Now, I'll say from the git-go that this isn't a post about "How to Get Korean Women." I'm no expert on such things, and if you're a foreigner in Korea, you should have no trouble becoming the object of interest for somebody here, especially given the universal element of curiosity, bolstered by the powerful narcotic of largely American media that sets up white masculinity (as well as Western modes of desire) as the standard of beauty itself. Hence, Joe Schmoe from back home gets called "Brad Pitt" here. So it goes.
I'll also say that I don't buy into the racist assumptions around the issue of international/interracial dating; by virtue of personal experience, observation, and anecdote, the chimera of "white man hoodwinks hapless Korean woman" or "I'm sick of seeing white losers with Korean women above their station as a reflection of the neo-colonial relationship with the United States and a problematic colonized attitude vis a vis whiteness" are usually just longer and less honest ways of pretty much expressing disgust at interracial couples. It's racism in fancier language. Basically, if you don't like seeing white men with Korean women AS A RULE, you are making big generalizations and are being racist when you speak/act negatively against them.
After all, it's pretty simple: unless you are an omniscient being who can read minds, know the hidden circumstances and motivations of others, and have a clairvoyant grasp of things that take place without you there, you're going on supposition and pre-judging. Prejudice. Pretty simple.
Yeah, one can quote statistics about "outmarriage" rates or the myriad alleged "wrong reasons" people get into relationships; but I know gentlemen who prefer blondes or redheads, girls who wear skimpy clothes, or just judge women by the size of their mammaries, but you'd have to go and ask about those, right? The only difference is that with an interracial couple, one aspect of their relationship veers from the norm and is displayed from the skin. And yeah, on American college campuses, there are a lot of nice, Jewish boys names Seth who seem to tend to date Helen Kim or Susie Lee; my hunch is that in the 2000's, there's at least as much to be said for the facts of demographics and socio-economic similiarities as there is for the "Susie Wong" fantasy; even that chimera is so outdated and 80's. Has anyone even seen that ancient flick?
And in the end, I've never seen the emotion of "disgust" at seeing interracial couples come from anything rational or noble. You can dress it up, but you're still being racist when you voice such bullshit when you see an interracial couple pass by. Basic home training says that you don't know them, and it ain't none of your business. Period.
That being said, I do notice the couple mismatches and weirdos who make your skin crawl with women who seem to not be in the know and aren't picking up the same signals as one's fellow peoples might. But, to each, his own, and I find those people in the vast minority. Most foreign folks I see in Korea are just doing what's pretty natural when people are in their 20's. And white men in particular in Asia enjoy a temporary boost to whatever actual sexual capital they possessed at home. That's life, and to try to act otherwise just makes us the asshole acting on supposition. Yeah, it'd be great if there were more available black men for upwardly mobile black women, but I'm not going to rake some sista over the coals for dating out. And anyway, who would I be to talk?
And we live in Korea – the numbers say that if you're a non-Korean man, the dating pool is incomparably larger than the few random foreigners around here, who are part of the same, largely transitory group. On top of the fact that anyone can see that, whatever one's preference, the Korean female population ain't half bad, why is anyone surprised to see foreign men dating Korean women?
Then we get to the topic of the Korean women themselves. I've rarely seen this much-heralded "white man dupes innocent Korean girl" trope in actual life. In fact, that doesn't give Korean women very much credit, does it? If there are "motives" to be talked of, then I think that yeah, there are people looking for a little fun, a little romance, perhaps some sexual adventure, and most of it with the inherent assumption that it will be somewhat temporary.
Doesn't sound too different from what most people in their 20's are doing in any modern country, or have you been to a Korean dance club lately? I don't see many people in there looking for marriage partners while booking, or even going to the ubiquitous "meeting" amongst college freshmen. I think anyone who says, "I am looking for my life-long mate here," would find themselves wangttaed as fast as people could politely make excuses to not get picked to sit across from that guy.
So, this post will have no truck of the "they're stealing our women" post nor any expletives related to that topic. Keep your comments to real observations or reasoned thoughts, not wild prejudice. Zap, zap, zap will go those comments, because I don't want to let this drag down into that silly conversation that has no end. Since I've laid down the ground rules for this discussion as being "prejudicial attacks that are not real discussion" and that such comments will be zapped as fast as they come in, don't be silly and cry "censorship" because I'm not the state, nor a large corporation who owns a media outlet, nor the school principal stifling criticism of one's alma mater.
