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On falling in love with cities

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

A city isn’t so unlike a person. They both have the marks to show they have many stories to tell. They see many faces. They tear things down and make new again. Rasmenia

Falling in love with a city is just like the beginning of a romantic relationship. You can’t get enough of it, wanting to know everything about it. You want to experience all the new and exciting things and have butterflies in your stomach. This is how I fell in love with Seoul.

I flew to Seoul for just a couple of days, to get a tattoo. Long story short, I’ve been following an amazing tattoo artist Sik for a few years. As didn’t have any tattoos, nor did I plan to get any more than one, so that one had to be perfect. I flew to Seoul from the Philippines. Right into -3Co from +30Co.

The first thing I did, after having a cup of very good coffee I was craving for all the time in the Philippines, is I went to buy a winter jacket. My cotton yoga mat, which I fashioned into a poncho to not freeze to death getting from the airport to the hotel, definitely wasn’t a long-term solution.

I ended up staying in a very hip but quiet neighborhood of Yeonnam-dong, which Sik recommended as ‘arty, but quiet, with lots of nice cafes and quite central’. It was love at first sight. As I exited the Hongik University station, I was stunned of how aesthetically pleasing everything was.

For the first few days, I couldn’t help but do mental ‘Whoa…’ on every corner. Everything just felt right, like if I designed it all just the way I like it.

I tend to fall in love with complex, unpredictable, and multi-layered men. Those, that get me out of the mundane and show me a whole new dimension to life.

Seoul was just like that. Hardly anyone speaks English, everything is written in Korean, and people are like from another planet. It intrigued me.

As I sip perfect coffee in beautifully designed black and white cafes, I watch couples, all dressed in black and white, holding hands and taking selfies for hours. Some men wear make-up. Certainly, all women do.

Coffee shops are open from 12pm until 10pm (good luck getting your morning coffee if you are an early bird!). Google Maps doesn’t work here, and no one uses WhatsApp. That’s right, they’ve got their own pretty awesome tech giant Kakao. As an ex-tech consultant, I must say those dudes know what they are doing.

I feel deeply uncomfortable here. It’s awesome. No one understands me and I just have to be OK with it. It takes a lot of confidence walking into a café, buzzing with people, looking really lost and still be OK with it.

But it’s great to just face it and do it. Being in Seoul is like being on a quest or solving a puzzle. Can be challenging, but deeply satisfying at the same time.

Falling in love with Seoul also reminded me of how I fell in love with London. In the contrary, it wasn’t love at first sight. For the first few years I lived in an area I didn’t like at all.

When I moved to Belsize Park (North London for those non-Londoners out there), it reignited the passion. We had many wonderful moments, just me and the city. Watching the skyline from Primrose Hill, riding a double-decker through Camden, picnics in Russel square, and many nights out after work in the City.

I loved London so much, with my whole heart. But it didn’t seem to love me back quite as much. It was exhausting me with its loud and crowded underground, its pace and constant fear of missing out. It turned into one of those relationships they call ‘toxic’. I had to get out.

As with any breakups, there are times when I miss ‘my ex’ badly. And, of course, romanticize our relationship, remembering only the good things. But the way to dealing with that, as with any breakup, especially after a long-term relationship, is realising that it made you into the person you are.

London will always be a part of me.

"Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. "- Roman Payne

While Seoul is an exciting romantic adventure, I am not ready to commit yet. I am still dating and exploring. I am learning a lot about myself and testing my life start-up hypotheses.

One thing I realised, it’s less about the city or a country. It’s about your daily microcosm. You can have a very peaceful life in one of the largest cities on the planet if you design it that way.

Another thing I realised is that I miss waking up to the sounds of chickens in the morning.

Maybe I am a countryside girl after all.

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