If metropolitan cities were high school students and they had a graduation ceremony, Paris would, without a doubt, with the award for “Most Romantic.” Known as the “City of Love,” people all over the world fantasize about it and dream about finding their one and only in this magical cupid filled place. Second runner up for the title would surely go to some other European city, probably in Italy, and perhaps after that somewhere that’s often featured in movies, like New York. If I were a betting woman, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would nominate an Asian city as the place you’d be most likely to find your other half. Ever heard of “Sleepless in Beijing?” “Hong Kong Holiday?” Me neither, and we probably won’t anytime soon—though I’m hoping after reading this piece someone will get a screenplay titled, “Seoulmate” in the works.
Seoul gave us the perfect balance of things to do that brought my boyfriend and I together, but didn’t pressure us to fall in love, and maybe that’s why we did.
As someone who spent a significant amount of time in Paris, I can honestly say I never once found love. I found several one night stands, many creepy and inappropriate ass grabs, and one thing I thought might be love but was really some combination of too much wine and too little talking. So, in the City of Love, I found nothing remotely close. I know other people did, because I saw them walking drunk with emotion along the Seine and not eating their food because they were too busy doing things people in love do like staring into each others’ eyes.
Fast forward years later and now I’m in Seoul. Seoul, while wonderful, does not necessarily arouse immediate thoughts of the romantic type when mentioned. Though it’s full of dimly lit and cutesy coffee shops for couples and just about every product you could want has a couple’s option, it doesn’t have the same dreamy, caught-in-a-romantic haze type thing that Paris has. But, despite this, Seoul is where my boyfriend and I finally wised up and committed to each other. Maybe it was the tequila in Hongdae, the yogurt ice cream we shared at “Twosome Place” (a name destined to bring people together), the exhibitions at the Deoksugung museum, wandering around Sinchon at midnight desperately seeking ice cream, getting utterly lost and overwhelmed in the chaos of Myeong-dong, our mutual love of ice cream and all things similar, or maybe the desire to be a couple spread to us via osmosis.
Whatever the reason, I don’t think we’d be together now had we been anywhere else. Seoul gave us the perfect balance of things to do that brought us together, but didn’t pressure us to fall in love, and maybe that’s why we did. Paris in a lot of ways is too romantic. Romance and perfection shove themselves in your face at every turn so the pressure’s always on. You end up staring at every man and dreaming that he could be “the one” and when you have an unsuccessful date you can’t help but slap your forehead and wonder what is so wrong with you that you couldn’t make it work in freaking Paris of all places. Seoul is romantic, but I never felt like I would be a chump if I didn’t have any romantic encounters there. Feeling like I could just be in a city on my own and enjoy it without male companionship, I think, made me ready to have a real relationship. I wasn’t so love-struck and desperate to find someone or do the things couples do in movies, or things I think they might do in a movie—like project a marriage proposal onto the Eiffel Tower and then cruise along the Seine in a private boat while eating a gourmet catered candlelit dinner.
Instead, I can accidentally drizzle too much gojuchang into my dolsot bap because I got distracted gazing into Boyfriend’s eyes from across the table at a gimbap shop or we can laugh about the competition we instated to see who could eat more of the cheese ddeok in the dak galbi at dinner. These things are no moonlit stroll along the Champs-Elysee, but they have been more meaningful than anything I ever did in Europe and, more importantly, they are things I’ve gotten to share with the person I consider my Seoulmate (hopefully this will be coming soon to a theater near you).