Feel free to open your own blog on how much interracial dating is problematic, or the white men are stealing all the women in Korea, or how "problematic" whites dating Asians in the US is. No one's stopping you. Feel free!
Right now, I feel I'm set up to talk about what is actually not much of a thorny issue, but the real meat and potatoes of some of the problems people often have here when dating Korean women. I talk about dating Korean women because I haven't gone the other way around, since I'm a) not a woman, and b) don't date men. I could talk out of my ass and try to include that, but I think it's always better to have people with some experience in certain matters talk about those matters.
And I'm not talking as some "expert" or some post-Chosun-era Casanova, but as a normal man who has had several normal relationships with Korean women. Ooooh. Scandalous! Foreigner has dated Korean women. Serially. Several. Has gone to TGI Fridays and walked along the Han River and fallen in love and often laughed, sometimes argued, often just sat around watching movies and talking with...Korean women!
If the newspapers are looking for a scandalous story about how I've actually behaved as a normal, heterosexual male with women of Korean descent in Korea – start the presses! It's about to get thick with the scent of international intrigue up in here!
Now, to the matter at hand.
In my experience, and in the vicarious experiences I've had through the stories of many others, the main problem with dating Korean women as a non-Korean man is cultural. Ooh. Big revelation, right? But let me tell you what I mean.
I hate the word "culture." It's so vaguely defined, often misused, and done so without any thought to the fact that using the word actually means you're not talking about anything specific. I'm not talking about "culture" in terms of ancient artifacts, or notions that people are essentially apt to behave in any way; I'm talking about patterns: patterns of socialization, patterns of ideological inculcation, patterns of being exposed to certain amounts and kinds of information.
People still talk about "culture" as if it's written in the blood, written on the skin, or written on one's passport. So, obviously, being "non-Korean" in the way that I see it can include many Korean Americans who have been been born, raised, and educated in the US. Because I've seen the same problems crop up with Korean American men dating Korean women as white or black or whatever dudes dating Korean women.
And I've seen personality and happenstance of circumstance mitigate a lot of what I see as real "cultural differences," as well; I know a couple American guys who've married Korean women who are more "traditional" and "family-oriented" in an "old-fashioned" way than many Korean men, who are supposed to be the arbiters of old school thinking. And I've known Korean American men who simply find Korean women endlessly boring – in their estimation – and generally only date other Asian American or other American women. So it goes.
So, the way I see it, the main differences that crop up between American men (and other cultures that happen to be similar to the cultural patterns that are of interest to us here) and Korean women have to do with socialization, i.e. your experience set and what you're used to, which goes into how you define the world, and how you view the exact same set of circumstances, say, in a relationship.
What do I mean? Let's get started breaking this down, and with the knowledge that these are generalizations made for the sake of discussion, as well out of the fact that these issues keep cropping up again and again in the problems I myself have had in my relationships with Korean women, as well as with many, many, myriad, multiple guy stories I've hard from other people in similar relationships.
Korean women, and Korean folks in general, generally have trouble imagining the concept of truly platonic friendships.
And this is largely generational and is changing. Yet, a lot of women – especially at the present age of the early 30's and older – never existed in an environment in which boys and girls, men and women were treated as undifferentiated equals, to the point of practically ignoring gender difference.
As an example, co-education didn't become the rule until the last decade in Korean K-12 (mostly in middle and high schools), and even into college. A lot of women who are now in their 30's attended all-girls middle schools, all-girls high schools, and even in co-ed universities, experienced student life in a very gender-separated and controlled. Things are a lot more relaxed for people in their early 20's these days, and young people freely interact much more now at an earlier age; a mere 15 years ago, the sight of couples in high school uniforms would have caused a minor sensation; now, they're so common, people barely even think twice about it.
