Korean Dating Culture: All You Should Know About Dating In Korea
When I came to South Korea, I was very curious about how local girls and guys meet as I was already very impressed by Japanese dating. Despite the hard flight that made me question if I ever wanted to have kids, I came to the country with an open heart full of curiosity.
What can I say, Korean dating culture is not the same as relationships in the West. As usual, I can’t put my thoughts in just a few words. So, read on and find out about love life in the country, why couples exchange silver accessories and see how I went on blind dates organized by my Korean friends. Let’s say it was a very interesting experience…So, let’s go!
Traditional dating culture in South Korea
How is traditional Korean culture different from American dating? Let’s explore it together!
Arranged marriages and matchmakers
Arranged unions have always existed in South Korea, and the couple’s families would play a vital part in choosing their mates. But not only Korean parents choose potential partners for both their sons and daughters, they usually decide a lot for their child to ensure that a new potential partner is fit for the family.
Though modern Korean dating customs are modernized, with all the influence from the West, I’ve heard a lot of complaints from young Korean girls, especially from rural areas where parents don’t allow them to marry whom they want because of different ranks in society. And in traditional South Korean dating culture, family approval is a big deal. Couples aren’t considered official unless their families meet and give their blessing.
Confucian values and their impact on dating
During my romantic tour of East Asian countries, I noticed that Confucian principles have had a big influence on dating and relationships. And South Korea is no exception. So here’s how Confucian values impact Korean dating:
- Filial piety. A key concept of Confucianism is that children should show respect to the elders and be obedient. That manifests in people seeking their parent’s approval before committing to a Korean partner.
- Importance of social harmony and hierarchies. That results in avoiding confrontation or disagreement in Korean dating culture.
Many Korean couples are influenced by this concept, regardless if they are what we, Westerns, understand as religious.
Modern dating culture in South Korea
Dating in Korea is not only based on traditions, but there is a hard influence from Western cultures, which creates a unique mix of old and new. For example, the idea of “Jeong,” which signifies having a deep emotional connection with your spouse, is still dominant in South Korean dating culture. Couples usually demonstrate their love with extravagant gestures such as giving pricey presents or organizing elaborate dates.
As we know, couples from Western countries love to go big on planning a romantic holiday, wearing matching outfits, or going extra on Christmas gift-giving. But here are some more things I’ve noticed.
Influence of Western culture on Korean dating
Modern Koreans tend to take a lot from Western cultures, but it’s usually based on Hollywood romcoms. However, I can’t say that Korean relationships are all movie-like, they just take something popular in the West and adapt it to the realities in Korea. For example, in many Asian countries, public displays of affection is not usually a thing. But an adopted trend of “skinship” makes PDA acceptable, but not in a sexual way.
The emergence of modern dating practices
From what I learned, modern dating practices appeared in South Korea in the late 2000s, when the country’s economy and social sectors were growing rapidly. That’s why now modern dating culture has many similarities with open-minded Western cultures.
Korean couples celebrate anniversaries on the next level. And they don’t do just the usual 1,3,5 mark, but 100th, 200th, or even 1,000th day being together. But they do quite similar things to Westerns for celebration, like going to Korean restaurants or taking pictures.
Additionally, Korean couples have a thing about couples’ social media, as some people being in a romantic relationship for quite a while, create a separate couple page. In fact, the country has the 3rd highest rate of social media users in the world, so I’m not surprised. (But I’m probably just too old for that…)
Korean couples traditions
As I’ve already mentioned, Korean couples are big on celebrating their love in different ways, even when they are not yet in a very serious relationship. Though these celebrations are pretty self-explanatory, I think I’ll walk you through the main ones to help you not be caught out of the blue with a mini holiday you are not prepared for. Usually, they have a specific theme:
- Diary Day (14th of January)—Couples exchange diaries as presents after the New Year to plan dates and write down favorite memories together.
- Valentine’s Day (14th of March)—Traditional gift giving, but only women are the ones who do it. It’s an unspoken custom.
- White Day (14th of March)—Another Valentine’s Day when men return the favor and plan something special.
- Black Day (14th of April)—It’s a romantic holiday for Korean singles, also known as single diners. On this day, singles eat jjajangmyeon (black bean paste noodles) to let their love interests know that they are single.
- Rose Day/Yellow Day (14th of April)—A unique thing in Korean dating culture where Korean women and men dress up in matching outfits (usually yellow) and exchange bouquets of yellow roses. Such an over-the-top way to show everyone, even a stranger, that you are dating.
- Kiss Day (14th of June)—Kiss Day is probably the only day in South Korea when public displays of affection of any sort are fine.
- Silver Day (14th of July)—It’s time to exchange silver matching rings to symbolize the promise of commitment.
- Green Day (14th of August)—This day is for getting the most out of summer weather and having a picnic under the trees and drinking soju
- Photo Day (14th of September)—That’s one of the fav holidays of couples who cram into photo sticker booths or even hire pro photographers and studio
- Wine Day (14th of October)—A day to cheer for the relationship! Though Koreans are not usually wine drinkers, as French, so they miss out big time!
- Pepero Day (11th of November)—pepero day is a Korean dating custom where lovers exchange Korean Pepero snacks. Some even do it precisely at 11:11.
- Movie Day (14th of November)—Just another occasion to have a romantic movie night with your Korean girlfriend or boyfriend
- Hug Day/Sock Day (14th of December)—On this day, Korean couples squeeze each other tight and brands also promote this date as sock day as another way to celebrate family members and new friends.
I have no idea how they manage to remember all of these, but having all these holidays is pretty amazing. Overall, currently, Korean dating culture is a mix of traditional and modern waves, which results in Korean couples having a struggle managing some complicated social and cultural expectations. Can you imagine all the pressure?
