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Study Abroad Series: Dating Culture in South Korea

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SJSU chapter.

If you have ever watched Korean dramas, then you may be familiar with the dating culture in South Korea. Personally, having watched many dramas in the past, I’ve only ever seen these activities on a screen because they’re not as popular in western dating culture. Seeing it in real-time was fascinating and gave me a new perspective on life because of how distinct and popular some activities are compared to the states. Although I have never participated in these activities, it’s hard to miss when you’re walking around the streets of Seoul every day surrounded by couples, especially in the district I live in called Sinchon where there are many love hotels. South Korean dating culture has many characteristics, however, I will be listing a few I’ve seen that are arguably more noticeable than the rest:

1. Matching (커플룩)

Growing up in the states, matching was considered “cheesy” or “cringey” so it was fascinating coming into a culture that matching between couples was a norm. Since I arrived almost 3 months ago, I have seen almost every couple on the streets match clothing items, jewelry, and/or other accessories. In Korean, couple matching is spelled 커플룩 which means “couple look” and pronounced as “si-me-leo look”. Although they don’t identically match clothing items, the color scheme or pattern of their items has a resemblance that complements each other. Many stores emphasize couple matching clothes and accessories to attract lovers, including themed rentals for hanboks, school uniforms, and many more. Matching is a way to show the world that they love each other and is also a way to show your relationship status. Couples are glorified in South Korea, therefore, many want to show off that they’re in a loving relationship with their partner.

2. P.D.A (Physical Display of Affections)

When coming to South Korea, I was surprised with how many people showed physical displays of affection because I’ve researched that it isn’t popular or even taboo as South Korea is a more conservative country. Although it’s rarely sexual and intense, P.D.A is becoming more common in South Korean culture with holding hands, back hugs, laying on each other’s laps, leaning on each other’s shoulders, and kissing each other through their masks. I believe it is very cute, however, I try not to look at them but it’s difficult to avoid because they’re in every direction I look at. I just recently learned that a factor that I believe is the reason I’m constantly surrounded by couples is that the university I attend is located in the district that is a hotspot of young couples and teenagers due to the many love hotels around the area.  

3. White Day (화이트데이)

Everyone is familiar with Valentine’s day on February 14th, a day where couples celebrate their love for each other. In South Korea, Valentine’s day is traditionally when women give chocolates or a gift to their crush, significant other, or valentines as a form of affection to show their love. In addition to South Korea’s strong love culture, they have another day they celebrate on March 14th called White Day. White Day is traditionally when the roles are switched and men give chocolates or gifts to their crush and/or significant other to show their love and affection. The white day originated in Japan and is celebrated in a couple of East Asian countries. The name originated from the meaning of the color white, which is a symbol of purity that represents innocent young love.  

4. Meeting (미팅)

There are many ways for people to meet to get to know each other and hope for something more out of their newfound relationship. In South Korea, a popular dating method used among the younger generation is called “meeting”. It starts when a man invites 2-3 of his single male friends and a woman invites 2-3 of her single girlfriends, and they all usually go to a bar or cafe to have a group date. After the bar or cafe, they’ll go sing karaoke, play board games, or do other activities to get to know each other better and have fun together. Meetings aren’t always serious but are a good way for people to be introduced to new faces and if there’s a spark between some people, they’ll trade contact information and start dating. Although I have never participated in these meetings, I have seen them in Korean dramas and was fascinated by how easy going it is to meet someone new. 

Being immersed in South Korean culture has made me look at life from a different angle in so many ways. Dating culture was very eye-opening because I would compare how there are socially acceptable actions in the states that aren’t acceptable here in South Korea and vice versa. We’re all human, but we live in different parts of the world with different cultures, environments, languages, etc., and it’s what makes us who we are. We don’t choose where we’re born, and we don’t choose which culture we’re born into but it’s fascinating to learn about different cultures from around the world. There’s so much history as to why South Korean culture, including dating, has evolved into how it is today and I’m grateful and privileged to have the chance to be learning about it first-hand. These are the differences in dating culture present in South Korea compared to what I’m used to back in California, and I hope to learn so much more about their beautiful culture for the rest of my duration here!

To empower others through words. I am a junior at San Jose State University and pursuing a profession in Marketing! I love to share the many journeys I go through and the many lessons I've learned in my writing! Reading articles from empowering women gives me the strength to persevere in the competitive culture of business because of the support we give one another. Personally, what makes writing fulfilling to me is the inspiration, motivation, and knowledge I give others when I write about the lessons I've learned through the obstacles I've faced. Words are powerful, and writing is an art that I use to express myself and who I am. I am grateful to have a platform to share my story, and I hope you enjoy reading my articles :)