5 Tips for Ex-pats on Dating and Finding Love in Korea!
The birds and the bees: No matter where you travel in the world, dating and relationships are bound to affect you personally and culturally. When I left the United States to teach English in South Korea, I had no idea what the dating scene would be like: Do Korean boys like American girls? Would their be other expats to choose from? What are the Korean cultural norms and values about dating? Luckily, thanks to the extensive experience of my friends, and my own research, I can now report that the dating scene is alive and thriving in the ROK for expats and Koreans alike. So read on for some tips and tricks to dating, relationships, and finding love abroad.
1. Making Nice with the Locals:
Making Korean friends is one of the most important aspects of living and working in Korea. As my Korean friend and tailor, Joe, says: "You are in Korea! Talk to the Koreans, eat with the Koreans, drink with the Koreans, make love with the Koreans!" (yes, Joe is quite the character). But he has a valid point: meeting the locals is the BEST way to learn about Korean culture and increase your chances of making that love connection. Trick: If you meet a Korean guy or gal that you are interested in, offer to become language exchange partners. Most Koreans are eager to learn English, so you can offer your services.
2. Co-worker Drama:
Though work relationships can be drama-free and fun, my best advice is to avoid dating a co-worker. Hagwons are typically comprised of 5-12 teachers and, thus, become a tight-knit network. That being said, when a relationship goes sour, maintaining social distance from your co-worker/ex is not always an option. Not only will you see them at work, but you will most likely see them out and about at company dinners and work meetings. So, take my advice and date ex-pats from other hagwons, public schools, or take a cultural leap and date a Korean. Trick: If you do find that you are interested in a co-worker, make sure that you have other Korean and foreign friends to diversify your social life so you don't get stuck in the rut of only hanging out with co-workers and so you have other circles of friends to frequent should your relationship go south.
3. Cute Girls/Successful Boys:
From my experience, Korean women typically go for successful and physically fit men (not much of a cultural difference there). So, if you're interested in dating a Korean lady, you better expect to pay for dinners and tone up that tummy fat ;). Now don't get me wrong, you don't have to be Leo DiCaprio or Rain to get a lady, you just have to take care of yourself, exude confidence, and treat the ladies with respect.
As for Korean men, they are slightly less interested in foreign women. Gender roles in Korea are a bit more rigid than in the West, so Korean men typically like women who are dainty, passive, and petite (I hate to stereotype, but that might not apply to many Western ladies living on their own overseas). As such, not every Korean man will find a strong, assertive, outgoing woman to be his cup of tea. That is not to say, however, that there are not opportunities to date Korean men. My best friend is currently dating a 27 year-old Korean man, and she is a curvaceous, outgoing Jamaican woman. Trick: They say that love has a language and, in Korea, the language is...well, Korean. So, if you're really interested in dating a Korean man or woman, learn their language. After all, communication is the basis of every good relationship!
4. Long Distance Relationships:
I have actually met several foreigners who have maintained successful long-distance relationships while living in Korea. The advent of instant messaging, email, webcams, and Skype makes keeping your long-distance love alive more convenient than ever. However, I recommend remaining in a long-distance relationship if, and only if, you and your partner are extremely committed and have a very high-level of trust. Because of the time difference, talking everyday is not always possible and meeting new, interesting, and attractive people is inevitable. So, consider the pros and cons of a long-distance relationship before you move to Korea. Trick: I have actually maintained a phenomenal long-distance relationship while teaching in the ROK and strongly suggest using every electronic method available. My boyfriend and I Skype, use IM, send pictures and videos, Facebook, and make an effort to never go more than 2 or 3 days without talking. This keeps us close, while still allowing us to enjoy our lives on opposite sides of the globe.
5. The X-Pat Factor:
The demand for English teachers is extremely high in Korea; therefore, public schools and hagwons recruit from English speaking countries. As such, there is a never ending smorgasbord of ex-pats to choose from. During my first week in South Korea, I met a dashing Englishman, a rowdy American, a Guinness smashing Irishman, and a sensitive Nigerian. You will find that most ex-pats are single and ready to mingle. Although some are looking for a serious relationship, it seems that most just want to have a good time. Trick: Local bars and clubs are a hot spot for most ex-pats, so my best advice is to put on your dancing shoes, throw back a few shots of soju, and get footloose with a cute ex-pat or, better yet, a sexy local.
Now that you're locked and loaded with the best advice available for dating in the ROK, get out there and live it up!
After receiving her degree in Secondary English Education from Indiana University, Hope Gately wanted to experience Korea's famous educational system, which is currently ranked #2 worldwide. She began teaching at the Pohang-Namgu branch of ChungDahm Learning in Korea last year, after being recruited by Aclipse. Since Hope is an avid hiker, foodie, and fashion enthusiast, she loves living in Korea and enjoys the mountains, cuisine, and "Kill-Heels." Questions about teaching in Korea? Follow Hope on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AclipseHope and email her at Aclipsehope@gmail.com!