Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Surving Singly in Seoul II

I am the last person on earth who should be giving this kind of advice but what the heck! It's my blog and I'll advise if I want to^^

Gomushin Girl's Guide to Surviving Singles Seoul

Tip Number 2:
Always carry reading material.

Korean society isn't one that has yet really embraced the idea of doing stuff on your own. You don't go to the movies alone, you don't sit in a cafe alone, and you certainly don't eat alone. But if you're an expat gal, there are times when you don't have the choice but to strike out on your own* and brave the theater or 식당 on your own.
When you do, always have something in your pocket to read.
Seoul cafe's have gotten better at stocking magazines, but you're likely to be left with last months' Luxury magazine or if you're really lucky, a six month old copy of Cici (in cases of foreigner-frequented areas, replace Luxury with last months' Eloquence, and have fun snickering at the bad writing.) But bring your own book along as you ride the subway or wait for the bus, and you've killed two birds with one stone.
First, you have brought your own entertainment.
Second, you have a conversation starter.
I don't know how many times I've been stopped and asked about the books I'm reading by random people. These conversations have been everything from short, pleasant exchanges to long winding conversations that culminate in exchanges of phone numbers and later meetings.
Books give people an opening to talk to you, while also giving you an excuse to bow out of conversations you don't want. Just as it can bring people to you, you can also use it to shut them out and retreat to a private world within a public space without seeming really rude. This is great when you're being pestered by some random 아저씨.
The next question is: what kind of book should I bring?
Korean books are sometimes just the ticket. Besides advertising your language skills and making it easier for non-English speakers to strike up a conversation, they're also a great way to keep those same language skills in peak condition. Practice makes perfect, right? No need to rack your brain too much to find the perfect book - just pick up anything that looks interesting from the bestseller table at Kyobo. One note: this makes it pretty impossible to pretend you don't speak Korean when you're trying to ignore somebody.
But what about non-Korean books? What you read reveals something about you at that moment. Mind you, it might merely reveal that your book club has artsy-fartsy tastes or it might say that you've read everything you brought with you from home and are now chomping through the used book piles at the 아름다운가게 for anything that looks like it won't melt brain cells.**

*what? you like being alone? perish the thought! what's wrong with you? You must be lonely and need a man! ^^V
** there's some mighty fine reading there though . . . where else will you find "99 Steps to Becoming a Ninja"?

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