Dreaming of romantic days with your favourite Korean idol? Looking for love in the Land of Morning Calm? Started dating in Korea already? Well you should definitely read this Korean dating advice for expats before declaring your first ‘sarang-hae‘ to your Korean partner.
There are many dangers to dating in Korea that you may not be aware of, from knowing when to celebrate romantic days together, what you can and can’t do in public, and the problems you’ll face if you decide to get serious one day.
Whilst this article shouldn’t be taken too seriously, it might offer some practical Korean dating advice for expats who are looking for or found love in Korea. It won’t stop you getting kimchi-slapped, however.
Even if you don’t plan to date in Korea, this article will introduce you to various cultural aspects of romance, love, and life in Korea that I hope you’ll find interesting. Read on to discover the 10 dangers of dating in Korea.
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About This Korean Dating Advice For Expats
First of all, and this is really important, please read the following message before going any further in this silly article.
This is a work of satire and designed to point out cultural differences between Korea and the rest of the world and maybe make some people laugh a little bit.
Please don’t take this as actual Korean dating advice for expats – you will probably end up very alone if you do. However, that’s not to say that these 10 dangers of dating in Korea aren’t real.
I hope that by reading through this article you’ll learn a bit about cultural differences (or similarities) between dating in Korea and the rest of the world.
10 Dangers Of Dating In Korea For Expats
This Korean dating advice for expats is based on real-life experiences of myself and others who are dating (or married) in Korea. It’s also based on my own research and observations of Korean culture, couples, and traditions.
Whilst some of these issues might apply to other countries, I’ve tried to explain how they relate to Korea specifically.
I’ve personally been dating a Korean for more than 5 years, through good times and bad (mostly good). I’ve also attended several lovely weddings between Koreans and expats.
The views expressed here are meant to apply to anyone, but may be slightly skewed towards my own perspective as a male expat. Sorry about that.
Now I’m sure you’re eager to learn all about the top 10 dangers of dating in Korea for expats, so without further ado here they are.
Please note: these are not really meant to be taken literally and I don’t endorse any unnecessary stereotypes or prejudices about life or love in Korea.
Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money before and during your Korean adventure.
Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA): Most countries need a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Apply before you travel only with the Official K-ETA Site.
Staying Connected: Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a Portable WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport. Collection desks are open 24 hours. Alternatively, download a Korean eSIM for you travels.
Hotels In Korea: Staying in Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). Find the best hotel prices across Korea with Agoda, Klook, or Hotels.com.
Incheon Airport To Seoul: Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a limo bus across Seoul. Don’t like carrying heavy suitcases? Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.
Korean Tours: Find the best tours in Korea with tour companies that have a big presence in Korea, including Klook, Trazy, Viator, and Get Your Guide. These sites also offer discounted entry tickets for top attractions.
Seoul City Passes: Visit Seoul’s top attractions for free with a Discover Seoul Pass or Go City Seoul Pass. These passes are especially good for families and couples visiting Seoul and can save you lots.
Transportation: Get a T-Money Card or WOWPASS to pay for public transport, including buses, subways, and taxis. For Korea’s high speed trains, save money and get unlimited rides with a Korea Rail Pass.
Travel Money: Exchange foreign currency in Myeongdong or Hongdae money exchanges. Pick up a Wise, Revolut, or WOWPASS travel money card for the best rates and convenient card payments in Korea.
Flights To Korea: I recommend using flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner to find the best flights to Korea from any country. Air Asia is a good option for budget flights from Asia.
Learning Korean: Want to learn Korean? I recommend a complete language learning course from 90 Day Korean or Korean Class 101 – both have well-structured lessons and lots of useful resources.
1: You’ll Have To Co-ordinate Your Clothes
That’s right, when dating in Korea your individual style is a thing of the past. From now on you’ll have to go shopping together to pick out the best outfit that you can both wear to help everyone know that you’re a couple when you’re out in public.
Korea has been obsessed with couple’s clothing for several decades now with the practice started by newlyweds who wanted to show their newly-married status by wearing the same clothes. Nowadays it’s been adopted by Korean couples to show they’re dating.
As an expat dating in Korea, you should definitely make sure your partner doesn’t have any strange fashion tastes that will end up in your wardrobe! Hopefully matching haircuts won’t be coming in the future, too.
Korean dating advice for expats #1: Embrace this chance to show your affection for your Korean partner, but be sure to draw the line at matching outfits for just the two of you. This danger can spiral out of control and suddenly the whole family (and your pets) are wearing matching outfits and that’s a weird place to be!