But the patterns of socialization are still there. Often, men and women still feel comfortable amongst fellow men and women, respectively, and Koreans still spend a lot of time interacting with the opposite sex as either overt romantic partners (the ubiquitous meeting, sogaeting, and other "tings" are as common as they ever were) or platonic acquaintances, as in schoolmates, fellow employees, or the guy who you often share the elevator with – but not as close friends who can share an intimate emotional world without being intimate romantically.
Concretely? I dated a nurse in the early 2000's who worked in a plastic surgery clinic who had gone to all-girls schools all her life before nursing school and then working in various small clinics and hospitals. The pattern? Female friends all her life and men as romantic partners only. Or authority figures, as in the 5-7 female nurses and a few other female secretaries in her office, and just a few older, male doctors. The other men in her life were teachers, professors, and other authority figures. No equal-equal, non-platonic male-female relations ever. Hers is an unusual case now, but not for similar people in her age-gender-socio-economic-status cohort.
And she was mad jealous when my old friend from the States came to Korea to visit, and since I've spent many a late night on her couch back in Oakland – as a such a completely platonic friend that thoughts otherwise would be like sleeping with a blood sister – that it went without saying that she would be able to stay in the other room in my apartment on a mattress.
This almost caused us to break up.
I tried to explain to her about these differences in background and socialization, that men and women could be platonic friends, and for example, that my university had nearly all-coed dorms and even bathrooms, that it was completely normal for people to have male-female roommates in apartments, and in larger housing situations it was often preferable to having 4 dudes fighting over whether Miller "tastes great" or is actually "less filling" in their pigsty together, or 4 women fighting about who drank her yogurt while their menstrual cycles all started to synchronize.
I also presented the logic that we'd known each other for more than 12 years, and if anything was going to happen, it would have, since we'd had the theoretical "chance" – but not the interest – to do anything we wanted, anytime. I had to personally go up against years of Hollywood movies, along with the dominant stereotype that Americans are easy and put out for a Coke and a smile. Sure, we got folks like that, and people who make mistakes in drunken bouts of bad judgement...and Korea doesn't?
But in the end, it was like my logical Leonidas against the Xerxes's army of years of thinking and being socialized in a certain way: I fought the good fight, she saw a lot of my points and intellectually accepted them, and I was actually able to change her mind about some things, to the point that she was willing to give on them. But even a Spartan argument has to fall in the face of superior numbers of years and being told to think about certain things in certain ways, to categorize the world in the only way she was taught how. I'm no different.
In the end, I had to face the fact that no amount of talking was going to make her feel comfortable that a chick is up in my pad. It was shut up or break up, and I arranged for a friend in the Fulbright building to put up my friend for the several days she would be in Seoul, and we actually stuck to the agreement, even inviting the girlfriend over to morning brunch one time upstairs to show her that she was really staying up there.
In the end, that difference was like poison. It wasn't anyone's fault; I just think that she and I were in such different places, there would have been nothing to reconcile, short of one of us living uncomfortably and miserably. So I put in quite a bit of effort to behave in ways that made her comfortable, being completely open and transparent about my female friendships and even such relationships at work; still, she hated them, and it was an emotion that just kept building, never able to be put down.
On my end, I started resenting her for always being suspicious, always accusing me of doing things I wasn't, and the biggest thing for me – not giving me any credit for trying really, really hard for her sake. She hated the fact that I was having all these "girlfriends" and that she would start making her own in bars and going on blind dates; I told her that context is important, and some guy she met in a bar wasn't the same as someone you'd naturally come to know and knew for years or even decades in a platonic way. I'd never pick up a girl in a bar and call her a "friend," and if she had any real male friends from middle or high school, college, or from life in another city, I'd be 100% cool with it. She just didn't happen to have any, because our backgrounds were different. We came from different places, and I was just trying to mitigate that.
She and I both knew we were stuck, but that didn't help us not resent each other. In the end, we broke up, and I learned something. I hope she got something out of it as well, since there were no hurtful incidents, no cheating, none of the stuff that the Korean media likes to fantasize about. And I've seen a lot of Western-Korean relationships end up the same way.
