|I am the cupcake bunny, hear me roar.|
Well, in addition to the seemingly inescapable "Gangnam Style", Seoul is also becoming known for its abundance of cute and over the top themed cafes. Back in October I wrote about my experience at one of Seoul's many Cat Cafes, where you can mingle with cats and coffee. Last weekend I finally took a long awaited trip to the Princess Diary Cafe, where one can spend the afternoon reliving their childhood days playing dress up in their mother's closet.
So how does the Princess Diary Cafe work? Here's a breakdown:
Step 1: Enter the cafe, attempt to speak with the hostess in broken Korean.
Step 2: Order coffee and/or food.
Step 3: Put on your make-up, do your hair, and use the restroom if necessary.
Step 4: Pick a wedding dress to wear. Dresses range from 10,000 to 30,000 won to put on.
Step 5: Get pinned into said wedding dress by an assistant. Watch out for the dress needles! No safety pins here. Then add accessories, like a tiara or animal ears.
Step 6: Be surprised and thrilled at how fun it is to have your own personal, fake wedding photo shoot with your friends.
Step 7: Try not to be bewildered and/or giggle at the couple that just walked in. Yes, that guy is going to take fake wedding photos with his girlfriend and genuinely enjoy it. In fact, it might even have been his idea to come here.
Step 8: Take off wedding dress.
Step 9: Enjoy delicious coffee and food.
|Me and my friend Nadia saying yes to the dress.|
|They had a corner with special lighting to make your skin look flawless.|
Considering how much people spend on things like prom and other one night events, $30 to wear a fancy dress for an hour actually doesn't seem so bad. The most surprising thing for me is how common it is for couples to come to the cafe. When I imagine asking a boyfriend in the States to join me for a fake wedding photo shoot and coffee, I imagine the back of his head becoming a spec of dust on the horizon as he runs for the hills. I'm sure there are Korean guys who go just to please their girlfriends and don't genuinely enjoy the experience, but believe it or not I think there also are many that do enjoy it.
While most would jump to the go-to-conclusion that Korean men tend to be more effeminate, I think their willingness to play dress up is actually due more to cultural differences in dating and relationships. First it's true, in Korean dating culture, men are definitely expected to go the extra mile for their girlfriends. Chivalry is without a doubt alive and kicking (if I had a dollar for every time I saw a guy holding their girlfriend's purse...).
Therefore doing something like taking fake wedding photos with your girlfriend doesn't seem as extreme here as it might in the States. You can see this high expectation for romance played out in Korean films and TV dramas (something that has no doubt attributed to their popularity in the US and abroad). I think as a culture, romance in Korea is something desired equally by men and women, it's not a "girl thing."
Second, I think this can be further attributed to the fact that the general attitude toward marriage is different. At least in some social circles, marriage among young couples in America is treated as a far off distant prospect, something that is difficult to imagine yourself doing. People get into relationships to "see where it goes" or relationships that "aren't serious."
My experience dating in Korea is limited but I get the sense that relationships aren't usually treated so flippantly, or at least the prospect of marriage isn't something to be feared. Korea has very community oriented society, the idea of being married to someone for life doesn't signify giving up a part of one's self the way I think it does in the States.
When it comes to marriage for American men, I think the idea of getting married and having a family signifies giving up valued personal freedom and in no small part, some of one's manhood. On the other hand, for Korean men, it seems that having a wife and children makes you a man. When asking my male high school students what they want to be when they grow up, several have replied "a good father". Most foreign girls who've dated Korean men will tell you that they aren't shy about dropping "L" word or discussing marriage. This isn't to say all Korean men want to be married and all American men don't, but the general attitude and dating culture feel pretty different.
It can be seen even in my own writing of the subject that Americans tend to treat love and marriage as taboo subjects within a relationship until the proverbial question has been popped. While I'm sure saying "I love you" is still a big deal in Korea, I don't think you'll hear any Korean girls harping on the difference between "love" and being "in love." For Koreans, these things are just part of the relationship deal. You can talk about love without "dropping the L bomb" and take jokey wedding photos because that's what couples do, they get married. At least some of them do eventually. And if you don't, your fake wedding photos will just be another thing to burn, along with his old t-shirt and that teddy bear he gave you.