For foreigners living in South Korea, the dating culture is something that cannot go unnoticed.
Most Korean youngsters prefer to date someone who is from the start a potential match, rather than to meet somebody by chance and risking any awkward situations or mismatches. If the blind date or meeting goes smooth and two people become involved, there are certain patterns that reoccur among South Korean lovebirds. Many young South Korean people who are dating tend to prefer not to publicly display their affection. Besides wearing the same clothes, there are plenty of occasions in South Korea to show your love without publicly displaying affection.
In South Korea, rather than celebrating anniversaries it is common for youngsters to measure the length of their relationships in units of 100 days. It is often mentioned by non-Korean people who have experience dating in South Korea that time appears to go faster than in their home countries. No, it’s not grand-grand-grand-granddad’s birthday cake but a Korean ‘500 Days’ couple anniversary cake. Since many young Koreans still live with their parents before graduation or before they are able to sustain themselves, they prefer to meet outdoors in order to avoid nosey parents. Once a couple has successfully been dating for a reasonable amount of time, the last stage of the dating process is an engagement followed by marriage. This article is written by using my own observations while living in Seoul for the past two years, and with the help of both foreign and Korean friends who are dating someone in South Korea at the moment. Couple rings, shirts, sneakers, pillows, caps, underwear… You name it, Korea probably has it, and people make them look stylish, not tacky. It can be pretty awkward to decide who’s going to get the bill, especially if it’s your first date.
Forget everything you ever learned about the ‘three day rule.’ Koreans love their smartphones with instant messaging apps and adorable emoticons, and couples will spend hours glued to their phones, chatting with their other half. Another distinctive characteristic of dating in Korea is the celebration of anniversaries, which take place every hundred days, and not just on an yearly basis. Overall, Koreans are not afraid to get touchy with close friends or family, but when it comes to public intimacy between couples, you might want to hide from judging grandmas. It’s not uncommon for Koreans to have two “ideal types”: one you’d like to date, and one you’d like to marry. Instead, a couple likes to wear clothes that match, an easy way to clearly show that the two people belong to one another. For example on Valentine’s Day a girl is supposed to give chocolates to someone she likes, while on White Day a guy gives candies to someone he likes.
That is to say, once a couple starts dating it is possible to get to the same level of intimacy and seriousness in merely two weeks, while in other countries months or years are needed for this. The best places to spot many couples in Seoul, for example, are the busy shopping streets of Myeongdong or in the many fancy coffee shops. For young Korean people it is important to first get the approval of their parents to get married and become financially independent. In Korea, dating is all about showing your affection for each other – couple menus, shirts, and sneakers are everywhere, and every month has at least one special, albeit incredibly commercial, day for couples to celebrate.
It is all about connections, and people commonly set their single friends up with each other.
Couples pretty much live in a fascinating parallel world of coupleness, and everyone wants to experience what it’s like to be in it.

