Korean dating culture has its own set of unspoken rules that are more conservative than you might be used to.
Here are the most important things to know before dating.
Keep in mind that individual experiences may vary, and not every Korean person follows these practices. Here are some general customs of Korean dating culture!
1. Meetings and Introductions
Koreans don’t usually meet romantic partners randomly. Most go to bars or clubs with friends and stay with them the whole night.
Meeting potential partners often happens through introductions by friends or family members, or through social events and gatherings.
Blind dates, known as “sogeting”, are quite common. These are arranged by friends or matchmakers, and the individuals involved may not know much about each other beforehand.
2. Conservative Approach
Korean dating culture tends to be more conservative compared to Western cultures. Most don’t break the touch barrier until after a few dates, including hugging, holding hands, or putting your arm around someone.
Public displays of affection (PDA) are often frowned upon, especially in more traditional settings.
3. Group Dates
Group dating is a popular way for young people to get to know each other. It provides a more relaxed and less pressured environment.
You may see a group of ten Korean people having dates, especially in college.
4. Relationship Milestones
The progression of a relationship is often marked by certain milestones. The first phase is called, “some” (flirting) which is considered casual dating. During this phase, you can see other people. Don’t be surprised if you’re ghosted at this stage.
If things go well, they will escalate to a “gobek” or (confession of love) which results in an exclusive relationship or “going steady”. The guy is expected to do this, and it marks the first day of a relationship.
In Korean culture, the relationship is expected to result in marriage and kids. There are exceptions to this rule depending on where you live, the age, and personality of the person you’re dating.
5. Couple Outfits
It’s not uncommon for couples to wear matching outfits, particularly in the early stages of a relationship.
This is seen as a cute and endearing practice. I’ve seen couples matching from head to toe including socks and shoes.
6. Celebration of Relationship Anniversaries
Couples in Korea often celebrate various relationship milestones, including the 100th day (baek-il), 200th day, and so on.
These celebrations are considered important in Korean dating culture. Older couples will celebrate these less frequently than younger ones.
7. Gender Roles
Men are still expected to pay for meals and women will pay for coffee and dessert if she likes you.
Men are expected to be chivalrous by holding their date’s bag, giving her his coat if it’s cold, driving her home or walking her to the subway station/bus stop, etc.
Women will dress up and make lunchboxes when going on a picnic.
8. Meeting the Parents
Meeting the parents is a significant step in a Korean relationship. It signifies that the relationship is becoming more serious as in marriage is on the horizon. Asking your partner to meet their parents can be interpreted as a marriage proposal or interest.
It’s important to make a good impression on the parents or things can end abruptly.
9. Kakaotalk and Social Media
Kakaotalk, a popular messaging app in Korea, is often the primary mode of communication between couples. Guys should message after a first date within a day.
Couples text each other multiple times a day. If a guy doesn’t message every few hours, it might be taken as a sign of disinterest or neglect.
Social media also plays a significant role in keeping up with each other’s lives.
10. Valentine’s Day and White Day
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Korea, with women giving chocolates to men. On White Day (March 14), men reciprocate by giving candies and gifts to women.
It’s a fun thing to try out, but don’t expect your partner to go along with this in the USA.
11. Military Service Impact
In South Korea, men have to perform mandatory military service. This is a trying time for relationships and women often break up with the guy.
Note that there’s a lot of social pressure on women to get married, so they often feel like they’re on the clock.
While these are general trends, individual experiences and practices can vary widely. Also, as with any culture, attitudes and practices are evolving, and younger generations may approach dating differently.
Did we miss anything?
Let me know if you have any questions about Korean dating culture!
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