Etiquette

Korean Cafe Study Culture

South Korea has its own cafe study culture. There are unspoken rules that everyone seems to follow when it comes to studying in cafes. Consider this your guide to study etiquette in Korean cafes!

Korea is Different

One thing you will notice as soon as you arrive in Korea is how crowded the country is with coffee shops. I was taken aback by the number of shops you can find in only one block and I was also surprised by their working hours. In many places around the world, coffee shops are establishments where you go to get a coffee or quick breakfast before work so they open very early. For that reason, many of them close earlier too. 

But here in Korea, that is not the case. Although you will find some shops here and there opening at 8 AM, most open at 10 AM. And close at 10 PM or 12 AM – some even stay open all night long too! 

And well, my friends, as for everything else, there is a really interesting reason for that. 

Social Gatherings

The first reason that might make the Korean cafe experience different is that Koreans go to cafes to socialize. It is a contrast to the “order fast, eat fast, and leave fast” culture that you’ll experience in pretty much every eatery you go to in Korea.

People actually take their time in coffee shops. There isn’t a culture of going to each other’s homes, so cafes have become THE gathering spot. Koreans go to cafes with their friends, family members, and work colleagues and talk, talk, talk, talk… It is not even about the coffee you have itself, but the opportunity of spending time with the ones who are dear to you in a cozy place. 

The Real Reason it Gets so Busy

But if we are, to be frank, the reason why you will always see a lot of people in cafes in Korea isn’t because of socializing, it is something else.

As important as it is for them to study hard, so they can work harder, most people find it uncomfortable to focus at home. So, cafes became not only about socialization but also studying. And that is how the 카공 phenomenon was born.

What is 카공 Cafe Study Culture?

The term 카공 is a mixture of 카페 (cafe) and 공부 (study). And that is pretty self-explanatory. Although it is also very common to see people working at these establishments, most people at cafes in Korea are students studying extra, outside of academics.

Of course, depending on the time you go to cafes, the customers will be there for different reasons. Usually, customers on weekdays are there to study.

Some Things to Know

There are some unspoken rules when it comes to 카공ing. Obviously, you have to order something if you want to stay there. However, if you stay there long enough, more than three or four hours, it is common to order something else. No one is going to make you do it, but it is just 카공 etiquette. So, if you are planning on going for a long study session, I advise you to order things bit by bit. It makes sense because you are going to get hungry again anyways…

Something else that I find really interesting is how other people accommodate people who are studying. Normally, people skip one seat to give space for others’ books and laptops. I personally find it one of the coolest unspoken social rules in the entire country! I would feel like a burden if I brought so many things to a Brazilian cafe, but this makes me very comfortable and I am sure everyone else feels the same.

There are other things you just naturally follow according to the environment of the establishment you go to. Some cafes are more focused on individual studying and provide separate tables for one person, some are focused on group studying with meeting rooms. Some lean towards social meetings, providing even smoking rooms. In these cases, people feel more comfortable speaking, nice if you like some white noise. 

Outro

It took me some time to actually go to cafes in order to study, I used to think there was no need to spend money on something I can do at home. But as soon as I started, I couldn’t stop and that became, for me, one of the strongest indicators I have been taken by Korean culture. 

This is a really nice and effective way of forcing yourself to concentrate and be productive so you can study the best way!

Want to visit a cafe specifically designed for studying, and experience Korea’s cafe study culture for yourself? Click Here to read about one of the most popular study cafe chains in South Korea, Lang Study Cafe!