This doesn't make said relationships "wrong" or inherently bad – we're just talking about a seemingly major, real cultural difference – as found in habits, socialization, and resultant beliefs and ways of looking at the world. As a couple, we occupied the same space, saw the same things, had the same conversation. But we were not on the same wavelength at all about a very fundamental thing. Knowing this will be quite helpful beforehand. At the very least, it's something to look out for; if your particular of personality and experience sets mean you never run into this problem – more power to you and keep on truckin'!
You're CASANOVA FRANKENSTEIN until proven otherwise.
Yeah, you. Before you get all huffy about the fact that she doesn't want to introduce you to her parents or friends, think about the huge strike against you, no matter how many positives you have in your favor.
You're a foreign man. And everyone in Korea "knows" that foreign men are all dogs, have 30 girlfriends, and are "only after one thing" (and Korean men are angels, ahem). You are hairy, have immense penises, and/or don't feel basic human emotions that many Koreans claim to have a monopoly on, e.g. "jeong" or "han."
Unless your girlfriend is very international or is some other situation with friends who've spent a lot of time overseas, her parents are übercool and know from the beginning, or her friends are the ones who introduced you too in the first place, hold your horses before you get all Mr. Self Righteous about meeting the 'rents or her best friend from high school.
Because if she's an average Korean woman, say who lives with her parents, has a curfew, and is concerned about her reputation, the bottom line is that having the "foreign boyfriend" is potentially a huge social cost to her. If she is outed at work, there's a good chance that negative rumors can fly around the office – "Did she meet him in an Itaewon bar?" or "I bet she just secretly wanted to ride the 'white horse'" are nasty words that I've heard spoken about perfectly nice Korean women dating perfectly normal and committed foreign men when they were "outed."
And you have to remember that private and public lives are very compartmentalized in Korea, and in general, people don't "cross streams" in relationship sets here. What I mean by this is that Americans – and again, I'm speaking in generalizations here – are "cocktail party people" in that we like to invite lots of people we know but don't know each other to parties, backyard BBQ's, and movie nights, and have fun from mixing and mingling with new people.
In Korea, this is generally very uncomfortable. Every new social relationship is inevitably burdened with having to place oneself vis a vis age, neighborhood, the school you went to (as a marker of many things) to the point that many Koreans don't introduce and hang out with elementary school, middle school, high school, college, military, and other friends as easily and casually as say Americans do.
Sure, there are always people who don't fit into this pattern, and I think it's much less acute with the younger generation, but as anyone who has tried to mix Korean friends (of either gender) with other people in the American style, it usually ends up with the Korean person or people just generally feeling uncomfortable and leaving early.
More often than not, me inviting the Korean girlfriend to hang out with a large group of people she doesn't know – whether Korean or not – causes her great stress, or at least enough to not make it a relaxing thing to do for her. And this pattern of Korean socializing often causes, in many international relationships I've seen, stress the other way, in that since she doesn't want to introduce her foreign boyfriend to all the friends she talks to on the phone, he feels left out and unappreciated – since the first thing one does with a "serious" significant other in the States, I've seen, is introduce him or her to all of one's friends. In fact, we take this as a sign of the relationship starting to get serious in the first place.
Just remember, Mr. Self Righteous, that it's not normal to cross streams in the first place in Korea, and to do it with the much-stigmatized foreign man is a HUGE step for her, in most cases. And if you're going to actually pressure her into doing those things, just because you think it should be so because of what you're used to, then you better be ready to step up to the plate. I would think about it as akin to going to the 'rents for THanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter all rolled into one – because it is that much of a bigger deal for her; the thing to remember is that even if you were a Korean guy, the point of introducing you to the parents would still only come around the point of being really serious for a long time and/or just before marriage, from what I've seen.
So chill out if you've been dating for several months and you haven't gotten an invitation yet to the Big House out in Ilsan or whatever; also, chill out if you haven't gotten to meet her best college buddies yet, too. For even if you eventually do part ways amicably and go on to live the rest of your lives, she's always gonna have the "she dated a foreigner" stigma attached to her, or at least that bit of information. And in a lot of cases, I'd say, that's not something she'd want to get back to her Korean husband, who probably wouldn't take it very well.
