I realize that many of you who read my blog are people who are one or more of the following: you are preparing to move to Korea; you are half korean, or want to know more about us halfies; you are somebody who is interested Korean culture; or you may be a friend of mine, or family member. So the main reason you are reading this blog is for the information. As a resident of Korea for almost two years now, I feel I can possibly shed some light on a subject that is of interest to everybody: the dating culture in Korea.
Please keep in mind that my knowledge is limited to Gwangju, a city roughly the size of Philadelphia. I've only dated women from there, and the ladies that I have dated all live within the same general area of the city. Although they were all Korean, there may be differences in how women from different cities may act, and there may be differences in how people from different parts of a particular city may act. Numerous other factors may have made my experiences unique.
Gwangju is a large city, and Korea is a highly populated country with numerous cities, many of them being larger than Gwangju, so these are merely observations from my experience, and are not to be taken as facts or universal truths.
Another thing I would like for you to keep in mind is that I am a one-woman man. I am not into "hook-ups." I prefer not to go to bars or clubs. I met my current girlfriend through a mutual friend that I go to church with, and we agreed to go on a blind date. These observations are regarding the pursuit of a long-term relationship, and these may not stand when pursuing a "hook-up," as a culture exists where that obviously happens, but I prefer to not be a part of that. With that in mind, I hope you find this to be informative.
1. If a Korean lady is single, chances are she lives with her parents, and they are usually more strict than western parents. It is quite normal for an upper 20's single young professional Korean lady to be living with her mother and father, and usually she will have a curfew. From my experience, it is not uncommon for it to be before 12. How the lady deals with these circumstances depends solely on the individual.
The first girl I dated, Tae Hee, would wait until her parents fell asleep, and then she would sneak out to meet me, because I worked nights, and I finished late. Her parents had no idea that she was dating me. The second girl I dated, had parents who sort of trusted her, so she simply told her mother where she was and who she was with, and she was usually fine with what she was doing. Her father, on the other hand, did not know about me. My current girlfriend, will not cross her mother under any circumstances. I respect that, and we make the most out of the predicament.
My advice is that if you intend to be serious with your Korean girlfriend, respect the wishes of her parents. It may be difficult, but at the same time, you must be a source of comfort, and not a source of stress. Korean ladies already have lots to deal with, and it may come from their schooling, or their job, as they usually work such long hours by western standards. A man who constantly works to undermine authority figures in a lady's life does nothing but bring unnecessary stress on top of that which she already has, and any reasonable woman would not want that. Women prefer a man who makes their lives easier, and brings them comfort, and not one who complicates things.
2. It might take you a significant amount of time for you to win a Korean lady's trust. The first two ladies that I dated, upon initially realizing that there was potential for a relationship, gave me the same talk. "Chrisu, I know that American man think Korean girl is easy…" And it's not because of only that. It's a combination of many things.
Korean ladies are aware of the fact that westerners sign contracts in one-year increments. They are also aware of the fact that most of them return to their respective countries once that contract is fulfilled. If they are mature and of high character, a quality not uncommon among the Korean women that I've come across, long term possibilities will certainly be taken into account, and it will be difficult for them to trust and enter into a relationship with a man who they know will leave. And if you expect her to move home with you, Korean society has become rather comfortable and advanced, and it is difficult for anybody to leave everything they know and are accustomed to for the unknown.
Another inhibiting factor is the fact that she will probably be worried to some extent about how other Koreans will perceive her when she is seen in public with a western man. I've read before that Korea is one of the most homogeneous societies in the world, and in a place where most of the people share the same hair color, eye color, and skin tone, and also in a society where "image is everything," she will be concerned with how others will perceive her when she is seen in public holding the hand of a man who dresses differently, has a different skin tone, different mannerisms, and different eye shape. And like it or not, westerners do not have the best reputation among Koreans when it comes to dating. She is well aware of the fact that she will stand out when she is with you, and how you act when you are with her will determine whether or not she stands out in a good or bad way.
My advice is to be honest with her in all circumstances. Don't pretend that you have all the answers. When she brings up the future, sometimes it's ok to say, "I don't know," provided you show her that you have ambition, and that you care about her. Be patient with her. Again, a man should be a source of comfort, and not a source of unwanted stress, and if she is uncomfortable with going to a particular place, doing a particular thing with you, or taking the next step in your relationship, don't take it personally. Be patient and understanding. I realize that a man should be the one who pushes the boundaries in the relationship, but he should not do it in such a way that it will apply to her unwanted pressure and stress in her already stressful life.
3. This one is for all you halfies out there. Times have changed, and through my experiences, I find that we are perceived differently as Korean society has become more modernized. With that being said, I've yet to get a negative reaction by a Korean lady when I tell them that my mother is Korean. Moreover, they love it.
My advice is to use it to your advantage. You have an advantage over other western men, for two reasons. The first is that Korean ladies will sort of see you as one of them. The second reason is you have more insights into their culture, and how Korean women think. You've probably spent, at the very least, a significant portion of your childhood with at least one Korean woman (your mom), and who you are is indeed an asset, not a source of discrimination.
4. This is sort of a continuation of point #2. If she is attractive by Korean standards and if she is of high character, and if she is with you, she obviously thinks very highly of you. The less attractive ones will care a little less about public perception, because they are accustomed to being seen in a less positive light (That applies to people in any society). They will be more willing to take risks to be with a man than a more attractive woman will be, because obviously the attention they receive from members of the opposite sex is less. The more attractive ones are definitely more likely to take into account all of the factors in point #2, among others, when dating a western man, for the simple and obvious reason that they can afford to be selective.
My advice is to have fun regardless. If she is really attractive to Koreans, enjoy the fact that she is into you, but be patient at the same time. Everybody knows the more attractive ladies require more work, and nothing worth having comes easily. Korean women will probably test you more than a western lady will, and make you be the pursuer. Enjoy the chase. It's fun.
You've probably noticed a common theme among all of this, which is to be patient. You may have a completely different experience, but based on mine, I can't stress that enough. This applies to ladies of any society, but it especially applies with Korean ladies who are considering going into a relationship with a man from a different race and culture.
5. In a sociology class back at LSU, the professor said numerous times that Asians are the most likely of all the races to marry outside of their race. Korean women are, no doubt, attracted to western men, but dating them is kind of frowned upon by some who are more traditional. The more attractive she is, the more they seem to frown. Don't let that deter you. At the same time, you may also be seen sort of as a prize. I have never experienced anything with so many contradictions. It is an interesting phenomenon, so it is important to be a source of simplicity, and by that, I mean to simply have fun, and don't worry about what other people think.
6. Embrace your Americaness/Britishness/Canadianality/South Africaness/Australianality/New Zealandality. If she wanted to date a Korean, she would be doing just that. Take her for a ride, give her new experiences, and show her what it is like to be where you are from. But at the same time, be aware of her culture, and respect it. A proper balance must be established if you are serious about her.
7. If you can, befriend a western girl who dates Korean men, and converse with her about her experiences. It could prove to be invaluable. Her experiences can reveal to you how Korean men treat their ladies, which can give you insights into what Korean women expect. I'm not telling you to act like a Korean man, because sometimes, they do and say things that I would never do, but you may be able to accomplish the same thing in a different way from your western perspective and methods.
The most important thing is to have fun. That's what it is all about, and that is what a woman from any society or culture values. Korean women are classy, enthusiastic, and extremely feminine, so dating them can be an amazing experience, despite the difficulties and complications. Good luck…