is the normalizing of “plastic surgery as graduation gift”. Parents not only giving consent but to the extent of gifting plastic surgery procedure to their child upon graduation. With this parents hope a beauty enhancement will light their children’s way to success.

This is not without reason, as beauty has been an important factor not only in mundane everyday social interaction, but also in job application process. A study by JobKorea, a recruitment agency, found that 80% of recruitment executives considered physical appearance an important factor in the hiring process (Holliday & Elfving-Hwang, 2012). This is demonstrated by obligating candidates to attach a photograph of themselves on their applications indicating that beauty is compulsory. The creeping role beauty (and more indirectly, plastic surgery) plays in structural and formal occasions in the collective society of South Korea make the phenomena a catch-22: continuous circle, reinforcing more people – especially youth – to undergo the procedure.

6.     Conclusion

The South Korean plastic surgery boom is mainly attributed to the homogenizing ideal beauty brought by the media. Constant exposure of this standard ideal has lead many to experience dissatisfaction of their body and form negative body image. This dissatisfaction thus lead one to experience the urge regulate this negative emotion. Plastic surgery is an appealing solution as in South Korea, advertising from plastic company deliberately induces a sense of hope by showing people before and after plastic surgery. Hope itself is a strong emotion that motivates people to act according to the information source (in this case to undergo plastic surgery as in the advertisement). Along with societal factors (emphasis on beuaty for women in South Korea) and attainability factors, hope eventually leads many to conduct plastic surgery.

Most people who undergo plastic surgery are satisfied by results, and leads to heightened self-esteem and a positive body image, though there are chances that some may be dissatisfied and experience anxiety and depression. Finally, the plastic surgery boom not only implicates those on a personal level – but more structurally as homogenizing of ideal standard of beauty infiltrates formal institutions’ standard of hiring – consequently forming a catch-22 where interest of plastic surgery seems to ever grow.






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Our Interrail Trip in a Shoestring

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We are finally back in the Netherlands after 2 weeks of Interrailing! I have to say this trip was most rewarding, especially after an intense first semester of Grad School here in Leiden. During this trip we visited 5 main cities: Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Interlaken. We also had a few day trips to smaller towns besides those main cities (Halstatt, Iseltwald). I know, I know, a lot of people ask: 5 cities and only 12 days? Isn’t that a bit short for an interrail trip? Most people usually spend at least a month. Some people try to fit 20 cities within 2 weeks (I had a few friends who did that). Well we certainly do have our reasons for planning how we planned our trip, one of the main ones being me having a severe backpain that does not allow me to get too tired.

We all know that it takes quite some discipline and amples of time to plan a Europe trip. So, however short and unconventional our may be, I would still like to share the technical matters about our trip (and its planning) in hopes that it does shed some light to those planning on their own.

First a some several disclaimer:

  • Everyone has a different budget and idea of how their ideal Europe trip will look like. There is no right and wrong to this: what I think is expensive and cheap, or is a worthy or bad experience may be different to yours. Let’s respect that difference 😊
  • This blog will be specifically about Interrailing. I am aware that there might be some other options to travel Europe, such as by plane (low cost airlines such as Ryan Air or Transavia) or bus (Flixbus). I will not be covering those in this blog today because for my situation, Interrailing was the cheapest and best option and I am not as familiar with the other options.
  • Interrailing is not always the cheaper option, depending on where you are from (it is more expensive if you are not resident of the EU) and what destinations you want to go to.

Now that I have that settled, let us move on to our main topic. How I will do this is list some main questions and simply answer each one – a Q&A session.

What is Interrail Pass?

The Interrail Pass is a railway ticket that allows you to travel an unlimited rail travel in 30 European countries during a certain amount of time. It is only available for European residents while people from outside the EU can purchase a similar pass called the Eurrail.

There are several types of Interrail Pass which you can check on their website https://www.interrail.eu/en/interrail-passes to see which one fits you best. The one I used was the Interrail Global Pass – Travel 5 days within 15 days. This means that I have unlimited travel within those 5 days but the validity of the pass only lasts 15 days. The price for these passes are different depending on age, for those who are under 28, the “Interrail Global Pass – Travel 5 days within 15 days” costs 206 Euros a person, or about 40 Euros a day. This is a pretty good deal if you have to travel far (like I did from Amsterdam to Prague) or to expensive countries (like I did in Switzerland).

Are there no additional costs outside the price you paid for the Pass?

There are certain trains that requires you to reserve seats. Reservation can be done on the Interrail website where you pay about 7 Euros for each reservation. Each reservation can be for more than one person, so if you are travelling in a group of four, you can split the 7 Euros reservation cost four ways.

You can also choose trains that do NOT require reservations. You can check which trains that do not require reservations here https://www.interrail.eu/en/plan-your-trip/rail-planner-app. However there are some places and times where I do recommend you to just reserve seats even if it is not mandatory:

  • Travelling anywhere from or to Germany no matter what time of the season
  • Travelling anywhere in the peak summer times (June-August)

Although I had a reservation from Amsterdam to Berlin and Berlin to Prague, I did not make a reservation for my 4 hour train from Prague to Vienna. I ended up spending most of the trip sitting on the floor in front of the train doors (which means I had to get up and move every time the train stops and someone had to go in or out). Yes, it is annoying. Just spend that 7 euros.