Take my case in point: one very nice woman I was dating, who was a working professional and well-educated and well-spoken and classy and all the things that don't go with the coarse stereotype of "that kind of girl who dates foriegners" told a long-time male friend of hers who'd been living in the US that she was dating me, a foreigner; it never even occurred to her that there might be a problem, and she naively assumed that since he had been living in the US, he'd be more open-minded.
The last words he ever spoke to her were, "I expected better from you," before he broke contact with her completely, refusing to answer her telephone calls and is probably talking no end of smack about her now. I had actually told her to keep things quiet about me to her friends, and that if she wanted to tell o a close friend, to let me introduce myself in person, so as to quell stereotypical notions. See, here's my profile:
I'm black. What is worse, I'm one of those Hines Ward-style mixed black-and-Koreans. I have brown skin and a big stomach, so I look Hawaiian. This guy probably is thinking about some big, hard-looking gangster rapper in oversized clothes and gold-capped teeth, yelling, "Bling bling!" while pimp-slapping my Korean byotch when she doesn't cook me my fried chicken fast enough, responding with a plaintive, "네!"
Whatever. I'm an Ivy-league educated dude who's working on becoming a 박사 and wears suits and ties and gives lectures on haughty topics and knows how to speak Korean, thank you very much. It wouldn't matter if I drove a Mercedes-Benz, went to Harvard, and made $500,000 a year. To certain people, I'm just a dirty nigger (깜둥이, if you please) and nothing will change that. If I worried about people like that, whether in Korean or the US, I'd never have gotten anywhere in life.
For her, though, it's worth keeping things close to the vest, since I have nothing to lose, and she has everything – or at least, a lot. I told her to be more careful next time, and if there was someone to introduce, just say he was a foreigner – you know, telling the truth – and let my first impression, big smile, and charm in fairly fluent Korean do the rest. I've never heard any of her friends be anything other than happy to see me, and even though they were surprised, they always said, "He was so different from what I expected! What a nice guy!"
See, I know what they expected, and it was, unfortunately, the worst. And with you, fellow foreign man, think about that, if only for her sake.
The Flip Side – You're Her Vanilla Fantasy
Or chocolate, almond, or whatever fits the analogy. There's also something to be said for trusting your gut and realizing when you're her one big "adventure" or "foreign experience" before she gets fixed up by her parents and marries a rich lawyer. Contrary to the convenient "innocent Korean girls gets duped" trope you see and hear around in Korea, this doesn't happen too often, because Korean women are just not that stupid.
In fact, such a stereotype is more like a Korean male fantasy, because it doesn't jibe with the reality of Korean women being pretty savvy ladies, who most certainly aren't some delicate flowers from the Chosun Dynasty. And given that many of the women – a somewhat self-selecting group of people who are often just a bit more outgoing or internationally-minded or just plain interested in something different – don't tend to be as conservative as most typical Korean women (by definition, right?), we're not talking about women who are falling for some White Knight in Shining Armor, oh, Daniel-san.
I've known several foreign men in serious relationships with Korean women who got totally burned by the flip-side of being the societal outsider. One guy I met at a party – really nice guy from the Midwest, my kind of people – can tell this tale. He was a good-looking white guy (probably still is), spoke impeccable Korean, and just gave off "niiiiice guy"vibes to no end, chatted me up in a way that really made me think.
In a way that was strange for some dude I didn't know at a party, he started saying something to the effect that he really envied me, since I could really "connect" with and be included with the culture; and he weirdly seemed sad when he added that I could date "real" Korean women and he couldn't.
So I was like, "Dude. What are you talking about? You've surely got women throwing themselves at your feet, what with the Tom Cruise thing and the Korean and the Mr. Nice Guy thing." We were kind of light-heartedly talking, just doing the cocktail chat thing, but he got kind of serious.
And he pointed out, in not so many words, that I was getting the real girls – the "nice" girls, as it were. What with his being white and the Hollywood-movie fantasy of most Korean women raised on a diet of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DeCaprio, you add in the Korean, and he's dating these amazing women whom he knows he'd never get back home, but whom he also treats like princesses walking on air.
Who knows. Maybe that was his problem. Maybe he was choosing the wrong ladies. But in the end, I felt bad for him, since he said he had been dating this one woman, who was smart, funny, and beautiful and whom he had brought home to Thanksgiving and Christmas, introduced to his entire family, and whom he had planned on marrying. And this intention was understood by both of them.
