Is he flirting with me?




He smiles at me a lot; he sends cute text messages daily warning me about the cold weather, or wishing me a nice day; he brings a can of warm coffee on cold days for me to warm my hands, and he tells me I am yepoyo (beautiful) because I have a small face and big eyes.

He is a perfect gentleman, always holding the door for me, paying for everything when we go out, carrying my purse, and taking pictures of my cab’s license plate after doing the two-hand wave/bow combination to say goodbye.

He invites me to stroll with him along the Cheonggyecheon and will sometimes very protectively put his arm around me when we cross the street. Sometimes he’ll cook up an incredibly extravagant meal and download a Korean movie without subtitles which he ever so patiently translates for me himself.

If this were a Canadian boy, I would say without shadow of a doubt that he is flirting with me. But… reality check:  He’s Korean.


So… Is he flirting with me?

This is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question my western girlfriends and I chew on over scalding hot coffee at the nearest Paris Baguette. We stare at the heart-shaped foam floating in our mugs longingly and notice that those of us who had ordered cake were given a second fork to share with our imaginary boyfriends.

Being single in such a couple-oriented society is not easy.  Every single day looks like Valentine’s day in Korea. Everywhere you look there are couples wearing matching shirts and massaging each other’s backs.  Sometimes you see a girl pouting and stomping her foot while making high-pitched whining noises which although hurtful to my eardrums seem to be very attractive to the opposite sex because the guy always responds with a gentle smile and what seem to be apologetic words.


Even when they fight, Korean couples look so cute and in love.

Taken by: John MacLeod

Taken by: John MacLeod




I want a Korean boyfriend… I think as I watch a Korean couple play rock, scissor, paper at the table across from us. She loses and he flicks his lover’s forehead with his finger, making a loud thudding sound that makes us giggle.

I tell my girlfriends I think he’s cute and we all start admiring his Clark Kent dark-rimmed glasses, his built figure, his wavy perm, his deep voice, his straight posture and his high, well-defined cheekbones.

He is suddenly distracted by his cellphone. In amazement we watch him text, his thumbs moving skillfully at the speed of lightning.  His super fast texting abilities has us drooling like bulldogs over our lattes. (I know, it’s really weird –and silly- but a surprising number of us western girls find attractive how fast Korean men can text.)

Without looking away I dig one of my two too many forks into my sweet potato cake and imagine he is probably the kind of boyfriend that shields his girlfriend from the sun when waiting at a red light.

I sigh as I look down at my other, unused fork.


I don’t get it. I feel like I’ve gone out on so many dates, but I’m starting to realize that maybe what I call “dates” are not really dates at all in Korea. I mean, it’s not like any of these outings ever culminated with a leaning over for a goodnight kiss, or a passionate profession of the guy’s undying love for me, or a suggestion to go shopping for couple shirts together.


My so-called dates normally just gave way to a piling number of text messages about the weather, with the occasional invitation to yet another friendly (and romantically confusing) outing.

As I enter my third year in Korea, I am decisive about getting to the bottom of this. I corner up all my Korean girlfriends and tell them to spill the beans. I am not willing to put up with yet another year of so much mystery and confusion.  I want to know the truth.


“Is he flirting with me?”


For every Korean girl I ask, I am met by the same deeply frustrating answer.

“I don’t know.  You have to wait.” 


They tell me that they never know themselves when a guy is flirting with them or just being friendly. That a girl just has to wait and, well, basically take a gamble waiting for the guy she likes to one day officially ask her out.

After learning this I release a painful groan.  I had lived for several years in South America and discovered that Canadian men were in fact quite subtle and passive when it came to courting in comparison to the serenading, straight-forward, sweet-talking Latin charmer. But this was taking subtlety onto a whole new level. A Korean man is basically Julio Iglesias stuck on second gear. He leads you on with sweet gestures and cute “I miss you” text messages, but can go on like that forever and ever without ever moving beyond that point and putting a “couple ring” on it.