Is it easy to use the Interrail in all 30 countries?

Fortunately this was the case for all the countries I visited and passed by (Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland). But I have heard that this is not the case for all countries. According to Seat61, “The countries where InterRailing is easy:  Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Great Britain & Ireland”.

More info on Interrail and how it works?

I know the Interrail website can be confusing. If you are interested in going Interrail or Eurrailing, I highly recommended his page on beginners guide to Interrailing here https://www.seat61.com/InterRail-pass-guide.htm! It helped me a lot during my planning.

Europe is so big! How did you determine where you wanted to go?

Well, I had a few dream cities that I have always wanted to visit. Such as Hallstatt and the Jungfrauch region. From there I looked at a map and planned my itinerary. For inspirations you might want to browse on Pinterest. You can also search Eurotrip Itinerary on Google. A lot of people have made blog posts on a recommended itinerary within a certain amount of travel days.

How far from your trip did you buy your Interrail Pass and book accomodations?

I bought my Interrail Pass online in April 2017 which was 3 months before the trip. The pass arrived at my doorstep (or well, my mailbox) a week later.

To some people, the beauty of Interrailing is actually the spontaneity and freedom where you can choose where you want to go the day you want to travel. These people usually search for accommodation upon arrival to the next city.  But because I am a freak for details, I planned the trip carefully and booked all accomodations in April also. I am now glad that I did because if I hadn’t, I would have probably paid 2-3x more than I did due to the peak seasons. Also, most places (especially small towns like Salzburg or Interlaken) are usually fully booked during these times. Hence my recommendation is, if you want to go Interrailing for spontaneity, do not go in peak seasons!

Where did you find your accomodations?

I actually booked from Hostelbookers and looked for places with a rating above 8.0. I try to find accommodation that is not quite at the center of town (that way it is not too crowded) but also not too far away. Turns out this was a good strategy, as in Prague and Vienna where we booked 2 beds in a 4 bed dorm, we were fortunate to find we had no roommates and had the room to ourselves! I am telling you, in the middle of summer in this peak season, this is really rare.

Side notes:

  • Aside from hostelbookers.com you can also book from hostelworld.com. However, they do charge you a few euros more. The good side is, if you suddenly need to change the date of your stay, a booking from these sites makes the changing easier to do
  • If you are sure of the dates and want to save a bit more, then you can search for hostels with good reviews on these sites but go to the hostels personal site to book.
  • If you want a more private but still budget accommodation, try Airbnb, but be sure to find accomodations that has been nicely reviewed by a lot of people!

How much did you spend on the trip?

This one is a bit of a sensitive topic and it actually differs person to person so I don’t really want to show it publicly here. If you are however interested, please email me on Zafira.shabrina@gmail.com and I will send you a copy of my excel file.


I think this is all for now. I will attempt to elaborate each city – both practical things and trivias – on a different post. If you are interested in anything please comment down below!

Thanks for reading ❤



Unleashing Indonesia: Ready, Set, GO!

Yesterday morning (eeearly morning, as in 2AM), I was awaken by the constant buzz of my phone. Annoyed and simply couldn’t find any way to get back to sleep, I decided to wake up and check what the racket was about. Long story short, I found out that the buzzes were my friends who were informing that I was accepted as participant of Young Leaders for Indonesia McKinsey ! 

There is no way to describe just how grateful I am to be one out of the 60 chosen delegates. It’s amazing what reputation the program has and the impact its given towards our society. The thought of me finally getting to contribute directly towards a better Indonesia gets me really excited! 🙂 But that brings me to a  series of worries.

Firstly, you should probably know that the program runs for 6 months:

  • 3 forums held in Jakarta on late April, early July and late September 2013
  • Between the first and second forum, we are entitled to do an individual project that contributes to our own environment (~2 months)
  • Between the second and third forum, delegates are split into groups and are to do a bigger project with a bigger impact (~3 months)

The one great thing about the program is that delegates receive a big scholarship that covers all costs of the program, so financial needs are all settled. Secondly and most importantly, THE BOARDS AND SPEAKERS ARE AMAZING! From politicians and ambassadors, to company CEOs. Amongst them are Anies Baswedan, Sandiago Uno, HE Dinno Patti Djalal and Gita Wirjawan. In short, the program is awesome!!

But… back to my worries. So there are a couple of things that hovers on my mind:

  • I’m currently having that inferior syndrome. I know and I’m sure that my 59 new friends are aaawesome and dedicated, which makes me feel so nervous since we have to do speeches and discussions and stuff
  • I’m not sure what to do for my individual projeeect. I’ve got ideas but i feel nervouuusss
  • I have to give up not doing UGM’s academic obligation of doing community service, and postpone it til’ next semster 😐

But then again, creating changes for a better future is never easy. And nevertheless I am 100% sure that I will gain sooooo much experience and have great coaches to overcome all those obstacles 🙂

I am ready to contribute and unleash Indonesia!

