[Q&A] Dating in Korea vs. America vs. Europe

How do Korean-American couples differ from Korean-Korean couples or even Korean-European couples? What does Korean couple holding hands truly mean? And does love or relationship come first in Korean dating culture? That is what our next reader is concerned about:
Korean American couple Korean European couple Dating culture in South Korea

Anonymous asked,

Korean American European couple Korean dating culture hand holdingHey there! So I was just wanting some insight on a relationship that I have found myself in.
I’m a 22y/o Canadian Female, and He is a 29 y/o Native S. Korean. We met through volunteering at our church, and hit it off pretty quickly. He is super outgoing and funny, and we went out for dinner in Feb, where I secured a big crush on him :)
I decided not to jump out and confess to him, but just to be friends and see where it goes!

About a month later, with us hanging out fairly often in groups, He confessed that he liked me and I confessed back. I did not expect it, or see it coming! It was a lovely surprise. We started to hang out alone more, and he got more physical (Hand holding, cheek kissing all that junk haha) and I really was growing to like him, excited to another person in my life.

The thing was we never decided that we were dating or where it was going, so I was feeling torn about enjoying that date-y atmosphere when we were together, but having a Casual-contact friendship when apart.

Fast forward a month (to Apr 28th about) and I told him that we needed to talk about where this was going. After dinner we went to a coffee shop and talked. I told him I knew what I wanted, but did he? I told him I am looking for a relationship in the future. We talked a long time, he said he worried a lot about losing our friendship if we broke up and really wanting to be careful because I am important to him. These things make sense and I respect it!

The MAIN thing that came out of this is that He said “In Korean culture, one party falls in love, and then you become boyfriend and girlfriend” and he was SHOCKED when I told him that here, often we will date as b/f g/f for a year even and then say I love you. He wants to pursue the friendship and wait on “A change of heart” but I don’t know how to pursue something that seems to be lacking commitment? I would love insight into this if you have any!

He asked for time to think, now that he knows how I feel and we didn’t contact each other for almost 1.5 weeks after the conversation. We did hang out in a group the other night, and it was nice, he texted me after wishing me well to work. I really care for this guy, and I don’t want to have our friendship fall in to awkward-ville, but I also don’t want to find out I’ve been “friend-zoned” haha :)

Difference between Korean and American and Western dating culture

When guy (or girl), whether he is a Korean guy or not, talks about being afraid of losing the friendship, in most cases it is a sign that “friend-zoning” has already happened.

Actually, this Korean vs American vs European cultural difference you mentioned is something that came up in a conversation between Kimchi Man and me not while ago. Now, keep in mind that everything we know about North American dating culture come from sitcoms and movies so don’t take what I’m about to say too seriously.

We realized that both in Korea and all the European countries I know, people first have feelings for each other and then become a couple. In North America, when people are dating, they often start going out with someone they do not have feelings for yet and then wait to see if it is going to happen.

We both agreed that for us this seems like doing things backwards. Honestly, we can’t imagine how awkward it would be if we were spending time with someone who we knew was there to judge our eligibility as a life partner.

All the couples we know met each other, were friends first, fell in love, and then became a couple.

I understand you want commitment, but you are most likely going to have to look for it from a different guy. Still, the fact that he likes you as a friend means a lot, it is a good relationship foundation, and he may yet surprise us and have a change of heart.

Readers, what do you think, should love or relationship come first?

You might also like:

 Difference in dating in Europe Korea America Do Korean guys only date dating culture in Korea America Europe
[Q&A] Do Koreans value Europeans more than Americans? [Q&A] If Korean guy prefers Korean girls do I stand a chance? [Q&A] Do Koreans know that Europeans find them attractive?



10 thoughts on “[Q&A] Dating in Korea vs. America vs. Europe

  1. Thanks for the response, I really appreciate you’re insight into it. It’s cool to see that this is a wider spread cultural difference! I will do some more thinking about it and let you know where it goes! Thanks again for the thoughts!

  2. I read in this book about Korean culture that in a more traditional sense, (and forgive me if I explain this unclearly) if they date someone, then they’re boyfriend-girlfriend and it’s serious dating. It’s not common for them to date around like we do in the United States (like go on numerous blind dates, or first dates, or few dates and switch dating partners, whatever). I don’t think that’s just a Korean thing, as conservative Taiwanese/Chinese young adults are like that too.

    On top of that, if you are introduced to the family, it’s a big freaking deal because introduction to family (almost) means that’s the person you’re going to marry. I’m sure a lot of families are more open/liberal, but I think that’s the conservative stance. My parents are still pretty like that, and my Korean boyfriend’s parents are a LITTLE more liberal, but it was definitely a big deal when I met them/went to their house and what not.

    But I think as people become less conservative, of course friendship and development of feeling is important before getting into a relationship! :)

    • It’s actually like that in Europe too. At least the countries I am familiar with. If you’re dating it’s serious enough that you shouldn’t date other people at the same time.

      • Oh no no, I don’t mean dating other people at the same time… like cheating. I mean like you could go out with one guy for a few dates, realize you don’t really want to be in a relationship with him, and then go on another date with another guy, and test your waters that way?

        Whereas, more conservatively… you’re strictly friends until you meet someone you want to date, and then you get into a relationship with them.

        Sorry if I explained it badly!

    • It is kind of true. I had a Korean boyfriend and they are very serious and committed(:
      I met his family, and we have couple rings and all that jazz.

      • My boyfriend is just like that! Very strong about buying me things and refuses to listen when I tell him to stop. Also confessed rather early into our friendship but respects my need of something slow-paced.

  3. First love, of course. The opposite is not natural and very few couples will be successful

    For what I have understood about Korean men they are very honest in this regard (that’s something I appreciate), if they love you show it, if not also

  4. Hi, i’m from Eastern Europe (Romania). I like the blog to start with. Secondly, in my country 7% of population last year were Chinese immigrants (which is kinda weird since the Romanian youth goes all around the Europe to work, study and live.) I wondered how come that the Chinese pple adjust so good to “our style”. I teach and one of my students is from a mixt family.
    Now, i’ll get to the subject “dating”. Here, bringing someone “home” and present the one as bf/ gf is a huge deal! The parents know you’re dating X or Y but you don’t bring the person home and SAY “he is my bf/ she is my gf” unless is serios, you’re in love or smth. Otherwise you say they are your “friends” and that’s that (testing waters). The moment your parents know is like getting yourself in problems because they ask: is your relationship going OK? And i mean, they ask daily! It’s been like that for generations, it’s the “i care for your happiness” sign.
    The mother of my student told me that they live nicely because besides the element symbolism (Chinese) which they apply in their home, they live mostly by Romanian cultural background. Invited over to dinner i was shocked to notice that besides the “3 types of meat Rule”, soya sauce and the chopsticks everything was quite … usual. When she told me that was “Chinese cooking” i was like: “R u kidding? This is what i do myself!” (usually the Romanians overcook vegetables, but i like to feel the taste of each and this is how the 2 stews were done).
    Here, in matter of dating there are 2 trends, both going on like that from generations. First going from friendship in a group to admiring someone, becoming good friends and then developing into a romance (which i was lucky to follow and those experiences brought tremendous joy). Second being physically atracted to someone, getting closer but not waiting to become friends and experience from that point forward. I don’t know many pple like me, but i have few former relationships that got back to the “friendship zone” and those friendships last for years now. My husband said he couldn’t remain friends with his exes because he always followed his attraction path, exept for me who “played around” for moths not giving him a straight answer to the “let’s be lovers” signals he sent :))))) But that’s another topic.
    Hope i brought a new insight here for the cultural differences.

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