(This blog post was the inspiration for our book:
How to Navigate Korea’s Unique Dating Culture: The Must-Have Guide for Successful Relationships)
Dating can be difficult sometimes. Meeting the expectations of your significant other may not always be easy. But add on top of that cultural differences and you got a whole new pandora’s box. Read on to see what to expect if you want to date in Korea!
1. How to Meet Korean Singles
Meeting singles in any country can be a daunting task. That’s why in Korea, most of cupid’s work is done through friends. Instead of leaving things up to chance encounters (which can result in murderous strangers), Koreans prefer potential mates to have a reference to make sure both of you will be (to some degree) a match. Having that friend as a buffer will make sure he/she isn’t some crazy drunk that’ll come banging on your door at 3AM. Blind dates in Korea are extremely common and one of the most common ways to meet people in a relatively ‘safe’ way.
Note: Of course, this is not the only way Koreans meet potential baby mamas and daddys. People meet at schools, work, random encounters on the streets, etc. But sogaeting is one of the most preferred ways to meet other singles.
There’s even a few other “types” of blind dates, but those are specifically for different purposes:
미팅 (meeting) – A group blind date, mostly for young college students. A group of guy friends will meet a group of girl friends to hangout and have a good time.
선 (seon) – A blind date arranged by parents. This is a very serious date, where both parties have expectations of marriage right from the beginning (including/especially parents).
Here’s our video on “How to Meet Korean Singles”:
2. Public Displays of Affection (PDA)
Public displays of affection in Korea isn’t as open as it may be in other parts of the world. Although the younger generation’s mentality is undergoing a change, many Koreans are still not open to kissing in public. Simple pecks might be tolerable to some, but most Koreans will refuse to be seen in public participating in one of those movie-style open mouth kisses. Even something as simple as hugging significant others may be a bit more awkward than what you’re used to. You might be told to chill out if you’re being too affectionately touchy on a Seoul subway. Holding hands and linking arms, however, are quite common.
Want to read more about hugs in Korea? See your homie’s personal blog about Hugging in Korea.
3. Splitting the Bill
If you’re hanging out with Koreans, you might want to split the bill the Korean way. That’s when one person pays for the bill and another person will pay for the next round. Some contemporary Koreans prefer to split the bill evenly, and that’s cool if you’re friends and all. But if you’re dating in Korea, that’s kind of a big nono (probably related to that complicated concept of jeong). When going to a restaurant, cafe, movie theater, or ice cream shop, it’s common practice for 1 person to pay at each of those stops. Now, who pays for what is up to debate for all couples around Korea. Some old school Korean dudes pay for everything, but recently, many Korean women have been offering their share, too. So it really depends on the person.
4. Lots of Couple-y Stuff
Couple culture is huge in Korea, and if you’re here with your Korean shorty, you’ll have the chance to enjoy all the perks of being part of a couple in Korea. To the dismay of lonely single people in Korea, couple shirts are all the rage and are very visible anywhere you go. It’s a clear declaration to the world to say “You’re MINE” (optional addition: “MUHAHA”). You might get a couple ring for your 100 Day Anniversary (see below), to declare your love in ring form. Being a couple can be a highly public affair. With that said, that’s the highly visible side of dating in Korea. There are many people in Korea that aren’t fans of being over-the-top couple-y, and refuse to get couple shirts and rings. Yea, it’s a little too much for some Koreans too 😛
See this Korea Q&A about why Koreans wear couple shirts!
5. Celebrating Every 100 Days
People around the world celebrate yearly anniversaries; really lovey-dovey couples celebrate monthly anniversaries; and unhealthily obsessed teenagers celebrate even more often. But in Korea, it’s a little bit different. Of course the big yearly milestones are celebrated just the same. But instead of counting months, the Korean equivalents to the lovey-dovey couples that celebrate monthly will instead celebrate anniversaires in denominations of 100 days (i.e. 100, 200, 300, 500, 1000). It’s more common for younger and more affectionate couples to celebrate this way, so not everyone pays attention to this. But this is definitely a Korean way to celebrate being in love.
Note: Before you bust out your calendar to start counting each day, just use the 100 day calculator on Naver!
6. Carrying Bags
Generally speaking, most men are physically stronger than their girlfriends, and many women have big bags full of rather undefinable “stuff.” And in Korea, these general truths are practicalities. When hanging out with girlfriends, many Korean men will offer to hold their girlfriend’s big bag full of mysteries to save aching shoulders around the peninsula. There are no fears of looking strange when holding a bag with pink and frills; in Korea, it’s common practice for men to hold the girliest of bags. If you’re a guy, all those one-armed exercises you did when you were single might come in handy ;).
7. Less Sleepovers
Ain’t nothing like spooning the night away in the comfort of your own bed. But if you’re in Korea, you might have way less spooning sessions than you’re used to, as it’s more common for unmarried people to live with their parents. And even if your parents are totally liberal with the whole idea of their kids having… relations… in the room next door, the vast majority of Korean parents are NOT cool with it. Of course, many single people in Korea live alone, too, and that’s when it’s up to the individual. But when living with parents come as part the package, it changes things up a lot. Like…
You thought curfews were done when you went off to college. But in Korea, curfews are still relatively common for those still living with mommy and daddy. And although we would like to say this is equally true for men and women, unfortunately it’s more common for women to have daddy imposed curfews than it is for men. Age and employment status can’t override the “as long as you’re living in this house” argument, and that can sometimes result in women in the prime of their dating lives with curfews before midnight.
Curfew time up and need to go home by taxi? Read Keith’s Guide to Taxi Manners for Dudes.
9. Hanging Outside
Some of the best dates can take place at home. You know the type: candles, wine, and Marvin Gaye. But in Korea, since so many people live with curious and nosey parents, many Koreans prefer to hang outside away from their family members. So the majority of the time couples will spend with each other are outside of the home. That means heading out to some of Seoul’s unique and quirky theme cafes or maybe even discovering some good Korean food at hidden markets around Seoul. Doesn’t sound too bad does it? 😀
Looking for more stuff to do on a date? We got you covered home slice! Check out these 25 Places to Go on a Date in Seoul.
If you enjoy dating casually and just having a good time, parents probably won’t come into the equation. But if things ever get really serious with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you might be talking about marriage. And when it comes to Korean marriages, parents usually have the final say. If team mama and papa don’t like you, that most likely means the end of your Korean love affair as many Koreans find it very difficult to go against their parents, especially when it comes to marriage. It sucks, but what can be said to the woman who carried a nine pound ham in her stomach for the better part of a year. You win momma.
11. Meeting Friends & Family
Because people are scared of parents that might put their summer romance to rest, it’s not that common to introduce family members to a new boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s usually reserved for when you know a relationship is getting serious. But in Korea, you might not be introduced to friends either. Although many Koreans would totally introduce you to everyone he/she knows, some people in Korea do not want to see George Costanza’s “World’s Colliding” theory come true. It might be cool to hang out with your mutual friends from the photography class. But you might not ever meet your significant other’s college buddies. We don’t want these world’s exploding now, do we 🙂
To learn more about dating and marriage in Korea, check out our ebook:
How to Navigate Korea’s Unique Dating Culture: The Must-Have Guide for Successful Relationships
If you’ve survived the pitfalls of dating in Korea, you might want to get ready to get married:
Here’s 6 Things You Should Know If You Want to Marry a Korean!