Alright, I guess I sound kind of melodramatic. The situation is not all that hopeless. I have seen the rare western girl walking hand-in-hand with a Korean boy. And whenever my girlfriends and I see that our heads do a 180-degree exorcist style turn and we go “How on earth did she do that?!”

When you see something like that, it serves as blessed proof that having a Korean boyfriend is not impossible.

If you are one of those enviable and enigmatic offspring from the westerngirlswholovekoreanboys sub-culture who has had a Korean boyfriend or husband, I would absolutely love to hear about your experience.  Feel free to share your story in the comment space below.

And if you are a Korean boy, feel free to write about your perspective on this topic, and while you’re at it why don’t you tell us:


Are you flirting?



By: Esperanza Maggay (Heemang)

Categories: 2013

14 replies »

  1. Hello Esperanza, I loved your article. It was very well written. As a Korean guy, I tell you that most people may consider it to be flirting, however a lot of the times it is just simple courtesy. They are mostly cultural and social norms taught by parents, peers, and the media. As mentioned by your colleagues, you it is difficult to tell whether or not they are flirting until they make a confession.

    • Thanks for leaving your comment! It’s great to hear this coming from a Korean male even though it is a confirmation of all the tortuous waiting us girls have to go through! kkkk… Anyway, thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Hi! I’ve read your article and I just suddenly want to share my experiences with dating korean men. I had four korean boyfriends..I’m from the Philippines and I never thought of having a korean boyfriend. I agree with what the korean girls told you. You will never know unless they ask you out on a date THE SECOND TIME around. Most of the time, if they want a girl, they would ask her on a date then when they see that they enjoy each other’s company then they might want to ask the girl out again. Normally they’re just being friendly. But maybe one thing I’ve observed from my past boyfriends is when they asked me out for a second date, it means that both of you are couples already, meaning, you should start counting days from your second meet till the most awaited 100th day of your relationship. During those 100 days, the two of you goes out often (and I mean very often)..He always want to spend his time with you instead of hanging out with his bestfriends and make excuses to them just to meet you or take you out for a fancy dinner..He spends a lot for you even if you dont ask him to..He takes you to places where couples hang out..He tries act funny and cute..calls you sweet names..gets overly protective with other guys.. pats your head all the time..He wants you to meet his friends and wants to boast/talk about you to them when you’re not around and if you’ve passed the 100 days, if you’re lucky and worthy enough, he would introduce you to his family and would stay beside you no matter what..because that means he sees you as a potential wife and would want to marry you. My situation now is a new one again.. a korean guy is giving “the signs” again and I just have to wait..challenge him a bit..dont get so excited..act natural and just be myself.

    • Hi 안디~ :) May i ask how would you know if a date is really a “date”? How would you know if this is the first or second or what date? In the Philippines, in most cases, dates could be the “formal” ones, right? Like, the guy would somehow confess or make some moves first and then asks you out. Aside from “waiting”, when should a date be a date be with a Korean guy? Thanks!

    • This is so interesting! Wow! You had four Korean boyfriends?! Lucky gal! :) My questions also is if the girl should wait for the guy to make the move. What is the girl shows interest first? Is that a turnoff?

  3. In Korea, Feb.14 is a chance for korean girls to “court” or give a “sign” to the guys they like.. the k-girls are right. You have to wait till you get a sweet reply from the guy you “courted” on valentines day on a “white day” (falls on MarchㅡI forgot the exact date) where they reply their ♡ to the girl who sent them till he asks you out for a date.

