What to Expect when Dating a Korean Guy
It seems like Korean guys are in demand because many of my single girlfriends have been telling me how much they’d like to learn Korean just to date Korean boys. Well well. Quite understandable considering how men are portrayed in all these Korean MVs, dramas, and movies. But really, that’s like saying I want to date a Lawyer after watching Suite.
Unfortunately, boys are boys – even in Korea. They sometimes go MIA, put friends over you, breaks your heart, forget your birthday etc. But I must say that there is some merit to Korean boys’ courting style that is hard to match. So here, I list out some of the common occurrences of dating a Korean guy based on my personal experience and of the experiences of my lovely Korean girlfriends.
Note that there are many Korean guys out there, and there are many exceptions. This is just my personal experience, please read it with a light heart.
Am I qualified to talk about this?
Dating experience: 2 Korean guys: one from Seoul for 2 years and another from Kangwon province living in Seoul for almost 4 years. They both have never lived in another country before.
Consulting experience: Over 2000 hours of 1:1 consultation via phone, text, skype, face-to-face about Korean boy-problems. Hope now I have some creds to tell you what it’s like to date a Korean guy.
So what is it like to have a Korean boyfriend?
On keeping in touch:
In comparison to guys I’ve dated from other culture, Korean guys are great at keeping in touch, constantly. This made it hard for me to adapt to ABC guys that were texting 2,3 messages per day or every two three days because Korean guys will text you every day. Many also call you every day. It’s not that they’re more/less into you; I think it’s a norm. You get freaking spoiled (sometimes annoyed) by how much they will contact you, but this means anxiety triples when they become MIA.
Do dress up on your dates because these Korean boys will dress up/suit up every time they take you out. It’s not uncommon for a guy to show up wearing a shirt, khaki, a blazer, matching shoes, and perfectly done hair – to a date at an amusement park. They often dress like they’ve popped out of print ads in magazines.
Some extremely self-aware guys would put on bb-cream, color contact lens (this one is more rare), and fake heels inside the shoes. But don’t be too impressed because it’s probably 50% for other people to see, 30% for themselves, and 20% for you. Regardless, it’s good to see guys putting as much effort into looking nice and “dolling” up, but they would expect you to do the same.
I hear in Canada, guys stop paying after 2,3 dates, or even on second dates it’s common to go dutch. This isn’t the norm in Korea. Although there seems to be a shift in this dynamic very recently, it’s still very normal for guys to be the one getting tab all the time. Once you get serious, then the paying becomes a bit more even, maybe girls pay 3:7/4:6. Most of the time, they don’t want you to pay.
You can easily get used to this … But there are consequences that follow. For instance, while it’s extremely subtle, they may exert more authority or expect you to show more “child-like” behaviors. It can be patronizing at times.
Being the “Oppa”:
In Korea, age determines how you refer to one another (unlike in Canada where everyone calls each other names). When a guy is older than a girl, the girl refers to this guy as “Oppa.” But it really doesn’t matter how old you are, because if a guy is interested in you, he’ll try to act like an Oppa anyways. I’m sure most of you have heard of this phrase through Psy’s Gangnam Style.
This phrase carries an odd mix of varying sentiments that ranges from being responsible, protective, to having more power, status, and right. One thing that Korean guys seem to enjoy doing is refer to themselves as “Oppa.” For instance, instead of saying “I’ll buy you dinner/I’ll do that for you,” they will say “Oppa will buy you dinner/ Oppa will do that for you.” Seriously, when a guy that I’m not too interested does this, every bit of hair on my body stands up. Good thing that comes with this phenomenon is that Korean guys in general are very responsible and almost trained to take care of girls in all ways possible.
– When walking on the sidewalk, they always make sure they are on the outer lane closer to the cars
– They will take off their coat for you in cold weather
– They arrive ten minutes early to dates and don’t mind waiting few minutes (I think some expect girls to be late).
– Anything heavy or difficult to do, they feel responsible to solve/do it for the girl.
