I recently visited Seoul. It was my second time in the capital city of South Korea and whilst much hadn’t changed, some things truly were different.
My first visit to Seoul was in the summer of 2010. 6 years later, I was back in Hongdae. Here’s what’s changed.
I remember when cat cafés were a big deal in Seoul. They was one at every corner. Now, you’ll still find them, of course, but they’ve lost their novelty appeal. After all, you can find them everywhere in the world! The new trend? The puppy café!
Oh, the joy of the photobooth! The amount of time we spend giggling with my friends, adding silly hats and multi-coloured stars to our completely ridiculous photos. Photo booths ruled Hongdae. You couldn’t walk 10 meters without finding one in Sinchon. Now? You might have to get a lift to the fifth floor of a games arcade to find one. The new trend? Like everywhere else in the world: selfie sticks!
Itaewon was THE place to be for expats. You could get Lakers jersey and brunch. It was the place you could hear people speak every language on the planet without anyone doing a double take. Now? It’s just another Seoul neighborhood. It’s still supposedly the most cosmopolite area, but really, with American style diners and Starbucks popping up everywhere – Starbucks was already there 6 years ago, btw – it doesn’t feel very special. When I went there, for a trip down memory lane, it actually felt kind of run down!
In 2010, I was staying at my mate Alice’s place. The first thing that struck me? All the empty Nutella jars scattered around her kitchen. Now, I don’t really like sweet stuff. Give me a pack of crisps over chocolate any day. But Alice was adamant: the ONE thing she was always bringing back from Europe? Nutella. She also imported a crepe pan, because you know, she couldn’t live without it… Now? There are crepe booths in Hongdae, and you can find cheap Nutella everywhere. You can also get churros to take away, as well as a number of other fattening sweet crap. The next trend? Korean obesity!
I remember having to gesticulate and point and mime to get a pack of cigarettes at the corner booth. I also ended up putting on a show in the middle of a market trying to explain I wanted to post my cards to Paris – turns out the ONE thing France had successfully imported back then was Louis Vuitton. Silly me to try the beret, the Eiffel Tower and Carla Bruni first! Anyway, this time around? Without saying that English is widely spoken in South Korea, you would be very unlucky to not find someone in your vicinity who understands what you want. Be it directions to a guesthouse, a black Americano or yes, a post office. Actually, that last one might be an issue. Koreans are not relying on silly little pieces of papers anymore: if you want to send word back home: send an email!