Dating a Korean is a fun and sometimes frustrating experience for expats. It helps to know the cultural norms to avoid major mistakes.
Where do you meet someone in Korea?
Korean universities or companies host numerous events such as orientation, retreats, team building workshops and get-togethers where you can meet someone new or start a romantic relationship.
- Hagwon or Club (???)
- Through a friend: A.K.A. Sogaeting (???)
- Bar/Club/Pub: Probably not going to be a serious relationship. Also, be careful when you take free drinks from strangers at a bar.
- Street: You can ask for someone’s phone number on the street in Korea. If you’re good looking, you’ll be successful.
- Sogaeting (???): A one-on-one blind date through someone’s arrangement. It’s the most common type where you receive the contact info of the other person, communicate through KakaoTalk, and meet up.
- Meeting (??): A group blind date. It can be 3-on-3 up to 10-on-10. They’re fun to observe if you see a long table of 10 guys facing 10 girls.
- Matseon (??): A blind date with the goal of finding a potential spouse. Matchmakers are usually their parents or someone else’s, including friends of your parents. People on these dates are mostly in their 30s, and go straight to deeper conversation that are relevant to marriage such as income, children, etc.
Hidden Culture: “CC (??)”
Despite the many advantages like you get to spend a lot of time together, it’s good to be careful being CC since it can ruin your other relationships or reputation. It will be also uncomfortable seeing that person if you happen to breakup. Most Koreans recommend CC, but with someone from another major or club, instead of the same major, so you can avoid them if necessary.
An Expat’s Perspective
Not all Koreans want to date foreigners due to cultural differences and fear/prejudice. From my experience, probably only 10 percent are really interested.
For men, consider trying things that women traditionally do such as singing and dancing. Asking for a girl’s number on the street will automatically flag you as a player in their mind, unless there’s a reason to contact each other. A good friend of mine accidentally bumped into a girl on the subway. They’re now happily married.
For women, think about gaming or sports clubs. Western women are considered exotic and liberal in Korea. You’ll have to feel out the situation carefully if you’re looking for something serious.
Language exchange is always a safe choice to start testing the waters, because the people there are open-minded enough to want to improve their English skills. And, in the worst case you can improve your Korean!
What do Koreans do on a date?
The standard dating course is a restaurant (mostly Italian or Western style) then a cafe, plus something extra like watching a movie, taking photos at studios or booths, etc.
However, most Koreans live with their parents until they get married or move to another city for school/work. In order to get some privacy, couples go to a motel (A.K.A. love motel) where they can stay for a few hours (15-20 USD) or overnight (50 USD).
For celebrations or anniversaries, Korean couples go on a 2 or 3-day trip to Gangwon-do, Jeju Island or Busan. Before COVID-19, they used to go overseas together as well.
An Expat’s Perspective
This is where your uniqueness can shine through. Take locals to non-Korean locales that mainly expats know about. If you don’t know any, join a FB group for local foreign restaurants and events. There are tons of interesting places in Seoul like sheep cafes, archery cafes and gaming rooms where you can do something different.