While the status quo used to be that men pay for the first couple of dates (or even all of them), that is quickly changing, and women are no longer afraid to swipe their cards at the cashier. Don’t be surprised if you get a text from your crush every two hours, asking what you’re doing, eating, or thinking.
You might have seen K-pop groups and “We Got Married” couples bring out decorative cakes and gifts whenever it’s their 100th, 200th, or 1000th day together, and this is an accurate depiction of what happens in real life as well. It’s totally acceptable to hold hands, hug, and give a gentle kiss on the lips, but try to have your passionate makeout sessions in private. You might date a pretty girl with a wonderful personality, but if she can’t cook for her life or comes from a financially unstable family, marriage might be ruled out.
So, when young Koreans reach the perfect age, mostly the last years of high school or in college, the first search for a date and a possible life partner can begin. Rather than through a chance encounter, young Koreans often find a partner after they have been sent on a ‘blind date’ (???, sogaeting). For example, guys will probably pay for the first ‘round’ (1?), let’s say dinner, while girls will offer to pay for what follows after that, which could be a coffee in a fancy establishment. So rather than visually kissing and hugging in public spaces a couple might wear the same shoes, or same cute sweater. Also, Christmas is not necessarily a cozy family day, but another perfect day for couples to go out dating. Buying or making a cake and blowing the candles representing how many hundred days a couple has been together is also a popular way of celebrating this.
A possible explanation for this could be that once a young Korean person decides to date someone, all the criteria for being the perfect match are believed to be met. Since showing intimacy in public places is not done and meeting at home could possibly lead to awkward situations, young couples can go to the many ‘karaoke rooms’ (???, noraebang), ‘DVD-rooms’ (DVD?) or ‘multi-rooms’ (???, multibang), which are semi private rooms where one can sing songs, rent movies and spend some quality couple time.
Enough money should be saved by the couple (and mostly the parents as well) since the costs of getting married are high. There’s just so much to do and experience if you’re a couple, or at least going on dates, and that’s why everyone is always looking for someone! You’re technically going on a blind date, but at least you know (s)he’s not a creep (always a plus) and you should have something in common. Most restaurants and cafes have menus designed specifically for couples, major attractions have romantic date packages for two, and movie theaters even offer private couches for an intimate date. Korean couples rarely split the bill, and it’s usually the guy who gets the movie tickets, and the girl who pays for dinner afterwards. And remember to text back instantly, or (s)he might understand your silence as a rejection.
Additionally, couples have a unique romantic holiday to celebrate on the 14th of every month.
While contemporary Koreans are not exactly conservative, there are still unwritten rules regarding acceptable public display of affection, and anything beyond cute pecks tends to cross the invisible line, especially in bright daylight. Similarly, many Koreans are open to dating foreigners, but tend to be much more hesitant about interracial marriage. The person who one is supposed to meet in such an occasion is carefully preselected and introduced by either family or close friends. A man who is dating in South Korea is supposed to be a gentleman and is expected to treat his girlfriend in that manner.
In short, whether it’s in the same color, the same pattern or totally identical… as long as the outfit is matching, a couple is good to go!

On the portal website Naver there is even a calendar that helps couples to remember and count exactly how many days they have been in a relationship. The groom traditionally has to buy the house, while the bride has to take care of the furniture.
Naturally, each and every relationship is special and unique, and there’s no guidebook to mastering the “Korean dating style.” But, if you ever find yourself getting ready for a date in Korea, nervous and clueless about what to expect, our list should give you an idea of how dating here works. In Korea, people rarely meet anyone outside their personal school or work circle unless they’re introduced by a mutual friend. For those that are not used to such couple-centric culture, this might all sound puke-inducingly sweet, but once you try everything out yourself, you realize that the couple activities are actually fun and meaningful.
In the end, you end up paying around 50-50 or 60-40, which is what most people feel comfortable with. If you like someone, don’t be afraid to send a message even if you have nothing special to say – it’s just to show that you care. You have the traditional Valentine’s Day and White Day, but also ones like Rose Day, Wine Day, and Kiss Day.
Naturally, there are numerous couples who unexpectedly fall in love and end up tying the knot, so don’t automatically rule out marriage with your Korean partner.
In extreme cases, he will end up being the one who will pay for most of the bills, carrying his girlfriends bag around (no matter how pink or girlish it might look like), holding doors open, walking her to the bus and so on. However we must mention here that in recent years, the unwritten rule of non-display of affection in public is getting less strict. Seeing the skyrocketing real estate prices in South Korea, it is often the groom who bears the financial burden. Approaching people on the streets is not as common as in the West, for example, but young adults are generally more open to strangers than their parents’ generation, especially if they have had a drink or two.
Some couples use money from their joint bank account for dating costs (like Hong Jong Hyun and Yura on “We Got Married”), which just makes everything a tad bit more fair and convenient.
Just remember that traditionally, Koreans see marriage as a union between families – not just two individuals – which means that marriage will eventually require the approval of the Korean family, and not everyone considers this when they jump into a relationship.
Girls on the other hand have to raise their appearance and ‘cuteness factor’ once they start dating. Undoubtedly, but if you love planning romantic dinners and wrapping gifts in the cutest way possible, then you’re going to enjoy dating in Korea. A group of male friends will then meet a group of female friends to hangout and have a good time. A typical Korean girl knows how to address her boyfriend in a cute and childish way: “Oppaaa!” (??, meaning ‘boyfriend’, but also ‘older brother’) This is believed to help in significantly reducing the chance that he will become mad at her when she comes late on a date or when she wants him to buy something for her. Besides blind dating and college hangouts, seon (?) is another –however less popular– way to meet potential dating partners.
It is a very serious date, where both parties, including the parents, have high expectations of marriage right from the start.
In case neither of the above mentioned methods can bring love in the air, enrolling in a hobby or sports club (???, dongari) is yet another safe way to find a potential partner.

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