But only a few months earlier, he had gotten the boot. She had just suddenly stopped taking his calls, and when she finally relented and deigned to pick up, she said that she was sorry, but she was getting married the following month. BAM! Just like that.
I have several stories of Korean women who suddenly were getting married the next month and had dated their foreign boyfriend right past the point of meeting their future husband through "seon" (arranged marriage introduction), several more dates, proposal, and even meeting each others' parents – and then giving the foreign guy the boot.
Such stories are common enough to be a mini-trope amongst foreign men who are serious about their romantic relationships and worth warning other men to watch out for; and for those men who are here in Korea to make a fast buck and sow their oats, well, it doesn't matter, since there are more than enough women in the places and circles they frequent to make the commodities exchange they are engaging in (free english and a good time / a guide to the culture and a good time) fair and pretty innocuous.
I'd just say that amongst foreigners dating Koreans in Korea, like in any other place, things work out along a bell curve: there are a few cases of the hapless Korean girl duped by unscrupulous foreign men, and on the opposite side, there are Korean female vixens duping naive-but-nice foreign men who think they've found the perfect woman of the kind they'd never set eyes on (let alone lay hands on) at home in Saskatchewan or Iowa. Then there's everything else in between, which are mostly people who are on the same page, being each other's vanilla, lemon, chocolate, and caramel fantasies while getting some free language and cultural exchange to boot.
In the end, so what? As if there aren't a lot of equally dumb or dumber reasons to date someone, give a booty call, or simply be in a romantic relationship between Korean folks as well (부킹, 헌팅, 야타, 나타, 돈/학벌/집안 따지고 소개팅 or 선). If we want to compare "morality," then the guy dating the hot and exotic Korea girl who seems like a fashion model in his eyes, her wanting him because he looks like a "movie star" and she can learn some English while having a new experience in life, or the 29-year-old woman who marries some guys basically because he's rich and went to the right school – if we're really going to compare such disparate cases, then the Immorality Meter™ is going to need a lot of batteries, baby, depending on who's using it.
But in the end, foreign men, you need to trust your gut on this, too. Don't just jump to this conclusion because she's slow to introduce you to her friends, but if you start getting the feeling that you're not good enough to ever be taken seriously – and that's what you want – then you might want to start thinking with your big head and reconsider your relationship.
Some big warning signs: you never see her outside, or in daytime, or she loves speaking English really loudly around you or even seems to be inordinately proud of being you, as contradictory as that may seem. Or if she's constantly taking phone calls from men and acting all coy or even secretive with them, trust your gut, man. You may not be able to speak the Korean language, but body language is universal. If she has 20 oppas with whom she coos into the phone all the time, or disappears to the bathroom to talk to for 20 minutes at a time, she ain't just with you, dude.
In the end, if you get the feeling that you'll never stop being "a foreigner" in her eyes and she'll never see you as just YOU after the initial novelty wears off, then maybe she isn't dating you, but the idea of you. And if you want to be more than that, then you should hightail it outta there.
WATCH YOUR BACK.
I'm not trying to be alarming, but rather informative. And like wearing seat belts, 999/1000 times nothing will happen. But it's better to be alert and aware and safe than sorry.
What am I talking about? Well, if you follow the Korean media, the conversations and rumors amongst everyday Korean folks that are often fueled by it, and the ever-thickening bed of stereotypes about foreigners in general and men in particular – you'll know that you walking down the street with a Korean woman, especially a woman who might be considered attractive to most Korean men, can get you into trouble.
It's because, to a certain few but extremely vocal and/or extra-stupid people, you symbolize and crystallize something they hate, and they might take it out on you. You don't even have to be with a Korean woman to get yelled at, cursed at, or even assaulted on a subway car – but it you are, your chances of being so go waaaaay up.
Not enough to worry about, but enough to have thought about enough a few times such that you have a clear idea of what to do. Here's why:
If something happens, even if you are obviously physically assaulted by a drunk ajussi, if and when the police come, it will be assumed that you started it, and it's your fault. Your girlfriend or wife can't be a witness for you, since they're part of your "side" to the police, and it's unlikely (though not impossible) that a Korean person will go to bat for you, even if they saw the whole thing. I've seen it myself, and I've seen passersby flat-out lie to the police, saying that it was started by the foreigner.
