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So You Want to Date an Oppa? Guide to Dating in Korea

With the rise of tour sites like Oh my Oppa and the huge surge in the popularity of Kdramas, the idea of dating a Korean has become idealised. However, it’s handy to know that there are some key differences in dating styles between North America and Korea. As always, what may seem normal in one culture may seem strange in another.

At the time of writing, I have lived in Seoul for about six months. I’ve had my fair share of dates – good, bad, and humorous. Here, I will share some tips on dating in Korea based on my personal experiences as well as those of my friends. However, everyone’s experiences are different and yours may vary as well.

Cick here if you’re interested in seeing how it went on my Oh my Oppa date!

Everybody is different

If you assume that all Korean guys are cute, friendly and thin like K-pop idols, you will be sorely disappointed. Koreans come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve gone on dates with tall, short, thin and muscular Korean boys. I’ve gone on dates with good boys and bad boys.

Some guys were confident. Others were very shy. Some spoke perfect English. Others barely knew any. Some were rude and weird. Some were nice. Don’t assume there is one “type” of Korean guy, and certainly don’t base your expectations on idols!

Where Do You Meet an Oppa?

In North America, it’s very common to meet your significant other through friends, bars, parties and online dating apps such as Tinder. In Korea, the most common way that Koreans meet each other is by introducing them to friends. In fact, it’s common for friends to set each other up on blind dates called sogeting (소개팅).

Unfortunately, unless you have a Korean friend, this is not the way that most Koreans meet foreigners. There are some Korean dating apps you can try, but they are written in Korean, so unless you are fluent in the language they will be confusing to use. (I tried some of these apps, and even with Google translate I was overwhelmed).

Currently, the most popular way for foreigners to meet Koreans is still Tinder. Depending on who you ask, Tinder can be heaven or hell – especially in a foreign country. Some people in Korea will use Tinder as a way to hook up with foreigners (read: they think you are an easy ‘white horse’). Others have serious intentions. I have gotten many dates from Tinder, and I have dated Koreans through the app.

Beware that you don’t get used as a free English tutor. Your date should ask about you. If your date keeps asking about your hometown’s culture, people, food, music, dating and anything else related to your hometown, there is a high chance they are using you for free English lessons. If you want to practice your Korean and he insists on speaking English, make sure you don’t get taken for a ride.

Read More: The Ultimate 3-Day Seoul Itinerary

Your First Date With an Oppa

If you do have a date with a Korean, congratulations! Koreans are known to be very fashionable, so dress well! It goes without saying that you should not wear any low-cut shirts, but miniskirts are okay.

Koreans work hard and play even harder, so you may find yourself going from place to place on your date. Koreans love to eat, so bring your appetite! It’s not uncommon to go to two restaurants in one night. You may also end up singing your heart out at a noreabang (karaoke room), bar or 24-hour coffee shop.

TIP: In North America, it’s normal to hold hands and even kiss on the first date. In Korea, it’s not normal to hold hands or kiss on a first date. A guy may want to hold hands, but kissing on the first date is a big NO. In Korea, it’s frowned upon to kiss in public. If he tries to kiss you, don’t be surprised if he tries to take you to a love motel afterwards.

dinner date seoul

First Three Days of Dating

At the risk of sounding like a school textbook from the future, in North America a guy would wait three days before he messaged a girl he met. This was to show that he was busy with other things in his life.

In Korea, the opposite is true. The first three days are crucial in showing a person you are interested. So, if a guy keeps messaging you right after you met and you ignore him or take way too long to reply, he may think you are not interested and move on. So, get your fingers typing!

Who Pays?

Korean guys tend to pull out their wallets and pay for every date. Having said that, some younger couples may alternate. The guy will pay for bigger things like dinners, and the girl will pay for smaller things like coffee.

Messaging Koreans

Koreans message. A LOT. The most popular way to contact people is through the Kakao Talk app, so if a guy asks for your Kakao this is what he means. If a guy is interested or if you are dating, he will message you every day or almost every day. Almost every guy I’ve dated in Korea has asked me two questions on Kakao. What are you doing? and Did you eat?

Even if nothing changes in your daily life while you are working, they still want to know about your day. Similar to China and Hong Kong did you eat or have you had breakfast generally signifies that they care about your wellbeing and is most similar to us asking how are you?

korean coffee

Relationships in Korea

A guy may give you a “confession” (confess his feelings for you) on the first date and ask to be exclusive. Don’t be surprised if this happens. It’s up to you to use your judgment on if you want to be exclusive with him right away or not. If you want to get to know him more, feel free to say no. If he likes you he will respect this.

On the other hand, I’ve dated guys who never “confessed”. Were we exclusive? Weren’t we? It is a safe assumption that if a guy constantly messages you and you go out on dates that you are exclusive. However, if you’re not sure, ask! Personal story: When I was dating my first Korean boyfriend, at the time I wasn’t sure about our “status”. So, when we went out I casually asked him, Hey, are we boyfriend and girlfriend? Are we exclusive? He told me we were. 

Read More: The Best Day Trips from Seoul

Breakups in South Korea

This is something I wish I knew before I came to Korea. Koreans are notorious for ghosting. It’s a safe bet that even if you are seeing someone, if they suddenly stop replying to your messages and leave you unread on Kakao that it’s over.

If you’ve had a few great dates and they suddenly stop messaging you, you can also safely assume that you’ve been ghosted. Personal story: I’ve been ghosted a few times in Korea. One time, I had a great date with a guy. He said he’d drive me to the grocery store and help me carry my groceries to my house (bags are heavy!).

Needless to say, I showed up to E-Mart at the time we agreed, but he was nowhere to be found. I called and messaged him a few times before I realized that for whatever reason, he wasn’t going to show up and help me.

Read More: Check out our guide to using the Jimjilbang here and my experience with Oh my Oppa. a new kind of tour.

Buyers Beware

Whatever your feelings and intentions may be, Koreans may not take dating you seriously. In their eyes, you are in Korea for a short time before you go back to your home country.

If you don’t speak any Korean or show interest in knowing or learning his culture, this may also show them that you are not someone to be serious about.

Of course, many foreigners have married Koreans and stayed in Korea. But, don’t expect this to happen. Koreans also work the second-longest hours in the world after Japan! I’ve dated guys who worked 12-hour days 6 days a week. Needless to say, we didn’t see each other often.

When we did, they were very tired. If you’re someone who wants to see your significant other more than once a week, you may have a better chance dating foreigners.

commute seoul

Final Words on Dating an Oppa

Don’t be blinded to have the intention of only dating Koreans. If you are open-minded to date people from your country (or other countries), you may be surprised. You will also be less disappointed than if you only stick to one nationality. Whoever you end up dating, remember to have fun and keep an open mind!

Got a TEFL and interested in teaching in Korea? It’s an easy way to meet local people and enjoy the culture. Check out our guide to teaching in East Asia.

  1. Jessica Esa says:

    Thank you for your kind comment! I actually haven’t either (which was why I was so happy for this guest post) as I’ve always been a long term relationship while travelling. It’s very interesting to know how things are the same but slightly different. I’ll let Kamilla know, thank you!

  2. Nicola says:

    Such an interesting little post. I’ve actually never tried dating whilst travelling (and am now married) but it’s so interesting to hear how things are culturally different. Love your final words about being open-minded though, so much truth in that.

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