Seoul, This is Christmas

So here it is. Christmas. It’s your first one away from home. Or perhaps, like me, it will be your third. And those of us who have spent more than one holiday season here know one specific truth about Christmas in Seoul: it’s not for families—it’s for lovers.

Amid the vocal stylings of Mariah Carey’s rendition of All I Want For Christmas is You, which is all I heard during my first Christmas away from my family, I saw a plethora of couples doing nothing but celebrating their love for one another. Matching outfits abounded. Coffee shops were offering couple mittens in which a pair of lovebirds could still hold hands while keeping their digits nice and cozy. It’s enough to warm your heart, unless of course it makes you want to throw up in your mouth.

Now, you will not find me sneering at Eskimo kisses or a lovers taking selca in coffee shops, street corners, outside love motels… But it gets much harder to not become exasperated when I am behind a couple taking a leisurely lovers’ stroll down the main drag in Gangnam. They are in love. They have all the time in the world. I get it. Meanwhile, about forty people behind them are racing to get to where we have to go, and somehow a ten-minute walk ends up taking twice as long. Even if you get around to passing said couple, another sprouts up like some sick, sad video game. Playing Frogger never prepared me for this. But we aren’t bitter, right?

Okay, so maybe we are. Just a little. It’s not easy being a singleton, especially during the holidays. Especially in Seoul.

Korean holidays, such as Seollal and Chuseok, are indeed celebrated with family—in fact, I was told by my Canadian friend who is dating a Korean guy that she wouldn’t participate in any family gatherings during those holidays because she is not part of the family. And perhaps that is why the impending festivities will be inundated with couples. It’s a holiday without ancestral roots, and a time to celebrate their love.

If you still find the whole “Coupling Christmas” subject problematic, you could always join the elite—it’s never too late to find love.

In Yeouido Park there is a singles’ run on December 24th where you could meet that special someone. Men are supposed to dress in white, ladies in red. When the start signal is given, the two sides rush toward each other—you can grab the hand of someone who piques your interest and perhaps find love (if that person accepts). It’s an interesting take on speed dating—only a little birdie has told me that if you’re not chosen by someone, you are then “adopted” by a couple and are given pity. Did you groan too? I know I did. Pre-existing couples are also invited to participate in this run for love, only they have to wear green, perhaps to remind us all of what we have to envy.

I know what you are thinking. Girl, just be honest. You’re jealous of all the love that is seemingly all around you and you haven’t found one for yourself. Save it. I’ve thought it already. But I do have love. I’m in love with this city. This city has my heart, else why would I still be here?

Being behind the aforementioned couple is enough to make any expat sigh and submit an eye roll, but perhaps it is all a lesson in patience. So take your time with everything. Slow down. In my experience, being in love with where are you is just as important as being in love with who you are. So fall in love, even if it is just with Seoul.

CM Shea

About CM Shea

CM Shea has been living in Seoul for two years and is a self-proclaimed lifer in Korea. By day, she is an English teacher at a hagwon in the Gangnam area and is currently burning the midnight oil by writing her first children's chapter book. Her daily life includes being owned by her adopted cat, Dresden, and insane amounts of laughter. Visit her blog here.

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