A Comparison between Singapore and Seoul's Nightlife
Have you grown tired of visiting Clarke Quay and seeing the same purple bridge every weekend? The clubs in Seoul are definitely something to look forward to if you are considering traveling to Korea anytime soon! With Seoul being a bigger city that would undoubtedly have a larger nightlife scene, I will focus mainly on Hongdae. As a neighbourhood located near Hongik University Station, Hongdae is the prime destination for youths to frequent due to its wide variety of clothing stores, bars, clubs and cafes. The streets that are often filled with talented buskers especially come to life when the sun sets as students let their hair down for a wild night ahead. Despite both Singapore and Seoul being bustling cities with similarities in their economies and development, the party scenes definitely differ with one emerging on top of the other.
Estimated costs of expenditure
While I show deep appreciation for the “work hard, play hard(er)” culture, the cover charge for clubs is certainly a strong deterrent, not to mention the cost of pre-gaming for the night ahead. The entrance fees for clubs in Singapore would range between approximately $30-$40; with Drip charging $32.50 for online ticket purchase, and Zouk and Marquee $40 onwards. If you could make do with the free drinks offered alongside the tickets, pre-gaming expenditure would not be a concern. Otherwise, you could expect to spend around $15 for a bottle of soju to reach a light buzz before entering the clubs.
$32.50 online with 2 free drinks
$32.50 online with 2 free drinks
$40 with 2 free drinks
$50 with 2 free drinks
On the other hand, the common clubs in Hongdae would be Sinkhole, NB2, B1, Sabotage and Club Doze. Most of these clubs operate every day and are free of charge on weekdays. On weekends, the entrance fees on weekends would range from 10,000KRW to 30,000KRW (~10SGD-30SGD). A soju bottle costs just about 2000KRW (~2SGD). The alcoholic beverages in the clubs also tend to be less diluted and are priced between 5000 KRW to 15000 KRW (~5SGD-15SGD), which is for sure a bang for your buck! This makes clubbing in Seoul a lot more affordable and appealing (as well as dangerously addictive). Of course, these prices would differ if one were to club at Gangnam, the luxurious district that could be described as the Beverly Hills of Seoul, but why choose to be boujee and broke when you can have just as much fun, if not more, for way cheaper?
Type of Music
One strong factor that determines which club to visit would be music. An essential part that makes for a good night-out is dancing to and sweating off your stress to music that is blasted over a room full of LED lights. Most Singapore clubs host their respective resident DJs and producers who either play EDM, techno or hip-hop. For instance, Drip has two levels that play different types of music; top 40 EDM songs on the top floor and hip-hop in the Salt Room where the iconic Albert Einstein statue is located. Personally, my friends and I would check the DJs performing and the genre that they play before deciding where to spend the night in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the clubs in Hongdae are more straightforward as they would either play English hip-hop or Korean hip-hop. If you are familiar with the names ZICO, Jay Park, Sik-K, Simon Dominic, Ash Island or pH-1, the clubs in Hongdae would be a paradise to groove at! The unofficial national anthem of Seoul’s nightlife would be the song Okey Dokey due to the cultural impact that it holds over the Gen Z and millennials who cheer once the intro is played. With the price (or lack thereof) that is charged for the clubs in Hongdae compared to Singapore, it is to note that Hongdae clubs are smaller in size, not as aesthetically-decorated, and the sound system is not as loud that your eardrums reverberate as some of us might prefer. Hence, it would be difficult to determine who wins this round since it is dependent on the type of genre you prefer, but in terms of the quality of sound, Singapore would emerge top.
Ease of Access
Of course, to be able to get our shades and mini skirts (I apologise for the lack of representation for men) on, we have to first ensure that we can actually strut through the entrance to experience the slight adrenaline rush as the low echo of the music bounces off the club walls. This would include the opening days and hours of the club or if there are any barriers to entry present. While most clubs like Marquee or Drip operate only on Fridays and Saturdays, there are some that open on certain weekdays as well. An example would be Yang that offers free entrance to the ladies on Wednesday nights (while men are still required to pay a fee of $30 — thank you for the UNO reverse misogyny), or Zouk which opens its doors on Thursdays as well. The party often lasts from 10pm till 4am for Zouk, Drip and Yang, but it is extended till 6am for Marquee. Meanwhile in Korea, the aforementioned clubs are open all weekdays and weekends from 10pm till 6am. One could easily lose track of the night and walk out to witness the sun rise and hear the sweet chirping of birds!
Given the conservative culture in Korea, being concerned about the discrimination one might face abroad is understandable. While certain clubs limit entry to foreigners, most clubs in Hongdae are foreigner-friendly and an IC (don’t forget your cash too) would be sufficient to be let in. While clubs in Singapore prohibit smoking or vaping and perform bag checks to prevent the sneaking in of alcohol, clubs in Hongdae are more lenient on these aspects. One would definitely have to get used to the sweet scent of grape-flavoured smoke in the air and the sight of strangers smoking in line for the clubs if they were to frequent Hongdae. Another aspect to mention is that while club-hopping is less common in Singapore due to the high costs required, it is prevalent in Hongdae which makes the experience a lot more adventurous and flavourful. Hence, putting aside the potential discrimination that one could encounter at a few clubs, Hongdae wins the round due to its ease of access and convenience, and its lack of strict rules.
Source: 정아미 on Naver
To sum it all up, clubbing in Hongdae is an experience that party animals should definitely try out. Despite only visiting Korea for two weeks in June, the white LED sign in the dimly lit red-coloured room that spells out “Sinkhole” is still fresh in my mind. One thing to note for my ladies would be that yes, the rumours are true, there is a greater chance of being approached by touchy men in Korean clubs or having your drinks spiked, so please practice caution and remain with your friends at all times! Other than that, who could possibly reject the free entrance fees and cheap alcohol that the clubs in Hongdae offer?
Honorary mentions: friends I have met in queues!
Not only did I have fun in the club, I had just as much fun initiating not-so-sober conversations with strangers who were kind enough to entertain my friend and I. Being able to meet new people who speak the same language as I did in a foreign country or tried their best to hold conversations with me despite the prominent language barrier and crafting sweet memories in a hazy state that I can look back on whenever despite not being certain of ever meeting them again, is a blessing that I am so glad I got to experience!