I came to Korea in February of 2013. Having never even been to Asia before, I had no clue what I was getting myself into or who I was going to meet. Moving to a new country meant not knowing anyone, and so I turned to the internet, including online dating, to meet people. While on a dating website, I came across a profile of a Korean guy who caught my eye. After reading his profile I could tell he was smart and interesting, and he seemed to speak English quite well. We exchanged messages and discovered we only lived three subway stops from each other. Two weeks after I arrived, we decided to meet. Not knowing his speaking level, I started speaking slowly until he asked if I always spoke that way and I quickly learned he was nearly fluent in English. We dated about a month and a half before he asked me to be his girlfriend.
I never dated anyone outside my own culture before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We have definitely come across some challenges due to our cultural differences, but we always seem to work through them. It also helps he lived in Australia for 10 months and I wasn’t his first foreign girlfriend; therefore, he was already understanding of western views.
In the beginning, one of the toughest things for me was his parents didn’t even know I existed. Even after being together over a year, they still don’t know about me and I don’t think they will for quite some time. His parents are more traditional and told him not to introduce them to his girlfriend until he was ready to marry her. It bothered me for a while because I felt hidden and I worried he was ashamed of me. I’ve always been introduced early on in relationships and I seem to charm moms quite easily.
Now knowing exactly what an introduction means to his family, I personally don’t feel ready to meet his just yet. For one, it’s only been a year, and while I love him we’re not ready to tie the knot yet, although we’ve talked about the possibility of it in the future. Also, there’s the language barrier issue. His parents don’t know a lick of English and my Korean level is still low. We’re also not really sure what his parents will think if he brings a foreigner home. In Korea, it’s my understanding the eldest or only son is the most important child because they are responsible for carrying the family name. My boyfriend is an only child which might make his parents hesitant of him being in a serious relationship with a foreign girl.
I have friends who are with Korean men and their mothers have accepted them into their families, I also know of instances where Koreans have been told that they could not marry and were forced to break up. It’s a lot of pressure! In hopes to earn brownie points, we’re waiting until my Korean improves. I’ve been going to a private tutor once a week for a little over a year. I’m hoping now I’ve learned the basics I will improve faster. This coming July, my parents will be visiting Korea and he’ll get to meet them. He’s nervous of course, but the whole pressure of “this is who I want to marry” doesn’t exist. Plus, he can easily communicate with them.
While dating him, I have encountered differences—some good and others I had to get used to. I’ve only met two of his closest friends; one friend I met for the first time after we celebrated our one year anniversary. Back home I’m used to spending a lot of time with my boyfriend’s friends so it was really frustrating for me at first.
With the not so great comes good and one thing I love about Korea is how cute and “coupley” it is. It’s not uncommon to see couples wearing matching outfits. Sometimes they are dressed alike head to toe while others may only be wearing matching shoes or hats. In America, I never dressed like my boyfriend, but here in Korea, I actually find it fun to do with him. We don’t go head to toe, but little things here and there are cute.
We also celebrate important couple dates. For example, the 100th day of dating is celebrated. It’s nothing over the top, but we celebrated by going to dinner where we first ate as an official couple. Also, Christmas Eve is a couple’s holiday here…it’s not really the best day for single people because couples are EVERYWHERE. Valentine’s Day is a day where the girl gets gifts for the guy. March 14th is White Day which is where the guys buy for the girls. November 11th is Pepero Day, which is our equivalent to a Hallmark holiday. On Pepero Day, you give each other some form of Pepero, or Pocky sticks.
Finally, I had to get used to all the staring. In Korea, it’s not common to see an interracial couple. It’s even more uncommon to see a Korean guy with a white girl. We definitely get stared at especially by older people. Sometimes the looks are out of curiosity, but I’ve also seen looks of disgust. It used to bother me, but now I hardly notice. To be honest, I’m a bit guilty for staring at couples similar to ourselves, but more because I’m excited to see it.
I’ve been really blessed to have met my boyfriend early on as he has been so supportive through all my challenges while living in Korea. He’s made important phone calls, helped me get a cell phone, and has taken me to the doctor on more than one occasion…he even helped translate for an embarrassing lady issue.. He’s never once complained and tells me to ask for help any time I need it. As an independent person back in America, asking for help isn’t easy for me to do. He helps me study and practice Korean, and I can practice without fear he’ll make fun of the way I say something.
As with any couple, we also have our disagreements over normal couple stuff, but I knew he was a keeper when he always did everything he could to help get us through those rough times. I can’t say for sure what our future holds, but I’m definitely excited to find out! If you’d like, you can follow my Instagram for more cheesy photos and stories.
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