Walking and talking make the best romantic dates

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Walking and talking make the best romantic dates

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Singer/songwriter Lee Moon-sae obviously had his share of roses and heartbreak on the romantic streets of northern Seoul.
“The traces we left have vanished with time, but the stone wall of Gwanghwamun is still here,” go the words of his 1988 hit, “Gwanghwamun Love Song.” It continues: “Lovers stroll along. Even if we all float away with the tides of time, Jeong-dong Street remains.”
Like all memorable lyrics, the song creates an atmosphere that makes it possible for us to share the emotions of others. In this instance, the stone walls of Gwanghwamun line a street that has been the romantic setting for many couples who have walked up and down the scenic path next to Deoksu Palace.
“That street is such a classic. It never goes out of style,” said Jung Gyu-young, 27, who enjoys the elegantly skewed trees and the color of the stones. Along with Samcheong-dong, he likes Gwanghwamun street and thinks it’s as an ideal spot for walking and talking on a first date.
“It’s kind of a shame because these days, the younger generation has become lazy and self-absorbed in choosing a theme for a date,” said Kim Jin-woo, who runs the date counseling site www.datecoach.co.kr, and explained that outdoor dating has been replaced by indoor dating. “It’s usually a movie-food-drinks deal for people, instead of picnicking outside and such.”
Others, however, do not see this as a major issue. “It really doesn’t matter where you go so long as you have good company,” said Im Gyeong-sun, a relationship columnist who has published two books on dating. “Koreans put so much emphasis on big events during dates. [Japanese television channel] NHK came and did a documentary about this. It’s about ostentation. Koreans like to show off what they have, whether it’s an expensive piece of clothing or a significant other.”
According to relationship counselor Song Chang-min, outdoor dating isn’t a good idea at all ― at least for a first date.
“It really depends on the person but people can feel quite uncomfortable when they are walking outside with a person they hardly know,” said Song, who has written four books on relationships. “In magazines, they always say watching a scary movie or going on rides like roller coasters brings two people closer but ultimately the first date is about getting to know somebody. The best way to do that is to go out for tea or a couple of drinks and start talking.”
Song goes on to say that seeing a movie on a first date is also a mistake. “Both parties can end up feeling distant,” he said.
Even if people want to get creative when choosing an activity for a date, a movie and dinner are a good choice for people on a budget, according to Kim. “For people in their twenties, a budget of 30,000 won ($33) pays for movie tickets and dinner. For that amount, a date can last four to five hours.”
Apart from the outdoor/indoor issue, another great divide is northern versus southern Seoul.
“Because Gangnam [southern Seoul] is an expensive place with a money culture, there are not a lot of places that are good for a full date,” said Kim. “Dating in Gangnam is more is about selecting a nice restaurant or wine bar and having a chat over a drink.”
After being asked about good places for a date, Im hesitated then said, “There really aren’t a lot of places that come to mind besides Samcheong-dong, which is a bit obvious. In Gangnam, Dosan Park [in Apgujeong-dong] is about the only place that I can think of.”
As for the change in dating trends over the past decade, experts said that women are paying more often and people are choosing more open spaces such as restaurants with terraces.
However, according to Im, the basic codes remain the same.
“I don’t mean to generalize,” she laughs. “But for men, it’s still about getting some action at the end of the day,” she said. “For women it is still about feeling intimate and enjoying the process of dating.”
“Women enjoy the dating process. Men, on the other hand, have little interest in the process,” said Song. “For men, it’s just a means to achieve a certain goal, whether it’s impressing the woman or physical contact.”
Communication is the top priority during a date according to all three counselors.
“The most important thing is to be a good listener and a good talker ― in one word, a good communicator,” said Im. “People these days, maybe because reading has become passe for many, have no conversation skills or witty repartee. “
“It might sound old-fashioned but whatever you do and wherever you go on a date, try to relate to the other person. It works much better than trying to impress them,” said Song.
For anybody who wants to try an outdoor date, each of the three date experts quoted here agreed that the following would make good choices: Gwanghwamun, on the street that goes past Deoksu Palace; Yangjae Citizen’s Forest in southern Seoul; Yeouido Park; the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwancheon, Gyeonggi province; the area around Hongik University; Samcheong-dong; and Namsan Hanok Village.


By Cho Jae-eun Staff Writer [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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