I myself got into a yelling match with a Korean man who had called my black female friend "nigger" (yes, the word in English), charged her as if to attack her, at which point she slapped him, when he had come to within an inch of her face and was yelling, screaming, and spittling all over her. When the police came, out of the entire crowd that had seen the whole thing happen from jump, not a single person out of say 20 (?) said a word in her defense, and the police were going to arrest her and let the 3 drunk men who had essentially attacked us go.
Sounds fair, right? (Read more about this here.)
To this day, most Koreans still cite the 1995 "incident" in which the dirty GI attacks innocent Korean women by continuing to touch her tushy. Every Korean adult over the age of 30 knows this story. It was reported all over the peninsula, on all media. Too bad it's bogus. The woman in question was his WIFE, she was being berated and cursed at by old, drunk ajussis, and when the GI (in civvies, not a uniform) punched the guy who was getting too close and belligerent with his WIFE, all the Korean men jumped the guy. When the police came, they claimed he was attacking all of THEM, and claimed complete innocence. Guess who got arrested and his face thrown all over Korean TV. Ain't much changed since then. You can also refer to my "Tips to Avoid Being Assaulted in Korea" if you'd like.
Treat her friends like royalty when you first meet them.
They will judge you and have great deciding power over your girlfriend. Even if she doesn't listen to their mostly negative appraisals of you, they will be a point of stress for her. So you goddamn better be on your most princely, polite behavior when you meet them, because it's that frickin' important, alright?! Did I drive that point home enough? Because I'll break it down for ya.
Basically, anything that veers from the norm in Korea is BAD. Unless it's expensive and rare and a bragging point, like a Prada purse no one's gotten yet. You MIGHT be that guy if you are white, handsome, speak Korean, have a degree from a big name school, and have either great earning potential or lots of money, but if you're short on any of those points, you better be on you P's and Q's, because any perceived deficiency, any crack in your armor, and even factors you never even thought of can come out against you.
Yeah, she might think you're the cat's meow, but when her jealous friend who doesn't want anyone to be happier than she is, or who sees you as a threat in terms of stealing her friend away from her starts whispering in her ear, all that salt and vinegar can add up. "He's a playboy" if you're handsome. A positive that comes as a negative? But speaking Korean well can go a loong way -- you're seen as more human by Koreans if you speak it, and they respect you for it. But you can't really manage your profile down to the detail -- just know that you better have your best game face on, you better treat the gf's friends right, you better buy everyone's dinner, and you better not show any of your bad points, especially if any are stereotypically expected from the "bad foreigner" guy. That impression is important, and in general, you're guilty until proven innocent, because you have the power of prejudice and suspicion against you.
You just better be on your best fucking behavior.
YOU ARE FROM MARS, SHE IS FROM ALPHA CENTARI.
And you thought your own country's women were from their own planet, right? Well, forget about mere different styles – often, we're talking about women and men being from two different planets, but in a totally unfamiliar set of cultural codes, most of which are either unfamiliar or uncomfortable to you, if not both. Even between Korean men and women, people have the normal trouble that couples always have when communicating – it just comes with the territory.
But in your case, you're in double or even triple trouble from the start, so thinking about this extra-hard beforehand might be a good idea. One of the biggest problems I have experienced, as well as heard about quite a bit is that many Korean women speak far more indirectly than we're used to back home, and if you were a normal dude and often missing messages back home, you better attune your antennae to super-strength in Korea.
Korean folks are known for being often direct to the point of rudeness, but also maddening roundabout in their way of speaking. In my experience, Korean women are as confusing as women back home can be (to us less evolved men-folk), but you throw in the fact that we foreign-types are working within a somewhat different set of cultural codes, and we're up the creek without a paddle. Add on the fact that the language barrier may be making it tough for her to transmit the signals properly and with the subtle nuance she can in her native language, while you are having trouble, for the same reasons, picking them up even if she succeeds in sending a few awkward ones off – whew! Some serious frustration there.