Walking in Other People’s Shoes

It was a bright sunny day when we arrived at that Islamic boarding school: welcomed and given a warm yet formal ceremonial introduction. I remember ever so clearly. He had dark skin, barely any hair, and beautiful wide eyes filled with deep curiosity. What was his name? I can’t seem to recall. Let’s just call him Hassan for the time being.

Oh wait… I’m way ahead of myself. Let’s start from the very beginning: My visit to the Pesantren described above was part of a 30-day study on cultural and pluralistic issues. Together with a group of American students and 3 other Indonesian delegates, I gained hands-on experience on the theme: how complex it is, and how rich the world is of differences. Cool right?

So then, who is Hassan and what about him? Well I was just getting to that. During a sharing session with students and teachers of this school, Hassan bravely stood up, turned on the microphone, faced the unfamiliar visitors and  asked:

“why do Americans hate us (Indonesians)? Why do Americans hate Islam?”

A bold question indeed! I could hear the Americans starting to whisper, they were shocked. As for us confused Indonesians, we did nothing but share secretive looks at each other. We knew the question was coming. In fact it was only a matter of time before our own curiosity dawned on us. After what seemed like forever, an American delegate took the initiative to answer the crowd, it sounded something like this (and I rephrase):

“Americans do not hate Indonesians, nor do they hate Islam. As a matter of fact, little of them know where Indonesia is or what it is about. It is quite shocking for us to hear a question about something that never came across our minds.  We understand that after the 9/11 attack, misperceptions about Islam and Muslim Majority countries keep coming up. But that is the very reason we are here: to learn about Indonesia. Get to know the culture, the people, the policies…”

I felt like giving a standing applause (which was barely possible since I was playing the language interpreter). My dear friend took Hassan’s question and answered very nicely. You certainly do have to give credit for that! But really, Hassan’s sincerety of a child made me realize how big the effect of social assumptions are. Though sometimes when we assume, we assume way too much or even out of line. Many conflicts, both minute and major, are caused by miss communications and little understanding of the two parties involved. I am not saying that no one can be blamed in the so-called conflicts; even I take stand in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Syrian civil war or the election of DKI’s local governor. But in my humble opinion, the intensity of the problems escalate just because of public opinions and shout-outs. Whilst in reality, individuals of the society are just shouting, period. Many do not try to see from the perspectives of those they do not support. Thus hatred and prejudice becomes a problem.

Looking back at my experience back at the Pesantren made me realize how essential it is to get to know other cultures, religions and nations. This reminded me of an article I read on VOA Indonesia on August 7, 2012 entitled “Peserta Pertukaran Mahasiswa Pluralisme dan Keberagaman Budaya Bertolak ke AS” (Participants of Student Exchange on Pluralism and Multiculture Departs to the US – translation. Students of two very different countries came together and learned issues of democracy, pluralism and multiculturalism in Indonesia and United States. During the travel, the group was directly confronted by the reality of the two countries, good or bad. Meeting with some of Indonesia’s prominent figures, such as Professor Amien Rais and Alissa Wahid, visiting Yogya Hiphop Foundation and Inter-religious discussions — they certainly must have learnt a lot. Most importantly the delegates shall learn to see things from other people’s perspectives. Even when these “other people” are considered an arch enemy on TV. I guess what I’m trying to say is, these students are forced to come out of their comfort zone – their shell, their bubble – and walk in someone else’s shoes.

You certainly must be able to imagine how hard that is. But this attempt most certainly is life changing — and if it does help make the world a better place, why not? Maybe next time, we could do a similar program with… Ahmadiyah and Fanatic Islam? Or even Jokowi-Ahok and Foke! Let’s walk in other people’s shoes, people!

Definitely No Place Like Home

Over the past year I have immersed myself in an environment so different from my own. “Living outside my comfort zone”, as adviced by so many people. It has been a wonderful experience, meeting with incredible-famous-prominent people, befriend such caring and intelligent students, falling in love with a great and nice but very different man… ah, don’t know what else.

During the time I was “away”, my attitude to those in my original environment changed. I am truly ashamed to say that I became some sort of a stuck-up snob: fought with two of my best friends, became distant with the general society, became careless with academic matters, you name it. It wasn’t until a week ago that I realized how much was missed. My heart decided then was the perfect time to head home. The moment I silently declared myself back in Psychology, I was warmly embraced by my best friends, professors, seniors, juniors, even by work! I have forgotten how amazing home can be. I feel ever so grateful for everyone who received me the way they did even after the great mess. Thank you :’)

Now, I am fully recharged. Most importantly, I’ve learned a great lesson: there’s no place like home 😉  

The great lesson is learnt, and I am ready to climb-up again, this time without forgetting where I began, came from and belong

Yogyakarta, June 28 2012 [11:01]