After yesterday’s marathon wandering, I decided to take it easy and head down to Gangnam and Apgujeong, the status locations of South Korea and I immediately noticed the difference in terms of the dress, cars, and style of the people in these areas versus where I’m staying in Jongno-gu. If I had to assign an equivalent, I’d say Gangnam is a lot like New York. People do high end business here and as a result, have access to a lot of money. The suit, tie, and fine leather shoes are standard attire here. These are the people who look like they are chaebol characters in Korean dramas with slick haircuts and a kind of confidence that I’ve not seen since I arrived. The difference from New York? Streets are wide and clean and people aren’t rushing around. They’re probably in their offices already so sidewalks are relatively empty.
As I sat in the local The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I saw one bus drive by. This area feels the most like the United States. To be truthful, I was in a bit of culture shock after being around people in Jongno and Myeongdong the past 3 days. I also don’t see a lot of cute, young couples wearing matching clothes and fawning over each other. I did notice a few foreigners working here, dressed in suits and conversing with their Korean counterparts.
Apgujeong feels a lot like Los Angeles. Entertainment management companies are all situated here, so being that media feeds the public frenzy for status symbols, it’s natural to see store fronts of Louis Vuitton and Bulgari. There is one section known as Apgujeong Rodeo, which I assure you, has nothing to do with horses, lassoes, and barrel riding, but as in Rodeo Drive. It’s all about opulence and excess.
Seoul, it feels, is about status and as such, consumerism is king for the tourist. For the past two days, it’s been about shopping and entrance fees. Nothing wrong with it, but when you’re determined to live on a strict budget, things get challenging. Luxury items are entirely out for me, since 1) I never buy them in real life to begin with, and 2) I’m sticking to $300 USD in spending money for these 5 days. Luckily, I get a kick out of riding the metro, so my entertainment costs are a drop in the bucket since each way is about $1 on my T-money card. Needless to say, today’s trip to visit these world famous locations was underwhelming for me.