Dating Culture in Korea

May 22, 2015

Dating culture in Korea can differ quite a bit from dating culture in Canada. Here's how I see it.

(Disclaimer: This post will not be about dating Korean men/women; men and women are different regardless of where they're born, and it's impossible and unfair to make sweeping generalizations about what it's like to date all of them. I am not interested in perpetuating stereotypes. Rather, I want to share my views about what dating and couple culture usually looks like in Korea... ^^)

Dates

How do couples begin? Blind dating (소개팅; so-geh-ting) is a common approach to meeting prospectives; a friend knows a friend, or a mom has a son. In some cases, those directly involved in the dates do the setting-up of these dates. In other cases, the blind date is set up entirely by concerned friends or family members. Blind dates also come in group forms simply called a "meeting" (미팅; meeting) where an equal number of men and women come together to hang out.

Date locations tend not to differ from what I've known: dinner, coffee, movies. Something that is a bit different in Korea is the idea of a "date course". Boyfriends or girlfriends can Google specific date courses in their desired destination/location. The date course may take you from an afternoon in a green tea field and then to a well-known restaurant in the area for dinner. The idea of "date courses" coincides with my perception of dating being taken much more seriously and intensely in Korea than Canada.

Special Days

The nature of couple holidays is pinnacle to dating culture in Korea, and I covered this once before.

In terms of anniversaries, most couples in Korea celebrate much more than just monthly or yearly milestones. An important anniversary amongst Korean couples is the 100th day (100일). The first 100th day anniversary is the most important, but some couples also celebrate their 200th, 300th, 1000th day, and so on (If you need help counting, here's a 100 Day Calculator on Naver). On these holidays, depending on each couples style, they will exchange letters and/or gifts. The significance of 100 days in Korea is also recognized in a child's first 100 days of life. On this day, parents celebrate the fact that their child has endured the first vulnerable days of life (this dates back to a time when this was not such a sure possibility).

Other romantic holidays in Korea are often experienced to the extreme. Even holidays that aren't romantic in Canada, like Christmas, are almost exclusively couple holidays in Korea. When I ask my students if they're excited for Christmas they're response is, almost unanimously, "No, teacher. I'm single."
Korea also celebrates:

  • January 14: Diary Day (couples exchange diaries and mark important days)
  • February 14: Valentine's Day (girlfriends give gifts to their boys)
  • March 14: White Day (boyfriends give gifts to their girls)
  • April 14: Black Day (an anti-romance day for single people)
  • May 14: Rose Day
  • June 14: Kiss Day
  • July 14: Silver Day
  • August 14: Green Day (couples seek green in nature, singles seek green soju bottles)
  • September 14: Photo Day (official selfie day?)
  • October 14: Wine Day
  • November 11: Pepero Day (couples exchange this snack because it resembles 11.11) 
  • November 14: Movie Day
  • December14: Hug Day

Public Displays of Affection

There is a general absence of PDA in Korea aside from hand-holding. In the place of PDA, however, is "couple" everything: phone cases, travel mugs, tshirts, watches, shoes. There is no mistaking couples in Korea. These couple sets come in varying degrees of subtlety.




These are some of the things that I have noticed about dating culture in Korea. Generally, couples are much more serious about their relationship than most of those I've seen in Canada. There are underlying factors which would affect each culture's dating culture; Canada has a more free and individualistic attitude towards dating whereas Koreans sometimes have to consider their family when making decisions about their personal life. This being said, I would say that relationships and marriage are more important to Koreans (and are everyone's business) whereas Canadian couples tend to operate in private.



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