With the fermented Kimchi cabbage all the rage, the frenzy around K-pop groups and the many beauty tips, each more astonishing than the other, it seems that the Koreans know how to do it all and they do it perfectly. But do you know what is their secret to living happily? If you’ve ever heard the word “honjok” you probably have an idea about it… If not, read on and discover the answer which turns out to be more surprising than you might think!
What if we learned to love solitude?
It seems that the title of Crystal Tai and Francie Healey’s book “Honjok – Korean’s Secret to Loneliness Happy Living” says enough. But the term is in fact composed of several semantic layers which we will examine one by one in the following paragraphs. Consult them and judge for yourself if the solitary life is for you or if you will continue your quest for happiness in an alternative way.
Honjok or the art of happy living in self-sufficiency
Honjok (Korean: 혼족) is a South Korean term made up of the morphemes corresponding to “alone” and “tribe”. One could literally translate it as “tribe of one” or, by association, as “to consider oneself the whole tribe”. To be more precise, the lexeme designates people who voluntarily practice solitary hobbies and, more generally, their solo lifestyle.
These volunteer introverts take a lot of time for themselves and don’t feel embarrassed to admit it. For example, Honjok people choose to go out into town without company to have a meal, drink a few cocktails or go shopping and this fact makes them very happy. In addition, they find it quite normal to spend their leave at home or go on vacation alone.
The Honjok way of life is seen as a 180 degree turn from traditional Korean behavior based on social values in community. But for the practitioners there is nothing scandalous, nor ascetic in this targeted “solitaryism”. For Honjok Koreans, living happily means being self-sufficient and focusing on personal growth. It is not only to accept its loneliness, but to embrace it, even to aspire to it!
The term honjok was first introduced in 2010, but its use has gradually increased since 2017. The reason was that during this period there has been a significant and continuous increase in the number of Korean single-person households. . In fact, this number has been steadily increasing since the 90s of the previous century to reach its all-time high of 30% in 2020!
The different types of honjok behavior
Another curious fact is that honjok encompasses several types of behavior, of which you are probably familiar with one or two. For your information, the honjok lifestyle can be divided into 3 categories: hon-bap, hon-sul and hon-nol. The first, hon-bap, represents the practice of eating alone in a public establishment without being embarrassed by the looks of others and sometimes without even being aware of it. We feel comfortable eating alone, we enjoy the food and that is all that is needed to live happily in the given moment!
Next, hon-nol refers to people who don’t feel lonely in the traditional negative sense attributed to loneliness. These people enjoy individual leisure and want to have their own time and space for their favorite entertainment activities. They just don’t enjoy the company of others when they want to have fun. In South Korea, we have karaoke rooms specially designed for one person where you can sing along or watch movies alone!
Ultimately, hon-sul means the act of drinking alone in a bar without paying attention to other people present. But it can be practiced in the same way at home and it is in fact the hon-sul place preferred by 85% of Korean honjok. Statistics show that almost half of those in demand are only used to drinking solo at home once or twice a month, which is somewhat reassuring. However, a third admit to doing it once or twice a week while the rest of the consumers engage in isolated tasting even more regularly. It’s up to you to decide whether it is a contemporary individualistic lifestyle or frank alcoholism …
To live happily alone is to enjoy your independence!
But let the Hon-sul Koreans find their own solution to their problems, as well as their own hangover remedies. Let us examine what are the different ways of passing the honjok idea through the European prism in order to learn how to fully enjoy its independence. In other words, how to live happily, not despite loneliness, but thanks to it? So, let’s take a look at the purely physical benefits of living, having fun and traveling alone which in turn have positive psychological effects that should not be underestimated.
How to experience loneliness or the benefits of living alone
First and foremost, living alone means you can enjoy all of your space at any given time. And according to psychologists, the presence of a personal refuge (whether physical or mental) is one of the factors determining our good psychic health which is essential to live happily. Let’s face it, preserving privacy is almost impossible when you have to share your home with other people!
Then, being the sole occupant of the living space means living according to your own rules! So you furnish and decorate the rooms as you want and you don’t have to ask anyone if an industrial style bathroom or a yellow and gray living room looks good on them. You can tidy up your bedroom or wash your plates whenever you want, right? Most importantly, you take care of your own mess and you don’t have to tidy up other people’s mess!
Another important benefit of independent living is the ability to work more effectively from home. Apparently, for many people (especially in Asia), working hard and living happily are two sides of the same coin! For obvious reasons, even a small desk in a closet set up in a nook of your single micro-apartment is better than a large home office in a crowded house.
Finally, living in physical and psychological self-sufficiency will allow you to have your own capital for the benefit of your current financial situation. Where to spend excessively and when to reduce your cost of living will be your thoughtful choice, not a compromise that you have to constantly redo. By the way, one of the most important features of such individual financial management is considerably high purchasing power. So it’s good for the economy too!
Why living happily and traveling alone go hand in hand?
Travel has always been one of the main recurring themes of “professional” and amateur seekers of happiness. Of course, it is above all a metaphorical expedition aimed at discovering one’s inner being. But going on a self-discovery also has a purely somatic side, which should not be belittled either … As the saying goes: “It is the journey that makes or breaks you. “!
When planning your next vacation, choosing the most suitable season and the dream itinerary (according to your own specific ideas) can be quite stimulating in itself. Add to that the fact that you save money by traveling alone and you have a recipe for success! But apart from these obvious and more or less prosaic advantages we receive as a bonus some unsuspected spiritual benefits.
According to several psychological studies, one of the secrets to living happily is forging your own good luck. That is, stop relying on or blaming others for our mistakes. In the process of the journey, the so-called lonely tourist learns to rely solely on oneself in various situations. Little by little, he stops relying on other people in his life, he learns to seize opportunities, to listen to his instincts and to act resolutely!
Getting out of your comfort zone is the key to living happily
In most cases, traveling alone goes hand in hand with silence and serenity. It is in particular this calm that gives the opportunity to think deeply about the experience as a whole and to analyze better not only the world around us but also our own contextual behavior towards others. At the end of the day, you need to be able to hear your inner voice first in order to trust it afterwards!
The last “desirable effect” of independent exploration that we will mention in this fact sheet is that it increases self-confidence in unparalleled ways. With each individual trip you get richer, but at the same time you challenge yourself, overcome any obstacles and come back stronger than ever. Yes, according to specialists, regularly getting out of your comfort zone is one of the keys to living happily on this Earth, whether as a couple or while enjoying your own exclusive company!
“But the real travelers are the only ones who go to go. “