Dating and Relationship Advice

I’ve done a lot of traveling. From classic destinations like Rome and Copenhagen, to off-the-beaten-path locales like Gdansk, Poland and Xiamen, China, my favorite thing about seeing new places (besides the food) has always been the reminder that my little world is not the center of the universe. We all conceptually understand that there are billions of other people living their lives differently than we do all over the globe, but those differences usually don’t become real until we see them firsthand.

Take Seoul, for example. The capital of South Korea is just as a metropolis as New York City, with just as many unique quirks. I spent 12 weeks in Seoul a few years ago while touring with a musical and got to witness some of these societal differences live and in color. The most interesting? Korean dating culture.

If you thought finding love in NYC was intense, you’ve clearly never been to Korea. These guys are romance heavy hitters, with their distinctive dating scene differing from ours in some fascinating ways:

The Pressure

Being in a relationship is a lot more important in Korea than it is here in the Big Apple, with young men and women feeling the pressure to find love not only from their parents but also from the culture itself. With holidays for girlfriends, holidays for boyfriends, Valentine’s Day, and White Day (just to name a few), being part of a couple in Korea is a BFD!

Blind Dates Galore

Because it’s so important to be coupled up, Korean singles will stop at nothing to find a significant other, including going on tons of blind dates. Friends, coworkers, parents and other relatives will all set blind dates up in hopes of being the ones credited with a match.

Gender Roles

The roles of the man and the woman are fairly similar in New York, with each party working hard to make a good impression and maintain interest. In Korea, however, it mostly falls on the guy to get and keep the girl. Most likely the result of centuries of male-dominated households, Korean men will go to great lengths to make sure their ladies are happy: wearing matching outfits, showering them with gifts, and carrying their purses.

The Power of Beauty

Looks are always important, and of course someone’s appearance is a factor when a Westerner looks for a mate, but Koreans take this a few steps further. Beauty is key when it comes to Korean women impressing a potential date, which is most likely why Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world. In fact, Korean parents often reward their daughters with cosmetic surgery for graduating high school.

In many ways, Koreans know what’s up when it comes to dating. I wonder what would happen if us New Yorkers took a cue from South Korea… How would our dating culture and behavior change if we put more emphasis on finding relationships rather than hookups? If we took more chances with blind dates? Or... wait for it – if men practiced a few acts of chivalry for a change?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own tumultuous dating worlds and lose sight of the big picture. At the end of the day, no matter where we are in the world, people just want to love and be loved.