2: Hugs & Kisses In Public Aren’t Allowed
This second danger of dating in Korea probably explains the first – you’re not allowed to kiss, hug or show any public displays of affection (PDA) in Korea. If you’re used to expressing your feelings of love in public, then this will definitely be a tough one to handle.
I’m not talking about wild bouts of passion either, a simple hug can be enough to disrupt the social harmony and cause you to receive angry shouts from offended viewers. This is not a uniquely Korean situation, but you should be aware of it if you plan to date in Korea.
In all seriousness, I’ve been shouted at by Koreans for PDA (even in modern Seoul). If you’re lucky, your Korean partner won’t be too bothered by what are increasingly considered outdated rigid moral values, but definitely keep this in mind when out in public. Fortunately, holding hands is generally acceptable.
Korean dating advice for expats #2: If you feel like you can’t control your passion when out and about, try to find a quiet alley to have a quick cuddle and kiss before heading back into the ever-watching gaze of the general population. Also, PDA rules don’t apply so strictly when on holiday.
3: Dates Will Be Complicated & Embarrassing
Dating in Korea involves a lot more than a trip to the cinema or Italian meal for two with pasta, wine, and candles. Expats looking for love in Korea should be prepared for more complicated (and potentially embarrassing) dates than they’re used to.
Not only will you be wearing your matching outfits and keeping a respectable distance from each other, you’ll also have to go somewhere different every time, a hot new place in town, and somewhere that looks good on Instagram.
Dates could include an afternoon at a racoon cafe, an elaborate photo session at the latest cool cafe, a day dressing up in retro Korean outfits, a long journey out to a new cafe in the mountains, or even an afternoon petting alpacas.
Korean dating advice for expats #3: Always turn up to a date well dressed. It’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed, especially if you’re going to take lots of pictures. When eating or drinking, order whatever looks the best for pictures regardless of taste.
4: You’ll Put On Weight From Shared Meals
Being single in Korea is a great way to stay slim and avoid eating big meals. A real problem of dating in Korea is suddenly gaining access to the many Korean restaurants that you’d only be able to visit when there’s two or more people.
No one goes to eat Korean BBQ, budae jjigae (army stew), or dak-galbi (spicy chicken stir-fry – pictured) by themselves, but when you’re dating in Korea, these dishes are suddenly available to you and your partner.
These dishes are incredible and there’s really nothing better than moving from a lonely plate of gimbap or bowl of ramyeon to a steaming pot of something spicy and fried for two. Don’t expect to be able to stick to your diet once these Korean culinary delights become available to you!
Korean dating advice for expats #4: Limit the number of nights out together each week. Starve yourself on non-date nights and live for the shared meals out. If your partner suggests adding cheese or noodles to your dish, you know you’ve found love.
5: You’ll Always Be Second To Their Idol
This is just one of those things you’ll have to accept when dating in Korea. There are many popular idols and your significant other is likely to have chosen their favourite long before they ever met you.
Whether they’re obsessed with someone from BTS, Black Pink, TWICE, or Big Bang (or all of them), you have to admit to yourself that you’re just never going to be as handsome / pretty / talented / adored as they are. This is their first crush, their first obsession, and it’s for life.
Korean dating advice for expats #5: Apparently I’m competing against Tony from H.O.T. and as long as he never meets my Korean girlfriend, it’s probably not too dangerous. Never let your Korean partner meet their favourite idol to be safe.
6: Valentine’s Day Will Confuse You
For most countries in the world, Valentine’s Day on February 14th is a romantic day where couple’s come together to celebrate their feelings for each other with gifts and greedy meals. Whilst Valentine’s Day still exists in Korea, it’s not quite the same as in other countries.
In Korea, Valentine’s Day is a day when women buy gifts for men. That seems rather unfair, you might think, but there’s actually a second Valentine’s-like Day on March 14th, called White Day, when men return the favour. Two romantic days for the price for one!
And if that’s not enough, April 14th is Black Day – a day for single people to celebrate being… single. Actually, there are 12 ‘romantic days‘ in a year, all on the 14th. There’s a day for kissing (not in public), a day for exchanging diaries, taking photos, drinking wine, etc., etc.
Don’t forget to celebrate them all if you want to make the most of dating in Korea.
Korean dating advice for expats #6: If in doubt, buy your loved one a present on Valentine’s Day. Or every month, just to be sure. Don’t trust them when they tell them that Valentine’s day is for men / women to buy gifts as it’ll probably be the opposite of what they tell you. Also, Korean BBQ is a romantic meal out.
