Korean Couple Culture

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We all know that relationships can be difficult, but if you’re Korean there are a set of values you should follow if you’re in a relationship. So you’re in a relationship with a Korean or looking to eventually date a Korean, here is a rundown on Korean couple culture.

Finding Someone

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If you’re single, you might struggle to find a partner at first in Korea. Most Korean people will rely on friends and family in helping them find a partner as opposed to approach strangers. Koreans can be quite shy and it’s not normal to start talking to strangers on the street. Four common ways of meeting people involve So-Gae-Ting (소개팅), Mee-Ting (미팅), Bun-Gae-Ting (번개팅) and Mat-Seon (맞선) or 선 (Seon). You can find out more about Types of Korean Dating here.

While picking up someone at a bar might be a normal way of meeting people of the opposite sex in your own country it’s generally disregarded in Korea. It’s very easy to meet males or females when you are out drinking, but most Korean people will tell you that relationships that are developed from meeting someone in a bar never work. It’s up for debate if these relationships can develop into something long-lasting, but Koreans firmly believe they are guaranteed failures. If you met your current partner at a bar, its probable that when someone questions them how you met, they will try to think of a different scenario instead of saying “at a bar!”

Dates

A Korean first date is quite similar to a western styled date in which the couple will go to a restaurant. The male will usually always pay for the meal, even though most girls will offer. After the meal, generally most couples will move to a coffee shop where they will talk further. In this scenario the girl will tend to pay for the coffee, but it’s not expected! If both of the participants like each other then there is a chance that they will move to an alcoholic establishment and have fun!

While it’s not set in stone who pays for a date, these are just the general rules for first dates. Nowadays more girls want to pay their part, but generally splitting a bill when in a relationship is frowned upon. “Dutch pay” (splitting a bill in Korean) is a more common practice between friends!

If you’ve had a few dates with someone in Korea it can become quite bland to follow the normal first date steps. Check out a post we made about The Best Dating Spots in Seoul for some more creativity and fun!

Unofficial Holidays

There are a lot of different holidays in Korea in which couples can show off their love for each other. These include Valentines Day (well duh?), White Day, Silver Day and Kiss Day. Check out the full list of unofficial Korean holidays here.

How many days?

Koreans also celebrate how long they’ve been dating. While most people in the world generally count years as milestones, Koreans will count every 100 days as a milestone. Most couples will provide small gifts on each 100 days, such as flowers, chocolates or something small or cute! A lot of the time people will ask how long you’ve been in a relationship for, and if you can’t remember, they’ll think you’re not serious about your partner! There are even phone applications that have been made predominantly for this phenomenon such as Between, in which you can only sign up if both partners sign up at the same time!

Public Display of Affection

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It is often argued that Korea is a shy nation in which couples will not flaunt their love for one another in public. In my personal experience I find this to be a lie, younger couples aren’t so scared to share closed mouth kisses in public and you’ll often hear stories about guys who grope their girlfriends at every chance. I remember seeing a guy touching all over his girlfriends booty in the middle of a museum and basically escorted her around the attractions with his hand there constantly squeezing. It seems like much the western world, it depends on the person. Younger couples seem more open to PDA, while you’ll rarely see older couples exchange kisses in public. A lot of Koreans will tell you they are shy and because of this I wouldn’t push too much with PDA. Respect each individuals needs and you’ll be fine! Things like holding hands or locking arms seem to be fine though!

Age Gaps

“Age is only a number”  is often spouted by those who’ve never really dated anyone who is significantly older or younger than them. In Korea its pretty abnormal for an older women to date a much younger male, however recent trends have emerged of famous women who are dating much younger men. Its pretty common for older men to date younger women. A good example is a lot of men who are in their late 30’s will often date women who are in their early 20’s. The main explanation for this is that these men are financial stable, which is an attractive trait in the eyes of Korean women. Also there are lots of Korean dramas that involve wealthy older men who save younger poor women, which could add to the fantasy. Here is a list of famous Koreans who are in relationships that have a huge age gap!

Couple Items

couple-clothes

Korean couples like to show everyone around them who they are dating and there is no easier way to show this than the way you dress. Couples will wear the same t-shirt, same trousers, same shoes and even in some cases have the same hair style. By wearing the same outfits they believe that it shows that they are truly each others. Couple rings are also very common and don’t carry the same stigma that they carry in western countries. While in America or England if you give your girlfriend or boyfriend a ring it symbolizes marriage, Koreans wear couple rings just to show their commitment to each other.

Holding Handbags

Often you’ll see guys holding handbags and think that its extremely strange! However its quite normal in Korea and most of Asia to see a man carry a woman’s bag as its weighed down by the extreme amount of makeup and beauty products inside. It’s especially common to see this as men wait outside the toilet for their partner!

Staying Together

In other countries its normal for your partner to stay over at your house or for you to stay over theirs as you’re both consensual adults, however in Korea most people live with their parents until they are married. This means that your girlfriend or boyfriend might be 30, but they still live with their parents and should respect them. Their parents will want them to only sleep at their own house and not somewhere else. Which means no snuggles or cuddles during the night-time or generally ever spending the night together. Thus love motels were invented for those who aren’t married to have fun before returning to their parents house or those who are married and are cheating.

It’s also common for people to have curfews even if they are in their late 20’s. This means they will have to be home by a certain time, otherwise their father will come looking for them. This applies to both males and females but is obviously more common with females. Parents are protective over their children and only want the best for them. At the same time it feels like their parents are invading their personal life and stopping them from having a relationship.

Meeting Parents and Friends

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Unfortunately its common for Koreans to lie to their parents about having a relationship and for good reason. Parents can easily deny and put a stop to a relationship by not allowing their child to leave the house and making it impossible for you to see them. Thus Koreans tend to lie about relationships to their parents while its in its early stages. Only after a certain amount of time will you ever be mentioned to their parents and that means they are truly serious about you.

Similarly your partners friends will probably not hear about you for a little while. However you’re more likely to meet your partners friends before you meet their parents. It’s common for a girlfriend or boyfriends friends to question you a lot and seem kind of rude on the first meeting. After the first meeting you’ll become “apart of the group” and be more welcomed into social situations.

Eventually when you get to the stage of meeting your partners parents, it means that you’re both thinking of marrying each other. You’ll be quite lucky if their parents can speak English and even luckier if they accept you considering you’re a foreigner. However eventually most parents will come around to their child’s thinking as long as you’re polite and try your best to follow Korea’s cultural customs! Good luck!

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

What’s your experience of dating a Korean or dating in Korea? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jamie has spent the last 3 years in and out of Asia, including living in South Korea for 2 years. He plans to turn his travel knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit into something that can benefit the community. He enjoys turning his wacky ideas into realistic concepts, improving his photography skills and looking at which rocks will fit his fish tank best. At the age of 24, he is the co founder of Teaching Travel.

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