“I eat dinner alone, I walk alone, and I watch a movie alone.” This is a famous song named “Alone” by K-pop girl group SISTAR. In this song, the character is alone because she separated with her boyfriend. However, this situation that we do everything alone because of a recently broken relationship is not merely anymore. According to a survey conducted of 120 university students, the most of students (81%) answered “It feels comfortable” about the question “How do you think about single life style?”1 The number of students who seek solitary lifestyle is increasing, and so are the places for them. The Sookmyung Times Reporter, Lee Myunghyun, went to those sites for single life-style people in order to experience their lives.
Eating Alone, Convenient of Lonely?
When I entered a restaurant for singles in Shinchon, an order machine welcomed me without any waiters. It made me feel awkward because I was always used to waiters to greet me kindly. I had not experienced this order machine, so I made mistakes sometimes. After ordering, the machine gave me a paper, and it was a meal coupon. In the restaurant, there are four rooms, two rooms are for singles and the others are for two people, so I went to the D room, which is for singles, and sat. What made me surprised is almost all the seats were filled with people who came alone. My seat was surrounded with two walls, so I couldn’t see the people in the tables next to me. After sitting, there was a paper to tell how to order in detail and get food. Following that paper, I wrote my detailed orders and pushed a button. Then, a waitress came and brought it. In the entire process, there was no conversation. It made me feel a little lonely. When even the same waitress gave me food, she did not say anything like, “Enjoy your meal.” Except for the seats of two people, I couldn’t see any people who talked during their meals.
Enjoy Your Great Lonely Time
Next, I went to Hongdae to sing alone in a norae-bang, which is similar to a Karaoke, for only one person. When I entered, there were 4-5 people waiting in line in front of me. I asked a part-timer how long I should wait, and he answered me about one hour. I was surprised that so many people wanted to sing alone. And because the time I went was about twelve o’clock, I was also surprised that in this early time, people came alone. It was a hard decision, but I decided to wait. During the wait, I asked the other part-timer how many people come who want to sing alone. She answered, “Like you have to wait for entering the room today, our rooms are always filled so some people have to wait. Many people come alone and enjoy our norae bang.” After spending time alone in Hongdae, I could enter my room number 15 finally. That room was about three pyeong*, but there was everything we can see in a normal norae-bang. The different thing is that in this room, there is only one microphone and one headphone to hear the singer’s voice effectively. I felt this place is not only for people who are alone, but also for practicing singing skills. At first, I was a little embarrassed, although I was alone in that room, because I have never tried norae-bang alone before. However, I could sing, and after a short while I danced alone. I felt really great that nobody would interrupt how I sang and danced.
Alone, Really Reasonable?
At a cafe in Myeong dong, there are some seats for individual patrons. It is not like a separated place for people alone like norae-bang in Hongdae, but when I sat in that seat, I couldn’t see any people around me. Because the structure of those seats is like stairs, it is like when we sit on stairs and can’t see backward. Therefore, when I sat in that seat, I only saw the window. However, there was something uncomfortable, because just like I could see other people outside through the window, they could also see me. It was a place just for me, but ironically, it wasn’t in reality. That was also embarrassing. Also, the table was too small. The reasons we go to a cafe alone are to study or take some rest with coffee. However, because of the table, the reason I went to the cafe was unreasonable. I tried to read a book, but small table impeded me. During my time in that seat, I thought these seats for single occupants are not exactly reasonable because many people come alone to the cafe, and nobody sees them strangely. I thought going to a normal cafe is more effective than one for singles.
Lonely Makes Another Lonely
After all the experiences, I thought the places for single people are good at something. In the case of the restaurant, if we go to eat meat like pork belly (sam-gyub-sal), some restaurants refuse to allow one person to come in because of their profit. However, during my survey, there were some restaurants which sell meat or Shabu-Shabu for one person. Also, in the case of norae-bang, we can sing and dance as we like without minding others. In the cafe’s case, I felt it is not so reasonable, but it is good when we sit alone in a crowded cafe because we are uncomfortable in that situation. However, I felt lonely above all things. When I ate alone, I needed someone to talk about how the food is and how the atmosphere of the restaurant is. Also, I needed someone to sing and dance with me. I felt spending my time alone in a norae-bang is not that great like singing together with my friends. At the cafe for singles, sometimes studying alone is good, but I thought communication with friends is the most study for me, so I was really sad during the time of solitude. In university, as an employment preparation and for earning credit, individualism between students is increasing. Maybe, does appearance of these places show our society that we are forgetting to communicate with each other because of those things? Do we think looking out for ourselves is the most important thing? I think it is not. The real happiness is not in living alone. Now, let’s say hello to the person seated next to us, and let’s try to communicate with her!
1 Ryu Jiyeon, Lee Jeongmin, "University Single Life Style, It is Comfortable," The Herald Business, April 4, 2010
* Pyeung is land measure of six chuck (≒1.8mm) square.