Monday, July 2, 2012

Dating in Korea: Korean Dating Style

This post will focus mainly on what Koreans do when dating other Koreans. I have asked a lot of my friends and coworkers about this but, as a non-Korean, I am not an authority. I hope to soon possibly have a guest post written by one of my Korean friends or, potentially, have a round-table interview with some of my Korean lady friends on what dating Korea men is like. Below is a list of things I have found to be pretty common in Korean dating.

1) Blind Dates
This seems to be really common. Friends will try to set friends up with other friends/colleagues/classmates. A lot of my Korean lady friends have told me about the plethora of blind dates they have been on. In America, blind dates are normally a sign that a woman/man is getting desperate, that is not the case here. As Koreans approach prime-marrying years (late 20s-mid 30s) they have too much other stuff on their plates to really worry about going out and meeting new life partners. Most people these ages have careers that are consuming their lives, for the most part, and are happy to allow their friends to help out. I've had colleagues at my school offer to set me up with their sons, nephews, and brothers. At first I was a little insulted, but now it's just fun and flattering.

2) Money Matters
From my general understanding it is typical for the man to pay for almost everything on dates. Suggesting that you go "dutch" (splitting the check) is a sure-fire way to insult any Korean you are with if you are out on a date or as just friends. Koreans don't split the check here and if they do everything is handled at the table, not split up by the server. The first time I suggested to SeungHyun that I pay for our lunch he gave me a look as though I had just spat in his coffee. This was LUNCH, and it was maybe our 6th date. Even now, two months in, I have to race him to the counter if I want to pay for anything.
I know I've used this gif before, but it works so well!

Many times Korean men will take their girlfriends out shopping and pay for everything. I hadn't heard about this until after I had started dating my first Korean, JongHo. One day I had the day off from school and decided to spend the day in MyeongDong (north Seoul's awesome shopping district). JongHo had the day off as well so I decided to call him up and invite him to hang out. When I proposed this he started sounding very nervous and said he didn't have enough money. He thought I was inviting him to take me shopping! I didn't realize this until a week later, when a friend set me straight. How embarrassing!

Lastly, Koreans do not like to talk about their personal finances. Even when you get married you will not have a joint checking account with your husband. You can get a family account where you will have two cards that access the same account, but only one you can be the signature on the account and that person has to be present for all major monetary transactions. My married friends are always talking about who paid for what. When the couple gets married it is expected that the husband will buy the house/apartment and the woman will furnish it, so don't plan on getting married to your Korean significant other unless you have some MAJOR cash saved up.
We're talkin' "make it rain" levels of cash here

3) The Cute, OH MY GOD THE CUTE!
I am convinced that there are few demographics that can out-cute Koreans. They mean BUSINESS. Korean couples are just freaking ADORABLE. You'll see them everywhere and there is really no way you can doubt whether two people are a couple or just friends. They will be holding hands, the man will be carrying his lady's purse, and then there's the couplewear... dear God is there the couple wear...
Those who do it hardcore will be matching in EVERY way. Same shoes, same shirt, same jeans, same coat, same bag, and... help me... same underwear
This blog has now been flagged as inappropriate for anyone to see... ever
Sometimes it gets even cuter... I vomited in my mouth a little while looking for the appropriate picture for this...
For the love of... each other... UGH
I asked my students why Korean couples do couplewear and the general consensus was "because he's MINE and EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW THAT!" This might give the impression that Korean girls are possessive, but I haven't done any more research to back that claim up.

And the cuteness doesn't stop at couplewear. Professing your love and/or possession of your significant other has many different methods. Most of the time, couples will wear "couple rings." It's a like a wedding ring, it's worn on the same hand and same finger, but it's just for girlfriend/boyfriend. Most Koreans don't wear wedding rings (though I have seen a few here and there). This is strange for a foreigner coming here for the first time because it gives the illusion that this is a land of sad middle-aged bachelor frogs and crazy cat ladies but that all the young people are happily married.

There's also various locations scattered throughout Korea and especially Seoul where people can put a message up that shows that they are committed to each other forever (or at least until they go to the same place and do the same thing with their next girlfriend/boyfriend).
Chances are that if the place is even remotely romantic, you will see locks covering every square inch of it, especially at Namsan Tower
Don't throw away your key, the relationship might not last as long as steel,
But sometimes the opportunity is just too good to pass up

4) Gender Roles
This has proven to be very true in Koreans dating Koreans and Koreans dating expats. the woman is expected to be cute, coy, and innocent. 애교 was invented for Korean girls to lure in Korean men (aegyo, damn, that's two references to 애교 two posts in a row... guess I know what my next post will be on). Even though she is expected to be the real-life equivalent of a cartoon character she is also expected to have a spontaneous and seductive side to her as well, but that should only be done when the couple is far away from prying eyes. The girl needs to look FLAWLESS, but can relax it a bit off the 110% she was putting into it when attempting to find a man. it is really expected that the woman will be your stereotypical princess who needs her man to do everything for her.
Almost too cute to function

Adversely, men are expected to be men, with a little hint of Flower Boy for good measure (well hell, I guess I need to do a post on Flower Boys as well). The man is expected to pay for everything, carry everything, and plan everything. He is in the lead an what he says goes until his girlfriend 애교s her way into getting exactly what she wants. Korean guys will often go out drinking and partying with their friends without inviting their girlfriends and many times wont even introduce their girlfriends to their friends until the relationship has been going on a long time. Guys also need to take great pride in their appearance at all times and need to always offer to carry their girlfriend's purse (SeungHyun only does this when he has a backpack he can put my purse into, thank God). The Flower Boy aspect comes in when he's expected to text his girlfriend NON-STOP and discussing his feelings much more openly than many Western males would ever be willing to do.
A little of this
With a little of this mixed in

Things you don't find in Korea often: masculine women, "bad boy" looking guys (though this is beginning to gain in popularity

In conclusion, if you are thinking about attempting to date a Korean while living here these are just some of the things that you'll need to understand they might expect from you. The Korean you start dating will most likely have never dated a westerner before and might be offended if you don't at least do SOME of these things or if you make fun of them. Make sure that, in the beginning, you let the Korean take the lead and play the part of the ignorant westerner, unless the full on western-style dating experience is really what they want.

As always, if you have questions, comments, or critiques, please feel free to holler at me!


  1. My God! I can attest to "Koreans don't like the badboy"... That was my first 4 months in Korea :S

  2. So THAT'S why he carries his backpack??? I'm living in the U.S and have a Korean friend who's here to improve his English. And everytime we hangout he brings his backpack!! And I was sort of confused. I'm like is that his alternative for a man-purse? (not saying that he has aman-purse lol)

    And then we were at the movies Christmas Eve and bought both of our tickets. I was so shocked! And he said that he did that because in Korea Christmas Eve is a big movie night for couples.

    But I never complained. I actually wish that more Western guys would be that way. lol But then I again, being a Western girl, I do charish my independence lol

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Hahaha, yeah, Mr. Yang will often choose to wear a backpack even if the only thing he wants to bring is a water bottle (I would just opt to not carry a water bottle!). There is a slight benefit to this, however, because it means he will always carry your purse. He'll put it in his backpack or even just carry it, even if it's super feminine!

      Some Korean guys know how to deal with the western lady's longing for independence, and some don't, but that's a whole different post!