CULTURE: SEOUL X CAFE
Whenever I'm traveling in Seoul, I have no problem staying connected because I can piggy back on free wifi at any of the coffee shops. It's totally possible to be connected and communicate using messenger apps with your phone from home with their super, uber fast connection. And coffee shops are everywhere. If you think Starbucks is on very corner here, in a busy intersection in Seoul you'll easily have 7-10 coffee shops to choose from. I loves it!
A lawn cafe packed with people.
A coffee shop is the ultimate place to people watch in Seoul. Sure, there are a handful of kids/adults studying (or taking naps on top of their books), but chances are there will be an awkward first date to your right and a couple cuddling and watching Korean dramas with their headphones to your left. Occasionally, (if you're lucky) you'll find some girls taking selcas (aka Korean word for selfies) for about 30 minutes straight. No biggie.
In Korea, most young adults live with their parents until they get married because frankly—it's terribly expensive to live out on your own. Also, it's a bit conservative so cohabiting before marriage is still generally taboo. Part of the time I was living with my then boyfriend (now husband) when I was working at Samsung. Whether my colleagues knew I was living with a boyfriend or not, it was certainly never talked about openly. (Dad, if you're reading this—I'm, er, kidding!)
Much like Manhattan, there really aren't free-standing homes in the city, most people live in apartments. If you're not married, it is more than likely you're living with your parents so inviting people over to just hang out doesn't happen much. Most social gatherings are at restaurants, bars or at coffee shops which explains why there are so many and are so packed all the time!
Outside of Papergarden in Garosugil
Yes, Starbucks and Coffee Bean are in Seoul and they're popular, but I personally love spending time in a coffee shop that has its own unique design or concept.
I particularly enjoy going to this coffee shop in Garosugil that is also part flower shop, so you're surrounded by blooms while sipping on your joe.
You can buy coffee and these gorgeous blooms.
The mishmash aroma of flowers and coffee beans sounds bizarre, but it just kinda works. And much like the packaging that Korean cosmetic companies have on point—they're really awesome at setting up creative and cutely designed coffee shops with the perfect ambiance.
You also go for their baked goods.
In a Danish themed coffee shop
And yes, a Hello Kitty coffee shop in Hongdae.
I miss Korean coffee shops terribly, so much so it was my number one complaint when I started living in Manhattan. That being said, one thing I don't miss is the price of a cup of coffee in Korea. It's pretty overpriced (about $4-5 for an Americano). I had a huge problem with the fact that you can get a hearty lunch for that price.
Back then and even now I make instant coffee using those classic Korean coffee mix sticks (Maxim is my favorite). I'm sure its bad for you and true coffee connoisseurs would scoff at the sight of one of these sugary concoctions, but to me it's a little cup of Seoul on a chilly Monday morning in NYC.