It’s suddenly become the dream of a lot of young women in America and Europe to date a Korean guy. I suppose it’s nice to see that fetishizing another race isn’t just for men anymore. Equality? (Author’s Note 5/29: I’d like to add that this line was intended as a joke, obviously fetishizing people is wrong~ but some readers thought I was promoting the fetishized view of Korean men. That is the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do here.) This post is mainly directed at western women seeking relationships with Korean guys (a trend that is on the rise lately) because that is something I have experience with.
When looking through the most common search terms people use to find my blog, one thing became clear: y’all are thirsty.
But seriously, I get it. If you find a particular set of traits common to a particular group to be attractive, you might be drawn to people of that group. If you’re interested in the culture and media from that country, you also might want to get to know the people from that country. This post is geared towards people looking to meet someone while they’re in Korea, but of course there are Korean communities around the world and you may meet Korean friends and more-than-friends in your home country as well. Just remember, life is not a Kdrama and getting to know people for who they are is more important than relying on stereotypes and preconceptions.
I’m going to guess that you’ve dated in your home country or at least know how dating works. Just like in any country, you’ve got to get out there and meet people. How and where you meet them will probably have some bearing on what kind of relationship you’ll have. So you should think about what your goal is when you are looking at places to go.
Do you want to just have a quick, fun fling? Probably go to a bar or club in one of the college districts or a foreign heavy district. Many young Koreans go to the foreign district to mingle with non-Koreans. Most of these don’t turn into serious relationships, but that can happen of course. That’s the exception though, not the rule.
Are you looking for something more about companionship with the potential of romance? Go to a language or culture exchange. Maybe a bilingual community event, a class, or religious group. These are all great places to start getting to know people with similar interests. Get your coworkers or classmates to set you up with someone or go to events with friends of friends. You might meet some interesting people along the way, or even meet someone special.
What if you are really in the market for serious commitment? Maybe you’ve lived in Korea for a couple of years or have studied Korean and are getting fluent in the language and culture. You can see yourself settled down long term with a Korean guy and hopefully aren’t just after a spouse visa. Well, for serious, marriage-focused dating you can start arranging blind dates. If you have some Korean friends, especially ones who are a bit older and already married, they can probably help set you up with some eligible bachelors (this kind of date is called “sogaeting”). You can also go through a more formal process of basically exchanging resumes with the family ahead of time (set up through acquaintances, relatives, or professional matchmakers) to see if they are marriage material before agreeing to meet (called matsun). Non-Koreans very rarely participate in this sort of dating. If you do meet and agree to date the person in the case of matsun, expect to be getting married within six months. Matsun is not for casual dating, it’s all about getting hitched.
Mechanics of Korean dating
So you’ve met someone… that’s exciting. What can you expect from dating in Korea? Well, like most countries, going out for food and activities is how most dating works. Unlike some other countries, however, it’s really uncommon for people to live away from their parents unless they are married. So curling up on the couch to watch a movie at their place is probably not going to happen.
Big cities in Korea have solutions to that space issue with plenty of DVD rooms and “room cafes” where you can rent out a little room with a couch or comfy floor mats, coffee table, and tv to give the same effect. Most of these places also offer snacks (even beer), and table games for you and your date to enjoy. There are plenty of arcades, shopping malls, and cafes where you can spend your evening or even a whole Saturday.
It’s very common for boyfriends to perform little services for their girlfriends such as holding her bag while they’re out or treating her to little gifts. And many girls in Korea put a lot of effort into their appearance for a date, wearing a full face of makeup and a cute outfit. Keep in mind that PDA is still a bit taboo in Korea, so giving your boyfriend a big kiss on the train might get you complaints from other riders.
In the end though, be yourself. He should know what he signed up for.
Getting serious… or not?
As in any relationship, you might question how serious your significant other’s intentions are. Just like anywhere, if they start having you spend time with important people in their life, it’s a good sign. They might have you meet or go on double dates with their friends if they see this being a long term relationship. Most importantly, if they have marriage on their minds, they will probably take the steps to introduce you to their parents.
Parental approval is very important to most young Koreans. If their parents have strong objections to their boyfriend or girlfriend, that can be a deal breaker for many. For some parents, the thought of their child being with a non-Korean is enough for them to say ‘no’ before even meeting you. Some families have the opposite reaction and are absolutely delighted at the prospect of welcoming someone from another country into the family, so it really depends on the person. For extra points, make sure you can speak to them a little in Korean when you meet them. It shows that you respect their culture and are interesting in being a part of their family. Also, bring a gift. Big boxes of fruit are always crowd pleasers at Korean family gatherings.
It goes both ways
Remember that while you might be thinking about Korean guys according to stereotypes, they have some stereotypes in mind when it comes to you. Fetishizing goes both ways, as do misconceptions. Yes, there are plenty of stereotypes about western women. Some are negative (we’re slutty, fat, lacking in femininity, too overbearing, etc), some are positive (we’re sexy, easy-going, confident, fun). There are even some Korean guys who see it as a status symbol to have casual sex with white women (known as “riding the white horse”) or go to clubs that exclusively hire “exotic” looking black women as servers.
It also goes both ways in the sense that some Korean guys want to date foreign women because maybe they’ve lived abroad, don’t like Korean dating conventions, or just happen to find you to be an attractive, interesting woman. And if you’re not the walking doll that is the Korean beauty standard, don’t sweat it. No doubt there are beauty standards in your country too. People who don’t fit that mold often find love. It’s true that in Korea cosmetics and plastic surgery are kind of rampant, so more people make themselves fit that ideal, but for people who want something really different, you might be a breath of fresh air.
I hate when girls tell me that they are not thin/pale/pretty enough to date a Korean guy. That’s patently ridiculous. You’re assuming that every single Korean guy wants the exact same thing. That tells me that you might be relying on stereotypes instead of getting to know people as individuals. I know black, white, and hispanic women (many of whom were also thicker, curvy women) who dated and in some cases married Korean men.
“But Miss Blogger Lady, I don’t live in Korea and probably won’t be able to vacation there for more than a week, if at all,” you might be telling me. “How can I meet Korean people in my home country?” Well, where you live might make this more or less possible. Search for Korean supermarkets in your hometown or the closest bigger city: that is a good way to find where there is a large community of Korean people. Look at nearby universities that have large foreign student programs. Lyon, France had a surprisingly large community of Korean students studying there. Again, check out clubs, language exchanges, or even just cafes in those areas to meet people.
Friends who have or have had Korean significant others, care to chime in? How did you meet your partner and what advice do you have for interested parties?