– If you call them for help in the middle of the night (even at 2,3 in the morning), most of them will help you
Special Celebrations & Couple “things”: – So one of the oddest/coolest part of Korean dating culture is that couples celebrate gazillion and one things. Let me list a few that I have celebrated:
- 22 day, 1 month, 100th day, 200th day, 300th, 1 year, 2 year, 3 year, Valentine’s day, white day, Christmas, Children’s day, Korean couple’s day (where the couple meets on a bridge made by a flock of birds), Pepero day, Rose day, Kiss day, Thanksgiving, New Years, and of course birthdays
– On these occasions, I’ve learned that girls should expect the guy to prepare some sort of “surprise” – it’s not very surprising once you realize that it’s always going to be a bouquet of roses, a teddy bear, cake, and candles. But still, it’s very sweet that guys will go such lengths to do things for the girls they like.
So much work for guys? But sometimes it’s the guys that are more into stuff like this. I once forgot one of these many celebrations previously-unknown-to-me, and all I can say is that that day didn’t end well. As much as guys go crazy with these celebrations, girls also put equal effort in preparing – often some hand-made stuff for their special other.
Another thing that Korean boyfriends commonly suggest are couple items like couple rings (makes it hard to tell who is married or just dating), couple shoes, couple cellphone cases, couple smartphones, couple data plan (where you have unlimited data between you two), couple diary, couple (fill in your own blank). I know many of my non-Korean friends find this freaky, but I must say small things like same keychains are kind of cute. You get used to it. In general, Korean guys are more “hardworking” when it comes to relationships. But that doesn’t mean its all roses and butterflies; there are also things that are particularly stressful when dating Korean guys.
I guess all this chivalry comes with consequences. Not all, but surely many Korean boyfriends will ask to check your phone, kakaotalk or what-nots. They expect to know your entire schedule in and out and also expects you to update him on your life constantly. This can be a bit frustrating, but girls often expect the same from guys so it’s a mutual thing I suppose.
It’s always really hard to have a girl’s night out if one of the girl is in a relationship. Getting permission almost never worked because they’d be calling constantly and checking up on her. Some are really extreme: for instance, once four of my girl friends were out, and my girlfriend’s bf asked her to take a photo of her outfit to make sure it’s not too scandalous. Seriously?!… SERIOUSLY?
The tolerance of acceptable interaction with the opposite gender is vastly lower for couples in Korea. Some things that I witnessed Korean couples often fight about: – Texting an opposite gender -Calling an opposite gender – Talking to an opposite gender – Looking at an opposite gender -Thinking about an opposite gender So basically anything that has to do with the opposite gender is a no. Okay, I may be exaggerating a tiny bit, but Korean couples tend to be extremely bonded and with such bond comes such craziness. I guess people are crazy when they’re in love.
I think breakups rarely end in good terms among Korean couples. I see tons of Canadian friends being friends with their ex but I rarely see Korean couples continuing to be friends after a break-up. It’s partly because many of my Korean friends think there is no such thing as friendship between a girl and a guy.
Meeting his friends:
Meeting friends of a Korean boyfriend is one of the most stressful parts of the ordeal, imo. So in my experience, they put you on a pedestal and subtlety judge you. Once you break into the group, they will love and protect you forever, but it’s really hard to break into the bubble. The key to this meet is to dress like a news broadcaster (think pastel colored conservative outfit that is flattering but classsy), wear minimal make-up, and be super, super nice. Pretend you’re there to serve them. It doesn’t matter if that’s not the real you, because the real you is not what they want to see. Be comfortable, but also be tense (if that’s even possible). When you’re meeting his friends, you are a virgin that never smoked, drank, or stayed out pass 9 p.m… So dating a Korean guy can be amazing one moment and awfully confusing another.
But like with any culture, being in a relationship requires work from both partners. Also, most problems can be overcome with appropriate communication. It’s just important to learn the “norms” of the dating eco-system your love subject is part of to avoid misunderstandings. I remember an ABC girl rejected a Korean boy because he held the umbrella for her on a rainy day and she found that patronizing.
I hope you enjoyed the article. Follow me on twitter @tinasyhsu
Also, check out GIFs compilation of Top Kdramas from 2015, based on CPI.