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Seoul searching: Love in the air, culture

30 March 2014 By Ellen Back, Columnist No Comments
Courtesy of Ellen Back

Courtesy of Ellen Back

Seoul fashion week was an unforgettable experience! After the show, Reina introduced us all to close family friend and beautiful Korean designer, Sylvia Oh. We greeted her with flowers and thanked her for our amazing floor seat tickets.

Thankfully, the weather was nice enough to take plenty of pictures before and after the show.

Outside the building, people rushed to get a glimpse of the stunning models while the paparazzi chased celebrities who attracted the big crowds. I kept thinking, “If only I knew who the celebrities were.” While exiting the building, I stood five feet away from a girl who I later discovered was a famous Korean actress. I was probably the girl with the overwhelmed look on her face standing beside the actress in all the fan photos. There seems to be a lot of downfalls to being a foreigner. On the bright side, it’s really starting to feel like spring in Korea!

On my way to do homework at a local cafe, I saw people stop to take pictures of the beautiful hibiscus syriacus flowers that have decorated the streets of Sinchon. Spring is an exciting season in Seoul where people are out having picnics, enjoying sweet treats from local vendors, listening to live street music and, most commonly, going on romantic dates. Everywhere I look, I see couples holding hands and talking inches away from each other as if lost in their own little secret worlds. I have learned that relationships are a big aspect of one’s identity. If you don’t have a significant other, you’re either looking for one or envious of the ones who have one.

At first, I thought my friends were the only ones who shared this view. But after getting asked whether or not I have a boyfriend from nearly all of my relatives (which was a little awkward I may add), I realized that conversations revolving around one’s relationship status are very common. My professors often use “boyfriend/girlfriend” references in class as well. They go a little something like this: “You can either go on a date or study for a Macroeconomics exam. What is the opportunity cost of each scenario?” or “Would you rather enjoy a nice walk under the stars while sacrificing a good grade or practice the problem sets give in class and give up time with your loved one?”

Believe it or not, I think most students would choose the first option. Not only are relationships important, but looks are essential to one’s social life as well. On an ordinary school day, girls carry designer bags and walk in heels while guys are dressed in shiny leather shoes and sport fancy silver watches. Just the other day, I saw a group of girls apply makeup in a restaurant as they studied their looks in their compact mirrors. Personally, I would never choose lipstick over a freshly delivered meal. The Korean culture seems to put a heavy emphasis on appearances.

If one were to ever commit the crime of wearing sweat pants to class, they would most likely be judged, rejected and shunned from the social scene.

The cultural differences have been a little difficult to adjust to and unfortunately, some lessons had to be lived to be understood.


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