Dating Culture In Korea

handsYesterday, I asked my students what the weather was like outside. They’re used to this warm up after 10 months of being my students. When I came in as their teacher, the weather was already starting to chill.  Usually when I ask this question, they perk right up and shout out that the weather is windy, snowy, rainy, or cold. Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day, so I expected them to be especially excited to shout out a new answer than the usual gloomy weather ones they’d been giving me all winter. To my surprise, I heard the girls sigh and the boys muttered it was sunny and bright. I laughed, confused by the contrast from the sunny weather outside to the gloomy weather in my classroom.

“Why the long faces?” I asked. (Secretly happy to practice an idiom I had taught them earlier that month.) “Spring is happy weather, and that means all the couples will be out. We hate couples because we don’t have boyfriends!” the girls cried. Ah, yes. How could I have forgotten that my poor middle school students are teeming with hormones and are in the prime age of “that awkward phase” we all wish we could forget but cruel mothers and photographs filled with braces and pimples won’t allow us to?

I laughed.

I couldn’t help it. I know I should have been more sympathetic, but it was just too cute. I decided to scratch the lesson I had planned for the day and just talk to them and let them vent about their teenage problems. I asked them all sorts of questions in English about dating in Korea and couples, and we spent all of our 45 minute class time chatting about Korean dating culture. They were so animated and open about sharing with me all of their views that I decided to make a list of everything we talked about and share it here with you! Here are the 3 things about Korean dating culture that my Korean middle schools students shared with me!

1. Blind Dates are totally normal

Do you know how you can tell when people met on an internet dating site or blind date in America? They claim to have met at the grocery store. C’mon. This isn’t the 90’s. No one meets in the ice cream aisle as they mull over the decision to splurge on mint chocolate chip or cookies and cream ice cream anymore. I, for one, would never judge couples who met in cyberspace. I’ve had my share of Match. com dates as well, and I (sadly) also claimed to have met my beaus at the juicing counter of Whole Foods when I introduced my dates to friends. I’m not sure why the stigma of online and blind dates is still so strong in the Western world, but one thing’s for sure. There’s no stigma attached to online or blind dating in South Korea. The couple culture in Korea is so strong that the question “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” is asked by strangers as casually as if they were asking about the weather. Being in a relationship is considered the norm here, and there are no right or wrong ways to meet a special someone in Korea. Blind dates and online dating are completely normal in the land of morning calm.

2. “Going dutch” is practically a curse word here

Social hierarchy is important in Korean culture. When going out with friends, the oldest member of the group usually pays for the meals and drinks. This Korean food tradition of “the oldest pays” trickles into dating. When going on dates, the man feels he should pay for everything. A typical date in Korea will usually include dinner, drinks, coffee, and maybe a dessert. Korean men usually pay for each component of the date and will refuse to allow the girl to pay, especially on the first date.

3. Going on a first date alone isn’t the norm

Koreans tend to be shy with members of the opposite sex, so to ease the tension group dates are pretty common. A blind date in Korea looks like a double date from the outside because there are two couples hanging out, but really only one couple is on a date and the other “couple” are friends attending the date for moral support.

If you’ve lived in Korea, what other dating tips can you lend to expats going on dates with Koreans? For another fun As Told By Korean Teenagers article, you can read How To Take The Perfect Selfie (As Told By Korean Teenagers) on ChasingGlitter.com 

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