  4. OMG I am going through same situation right now. So I met this korean boy in America. We met a day before he planned to leave America for Korea. So I visited him in the evening and We hanged out all night till he left in the morning. He said he wanted to be around me before he left. Which was weird considering the fact that I just met him but I stayed because he seemed nice and friendly. we had a fun night together. He gave me korean gifts, taught me how to cook seaweed soup, played games and sang together. So when I was leaving he held my hands as we walked outside. He hugged me and said I will miss you and please come visit me in Korea. He’s going to serve for two years and come back to America. now he texts and call me everyday and shows me his hometown on video call. He drunked called me the other night telling me his ex called him but he just wants to be friends with her. I don’t know why he felt he needed to tell me that. When we spoke the next day he told me he doesn’t have a girlfriend but wants one and I should look for one for him (like dude pick me) lol! I had a sore throat so I was taking honey, so I said I am taking honey. He said so surprisingly you have a honey like a boyfriend? I said no lol so he said good. Lol okay… Basically, he tells me he wants to see me again soon and can’t wait, he encourages me to learn korean, he acts so cutely on the phone when we talk, he compliments me, he’s planning what we are going to do when I get to Korea next year, he worries about me, text and call me frequently, he makes future plans to come visit me in Seattle just all that cute stuff. He mentioned we were destined to meet that day since our “friendship” is where it is at right now and he is glad I felt comfortable to stay and didn’t leave. I can’t tell if he’s just being friendly or he’s flirting 😭😭😭

  5. My boyfriend and I met on a social media website.

    He texted me before the date and drove in a blizzard around 7pm to come pick me up and go to the movies together. He was always asking if I was cold. The Car was stuck in the snow atleast 4 or 5 times, I offered to dig it out for him but he told me to just stay in the car or else I would be cold. I smiled the whole time during the date, aparently that is flirting but I did not know, I always smile; I am american that is just how I was raised to be. He held my purse for me thinking it was too heavy. After the movies we walked to a coffee shop, he bought an umbrella from a gas station and put it over us so the snow would not end up on me. But I think he purposefully had it covering over him more just so we would stand closer together.

  6. My current first-ever Korean guy friend I met online and I have been so close over these few months since after we started texting each other. At first, he contacted me simply because he wanted to visit my country and wanted a local friend. But then, things progressed a lot as we kept texting (sometimes several times a day but sometimes once a day depending on our busy schedule)and learned a lot about each other. When we first met and went out together, we had a lot of fun! He said he felt strange because he’s so close to me. We took a polaroid together and signed on our photos. And then when we were dining together, he even said he liked me a lot, like two or three times (I blushed and I think I even said thank you at one point as I didn’t know what to reply ㅋㅋㅋ). After that, he sometimes said I’m so cute, etc and that he is never bored when he’s with me. He wants to go out with me again too. He even gave me compliments saying I looked very beautiful during our friend-date one evening. He insists on paying the bills. Okay, I don’t know if he’s just being friendly or not. But well, he’s so unpredictable.. And i’m not a western woman and a south-east asian whose parents have an influence on me and we often agree that our cultures are very similar. So, i’m not sure if he’s just being friendly like a guy used to western society (seeing he can speak English well enough) or if he means a little more than that. Just so many mixed signals. He’s a bit older than me and he says he likes it when I call him oppa. I’m not a K-pop fan or anything and never thought of dating a foreigner either but as I quite like him as well, I think I’ll just have to wait and see ㅠㅠ

  7. So, I have been on an app to learn Korean and I matched with someone. He and I both realized we only lived an hour away. We have been talking for around two weeks and it’s crazy because I can never tell how he actually feels. We are meeting on Friday. I have been so nervous and he is so calm. He tells me I make him happy all the time and we message constantly. Sometimes I wonder if all of his “You’re so sweet and nice.” comments are just being polite. I mean he is driving up here on Friday… Meeting my parents since I live with them(My college is right next door)…. And then I am showing him around town. I mean, are these signs or does he just want to be friends. He also talks about wanting to hug me sometimes and I am like can you be straight forward… I even brought up Valentine’s Day and how I wanted to do get something or make something for him and he seem happy and excited. He even has been encouraging me about my Korean and he loves to tease me… I wonder what will happen. Hopefully, it will become a little clearer on Friday. I’ll update you then.

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