The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

BOOK REVIEW: “Picky, Sticky or Just Plain Icky?” by Valerie Hamer

TITLE: Picky, Sticky, or Just Plain Icky? A Blind Date Conversation: Korea
AUTHOR: Valerie Hamer
Twitter: @Farawayhammer
FORMAT: Ebook in various formats (Available from Smashwords)
GENRE: Biography
SOURCE: Review copy from author
AUTHOR BIO: Valerie Hamer is a British teacher and writer who has lived in Asia since summer 2000.


“Can you imagine shopping for a husband or wife the same way you would go looking for shoes or something for dinner? In South Korea marriage is still often approached in this way: especially by men and women who are still single in their late twenties. This book tells the true life story of one Korean woman’s search for a spouse. Through a series of in-depth interviews she shared her blind dating history and experiences with me. Through stories which are in turn funny, moving and shocking an often hidden aspect of Asian culture is revealed.”

(From Smashwords description by the author)


The title of this book derives from the type of men this young Korean, Su-jin, has been unfortunate enough to meet on her many blind dates (around 100 in the last ten years.) The Picky — men who consider themselves prize marriage catches; The Sticky — the over-clingy and needy; and the Plain Icky, who all need an intensive course on dating etiquette.

Conversations between the author and Su-jin are recorded pretty much verbatim. Hamer says: “…in order to retain [Su-jin’s] voice, I have only edited for comprehension.”

The result for the reader is a clear mental picture of this young woman, eliciting sympathy, indignation, and not a little horror at the farcical dating situation she is in. Hamer herself describes it as “straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel” in that:

Most of the Korean women I have got to know are victims of the philosophy that marriage is the only road to achieving legitimate female nirvana.

Su-jin is 29 and broke up with her long-term boyfriend two years ago. At the end of her relationship, he helpfully told her:

“If you want to meet really nice guy you’d better get plastic surgery on your breasts.”

Sadly, this was not an isolated line at which I spluttered out my coffee, not quite believing what I’d just read.

It turned out to be one of the lesser insults that Su-jin has had to endure in her quest for a husband.

Words of wonderment from Su-jin:

On her dreams:

I want to meet a really nice guy, because these days I really want to get married with someone…just someone who has a really good personality and who cares about me.

On first dates:

Even though it was the first time to meet together he asked me “How many babies can you give a birth? How much money did you save for your future?”

On blind dates made by friends:

When I met the blind date guys who were my friend’s co-worker it was really difficult because if I made small mistake it could influence on my friend as well.


The book is very short and an easy read, but that’s not the reason it’s a page-turner: I kept flicking the pages over, thinking that sometime, surely, luck would have to change for Su-jin.

“And did it?” you ask.

Sorry. No book review spoilers at Displaced Nation.

“Picky, Sticky or Just Plain Icky?” can be purchased here.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Random Nomad post.

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4 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: “Picky, Sticky or Just Plain Icky?” by Valerie Hamer

  1. Adventures (@in_expatland) April 26, 2012 at 2:20 am

    I’ve been a fan of Valerie Hamer’s stories for quite some time, so picked up my copy earlier this week. Looking forward to a dip in the Korean dating pool!

  2. ML Awanohara April 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I enjoyed this review. I really understand where Valerie Hamer is coming from because of having lived in Japan for as long as I did, where women are considered “Christmas cake” if they don’t get married by the age of 26 (Japanese celebrate Christmas Day by buying a b-day cake for Jesus — they consider it to be stale by the day after). Plus it made me think of the review I did last month of the beauty book by the Korean dermatologist. Korea is definitely the plastic surgery capital of Asia.

    If you’re still tuning in, I wonder what audience you intend for the book? Koreans already know this, and Westerners who don’t know it might not be able to understand without living there…?

    • valkerie April 29, 2012 at 5:57 am

      Hi there. I’m glad you enjoyed the review. It is wonderfully written and I’m so thrilled to have had Kate do this for me.

      Your question about the intended audience is a very good one. The book does include a first chapter that creates some context. I think that would help those with no experience of Korea to gain a little understanding at least.

      So far the audience (that I am aware of) has included a fairly wide group of people. I have had some debate with Korean-American (men) who have more experience or knowledge of the formal blind dating system here. (Run by official and expensive marriage brokers.) I think it may be worth me encouraging some Koreans living here now to read it and see what they think.

      Although it’s inevitable that the experience will be influenced by the knowledge a reader brings with them this doesn’t seem to detract from enjoyment. I have had feedback from foreigners who have never lived in Asia which supports this, which is good news for me as I felt this story was one that needed to be told to the world.

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