7: You’ll End Up Adopting Korean Expressions
Whilst dating in Korea as an expat, you might find yourself improving your Korean skills a lot. After all, you have the perfect resource available to help you level up your language skills. However, this can also be a danger of dating in Korea.
Koreans have a wide range of expressions that they utter in a range of situations. With constant exposure to them, they might end up replacing your own native language. Also, your partner might end up calling you certain names that you adopt and use with non-Koreans, too.
To express frustration you might find yourself saying ‘ah, jinjja!‘ (oh, really!), or nodding along in agreement with ‘ne, majayo‘ (that’s true). Some other examples include calling people ‘babo‘ or ‘meongcheong‘, which both translate as being stupid – something I’m often called, haha.
The danger comes when you start using these Korean Expressions with non-Koreans and people who don’t know Korean. You might get some strange looks and people asking you what you’re talking about.
Korean dating advice for expats #7: Do your best to Learn Korean, it will certainly help a lot, especially if you want to impress your partner’s family. Find a way to balance using your own language and Korean, such as agreeing to alternate between the two languages on different days. Find out more in this article:
8: You’ll Have A Hard Time Convincing People To Come To Your Wedding
After some time dating in Korea you might realise that you want to go ahead and get married to your Korean partner. Good for you! There are an increasing number of Korean and foreigner weddings every year. In fact, of all the Foreigners In Korea, there are more than 166,000 international couples.
Korean wedding culture, which I could write a whole article about, is quite different from what most expats might be used to. One major difference is that you have to pay to attend a wedding – the ‘fee’ depending on how close you are to the couple. I typically pay around 50,000 KRW ($45) for a friend’s wedding.
Yes, in Korea guests are expected to pay a fee to come to the wedding. Friends, family, and co-workers might be expected to pay even if they don’t come to the wedding!
This isn’t really that different from buying gifts for the newlyweds and certainly saves time when planning what to get them. And they get to choose how to spend the cash.
The idea of paying for a wedding is that you’re helping the couple get set for their life together in a new place. Many Korean couples move into a new apartment after getting married, and the money is to help them get set up.
Korean dating advice for expats #8: If you’re attending a friend’s wedding in Korea, make sure you send them an invite to your wedding later on. Invite as many people as you can for maximum wedding-profit. But remember, you also need to provide a big buffet for your guests.
9: Your Children Will Make You Feel Stupid
After getting married, you should probably have lots of children to help out Korea’s shrinking population problem. Then you can pass on all this helpful Korean dating advice to your own kids.
The problem with having kids in Korea, besides the exorbitant fees you’ll have to pay for private education, is that they’ll probably make you feel kind of stupid. I don’t mean that you’ll be embarrassed by them and make you regret having kids, I mean that they’ll be much smarter than you.
Unless you’re from Singapore, chances are your children will have a much higher IQ than you when they’ve finished digesting their diet of education. Currently, South Koreans are the 4th smartest in the world (Behind Singapore, China, & Hong Kong), but the Future IQ Scores based on the ability of high school students puts South Korea at number 2.
Can you handle your own child knowing more than you?
Korean dating advice for expats #9: Raising a kid in Korea can be very expensive, especially if you want them to get into a top Korean university. Make sure they get a good enough job to pay you back in the future for your investment.
10: You Might End Up Living In Korea Forever
The biggest danger of dating in Korea, after surviving dating, getting married, and having smart kids, is that you might spend the rest of your life in the Land of Morning Calm!
Once you’ve spent all this time living in Korea, adapting to a Korean diet and learning all those Korean phrases, you might not want to head back to your own country.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to find yourself a spot on the side of a hill for a traditional Korean grave, like the ones in the pictures above.
Wouldn’t that be terrible?
Korean dating advice for expats #10: Start saving up for your pension now and find a nice spot to retire to. I’d recommend somewhere on Jeju Island with a small rice field / tangerine forest so you can live out your days living off the earth and enjoy staring out into the waves.
Want To Know More About Expat Life In Korea?
This article was designed to introduce some aspects of Korean culture loosely based around the issues you might find dating in Korea as an expat. However, there’s so much more to understanding Korean culture that hasn’t been covered here.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Korean culture, etiquette, expat life in Korea, or my own personal story in Korea, these articles below are a great place to get started.
Find out about my expat life in Korea, including what I love and what I struggle with as a foreigner in Korea. Also learn about my EPIK life, which tells you all about my 5 years working for the EPIK Program where foreigners are placed in schools to help Korean students learn English from native speakers.
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