And if you thought women were from Venus in terms of being "emotional" arguers, while we Martian men are busy being coldly logical and whatnot, get ready for warp factor 9 -- engage! I've had so many completely and utterly illogical arguments with Korean women that I've never had before coming here, and logic only prevails if you are incredibly patient and explain things from the bottom up, i.e. if there's a cultural difference here, explain it, give examples, explain it again, talk about how individual personalities work into the cultural differences, talk about the specific circumstances, recap, summarize, end your argument with easy-to-remember catchphrases that sum it up.
I'm not EVEN being facetious or trying to be condescending. I've had some ongoing arguments about stuff that was very explainable or attributable to personality, but to the GF was due to very big-picture stuff: "All foreigners think..." or "American guys are all the same" or "This is just like what I heard my friends talking about" or anything else that are basically arguments of sweeping generalization, and are landmines you just stepped on.
If she's from Alpha Centauri to you, you're already set up as being from not Mars, but the planet Vulcan, light years across the galaxy. When you have that big relationship argument, it's going to be in terms of you fitting into some larger pattern that she sees, especially when it comes to how she sees foreigner fitting into issues such as sex, friendships with the opposite sex, money, or parents.
So you better be able to calm her down and deal with those arguments logically and convincingly. And even after you do, you're still a David vs. a Goliath of preconceived notions and suspicions. So be prepared.
TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS PRE-EMPTIVELY so that you can refer to your calm, nice conversation from before this came up as a problem. Plant the seed of preparing her for your visit from you platonic female friend from the States, or explaining why you and Susie Q. Platon are not bumping hips in bed by introducing her regularly as your friend and let you gf FEEL the platonic vibe and "get it" well before she sees it as a problem.
That's the #1 best thing you can do about potentially problematic "big issues" -- plan ahead and plant the seed of being reasonable about these things, or keeping an open mind about some actual real differences in "culture", which I chalk up as being actually differences in habit and custom. Because that's all I think "culture" is.
IF YOU BREAK UP AND IT'S ON BAD TERMS, HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A KOREAN WOMAN SCORNED.
Things end. Even good things. And even good relationships can end badly. In the event that one does, cover your vulnerabilities. Hell, yes you should change the code to your door, passwords to your email, scrub your house of any contraband (hat tip to the many dudes who end up in the Korean pokey because a Korean ex snitched), and just be careful. I've never seen stalking like in Korea -- whether Korean or international couples, man or woman, stalking is a science here -- and Klingon warriors know less about revenge being a dish served cold than Korean ex-gf's on a mission to even the scales in the face of perceived slights to one's honor, thanks very much, Mr. Khan.
Batten down the hatches, shields up, perimeter alert. I even got bent over the table to pay an ex 500,000 won for her "mental troubles" -- and after she promised to leave me alone after I paid her, I relented WITH RELIEF. If you had been through the wringer I'd been through, you'd have found half a million won sweet solace, like I did. Trust me. That's when you know you are living in Korea, HARDCORE. When you say goodbye at the 7/11 ATM just so she'll stop harassing you -- hardcore to the max, dude.
I'm just saying. I've never seen jealousy in weaponized form before Korea, and I'd never been stalked before. I chalk it up to experience, and I love dating in Korea, because there are some great people here, but DO NOT THINK FOR AN INSTANT, gentlemen, that you're going to "get the last laugh" or some kind of sweet revenge against your ex. Because it's not even worth the try. So try to end things as amicably and positively as possible. I'm being serious. You ain't gonna get the last laugh. So don't push her to, either.
THE END, FOR NOW
I'm all typed out. And I'm sure this list will cause controversy. It's just drawn from my own experiences, and I think reasonably intelligent people who know how to apply this to their own experience/personality/situation here can get something out of it.
It's not a bible, nor does it encompass all aspects of dating here. Some might ask why I don't put up something for men. Well, because I don't don't date Korean men, and I'm not a foreign woman. Which would leave me pretty unqualified to merely speak from experience in a way others may glean some help from.
But dating here DOES have some common traps and problems, some of which I've outlined. I do hope it helps, and I've just tried to be honest, with the goal of making one's Korean dating life easier, not harder.