Where to meet people?
Typically, people meet with one another through common friends, internet dating services, or social events. But the list of dating habits is not that short. So let’s take a look at the most popular ways of meeting new partners in South Korea.
Online dating in Korean culture: Korean dating apps and sites
Over 5M Korean people use online dating, which makes Korean dating sites a cornerstone of modern Korean dating culture. Singles seek potential partners with different intentions and use different services for that. For example, if a guy wants something for only a few dates, he goes for casual Korean dating apps. I think it’s quite convenient for people who are losing interest quite fast.
Besides, there are platforms for people with serious intentions and for international dating, also known as mail order bride sites. The last ones are actually the best way for a foreigner to start dating in Korea. As most Koreans who are open to relationships with partners from other countries sign up for Korean dating sites.
Check out these Korean dating websites that local men and women recommended to me the most.
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Offline dating in Korea
Despite the popularity of online dating in the country, Koreans also meet offline, go on blind dates, and start a relationship with co-workers or someone they meet in the bar or park. I’ve noticed from the stories of the local couples that are married that many of them met through family or friends introductions or social events. Well, I don’t think that many foreigners can use the first option, but the second one is a good option to consider if you want to meet a Korean girl or guy offline.
- Namsan Tower observation deck and the HanCook restaurant or the N Grill restaurant for dining on your first date
- Gyeongbokgung Palace and dining in Tosokchon Samgyetang restaurant
- Street food first date at Myeong-dong
- Taking pictures in Coex Aquarium and then dining in Sky Lounge
- And you can plan dates to explore a new culture together in Bukchon Hanok Village, Hongdae street art district, Namsangol Hanok Village, and Jeonju Hanok Village.
Challenges of dating in South Korea
Though Korean dating culture welcomes foreigners with open arms, starting a relationship is not always easy, as locals also have trouble navigating the dating scene in South Korea. The thing is not that people lose interest in the first 3 seconds of the blind date, but it lies much deeper.
The trend of being single
South Korea is following the trend of economically well-off countries, where people don’t marry before 30. But I think that it’s getting quite extreme in the country. People are not just closing off from marriage, but they are just not interested in romance. I know that, in France, there are also similar tendencies, as most people get hitched closer to their 40s. But no French man or woman wastes a chance for a romantic adventure. Life is boring without romance in it! Right?
Language barrier leads to miscommunications
Not knowing how to ask where a toilet is is a very awkward situation to be in, especially if it’s a blind date and you see the person for 1rst time in your life. But let’s forget about that embarrassing moment…
Korea has a moderate level of English proficiency, but in reality, everything depends on a person’s age. Many young people are fluent in English, though they have hard accents. But older people (45+) are the whole next story. Once I was trying to ask for directions and was just going in circles for 30 minutes as I couldn’t understand the directions from the explanations locals tried to give me and had no Internet connection. So, learn at least some basic phrases in Korean if you want to try dating there.
Cultural differences in relationship expectations
From the Korean style of communication with love for hinting, all the hierarchy stuff, and traditional gender roles, dating becomes quite different from the Western norm. I wouldn’t exactly call it a challenge, but more of an adjustment curve.
Tips for foreigners on how to navigate the dating scene in South Korea
During my time in South Korea I’ve made so many notes that I can’t miss a chance to share my advice on how to navigate the dating scene in the country. So here are some tips for you:
- Use niche dating sites. You can meet Korean women and men in many other ways, but specialized platforms are easier and cheaper.
- Invest in your dating profile. Though dating ratios are usually in favor of males rather than females, don’t forget that Korean women choose too. So, add hot photos, fill in your profile, and actively approach potential dates.
- Keep the three-day rule. Waiting three days after a date before calling or exchanging numbers is known as the “three-day rule” in South Korean dating, so make sure to use it.
- Be open-minded. When you meet Korean women or men, you need time to get used to differences in mentality and dating culture. So, take everything with curiosity and give it a try.
- If you are a guy, take the lead. In Korea, men are usually expected to show initiative and “lead” the relationship, as Korean society is still quite traditional about gender roles. Traditionally man pays on dates, but some couples establish a rule where a guy pays for the first round and a woman for the second one.
As you can see, all of my advice is a step-by-step guide on how to navigate relationships in South Korea. Yet, how to learn White, Yellow, and Green Day dates remain a mystery to me.
Dating in South Korea impressed me with its truly unique nature. Though there are Western influences, for sure, all the celebrations, interesting dates, and opportunities amazed me. Oh, and I enjoyed a blind date with a Korean hottie that was planned through a mutual acquaintance. She brightened my stay in Korea even more. So, for all those who are doubting whether Korean dating is for them—go for it! There are so many Korean dating sites to help you get cool dates.
Yes and no. I think it’s not more difficult than relationships in other countries in Asia. To minimize the challenges, I would recommend exploring the culture of Korea more and being patient.
Korean dating culture has a more traditional influence on gender roles that form expectations in a relationship. Also, people are more strict on PDA and have a bit of a different, indirect way of showing affection in a non-sexual way called Aegyo.
Yes. Why not? Koreans are open to relationships with partners from other countries. And such relationships are actually quite common.
Learning more about Korean dating culture would probably be my biggest advice, as well as learning some basic Korean. I personally can’t learn any Asian language, as my brain seems to be not made for that, but if I could, it would make things a lot easier.
I’m passionate about exploring the world, enjoying the best of it, meeting new people, and falling in love. I believe that love and travel are what I was made for. And I’m here to share my story and honest opinions with you!