Korean Dating Culture

Dating in Korea is unlike dating in the West. In the United States, dating can be a casual social event where a potential couple can hang out and try to get acquainted. In Korea, going out on a date is taken as a sign of a beginning relationship. After the first date, it is assumed that the Korean couple is already in a relationship.

Do's and Don'ts

In Korea, the guy is expected to pay for everything during dates. Guys are expected to carry girls' handbags. It's a very common sight to see Korean men carrying their girlfriends' handbags in malls, schools, streets, the subway and other common places.

A Korean girl brings along a close friend as chaperon especially when starting to go out with a new guy. It is also common to go out in a bigger group. The couple should be discreet and friendly to the friends accompanying them. During this stage, even if they are having a flourishing relationship, they should not publicly display affection--kissing and holding hands during these dates are considered taboo.

Dating Stages

Dating can start as early as high school. However, kissing someone generally occurs first in college. To avoid getting branded as sleazy, initial dates must always be accompanied by other friends.

A friendly date is a starting point of a relationship. The couple plays games at PC rooms (mostly for teenagers and young adults), watches movies, dines out, drinks in bars and sings in karaoke. As time passes by, couples can go out without friends. They can hold hands in public. It is also normal to see them wearing matching outfits to show affection and closeness.

Conservative Culture

Unlike in other countries, it is considerably rare to get one-night stands in Korean nightclubs. For those who are already in a relationship, becoming more intimate requires a long-term relationship of being together for at least one year. While holding hands is generally acceptable for long-term couples, other gestures and expressions of physical intimacy such as kissing in public are traditionally not acceptable. It is also not common to talk openly about sex during regular conversation. Traditionally, Koreans don't enter their boyfriend's or girlfriend's house until they want to get married.

Blind Dates

Blind dates are very common in Korea. Coffee shops and various dining establishments are typically places for blind dates. Parents or relatives typically set up Koreans of marrying age on blind dates. Arranged marriage is still practised in Korea, especially in very traditional families. And so, when the parents come into the picture of dating, this usually indicates that marriage is almost certain. Setting up Koreans for dates is done through friends, colleagues, bosses, and of course, parents and relatives. While the traditional culture is evolving, Koreans still consider it rare and strange to date complete strangers.

Interracial Dating

Amid Korea's modernity and advancement in many fields, the traditional Korean outlook about interracial dating and marriage still exists. With their strong cultural and patriotic roots, parents encourage their children to marry Koreans. Even now, marrying foreigners is often despised by the society. Children of Koreans and foreigners can be bullied in school because of not being pure Koreans. Those dating foreigners may be subject to gossip. While slowly changing, the traditional culture is still strongly followed by many Koreans.

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About the Author

Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance artist/writer/educator. Her diverse work experiences include projects in the Philippines, Korea and United States. For more than six years she has written about films, travel, food, fashion, culture and other topics on websites including Yahoo!, Yehey! and Herword. She also co-wrote a book about Asian cinema.