I’m writing from Seoul, and I have to say, I’m loving the cafe lifestyle here. Literally every other storefront is a coffee shop tea house, or some combination thereof. Today I spent a solid seven hours writing at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but I never once felt pressured to leave, and a few guys that were there when I arrived were still parked when I left.
There’s no shortage of cafes in Taipei, but the vibe is totally different. In Seoul, it seems like a given that you can buy one drink and hang around for twelve hours. Or not buy a drink and just sneak in–no one would probably notice or care. It’s rare to find that in Taipei, especially if you go to a popular cafe, where it’s common to be told you have 1.5 to 2 hours to eat and get out, because inevitably there’s a line and everyone else has a reservation (Hence, the quest for the perfect writing cafe in Taipei).
Seoul is no less crowded than Taipei—it’s actually bigger and crazier in a lot of ways—but because there are so many coffee options, it seems like all the students in Seoul can park at the location of their choice with a book and/or laptop and stay ’til closing time.
As a writer, this speaks to me. I love writing in cafes, but not when I feel pressured to give up my table, and people are hovering. Cafes in Seoul can be three or four stories, so if you take the steps up another level, you’re bound to find an undisturbed spot. AND, outlets and free wireless are everywhere. Those are both huge struggles in Taipei.
I’ve been to a few cafes in Seoul that have a basket with phone chargers ready to go. It’s such an Internet-oriented, mobile culture, that it’s totally cool to to hand over your phone for charging. I went for a Korean-style shabu shabu and one of my friends needed her phone charged—no big deal. The staff even remembered to hand it back to her when she would’ve walked out of the restaurant.
In short, I’m being super productive and going to different cafes every day. Totally loving the atmosphere, and hoping I can come back to Seoul in the future! If chilling in cafes appeals to you, whether for writing, studying, or people-watching, then Seoul may be the city for you.