1. Don't touch my bag. But yeah, I'll take your coat.
Okay. So I can admit it. I appreciate chivalry. I'm a feminist and all that, and I don't expect a guy to go jumping through hoops -- I'm just as fine with a guy who doesn't make gestures as with one who does. But I appreciate the gestures. I appreciate so-called "good manners". I was raised in the south, after all, and you can rail against that as much as you want, but a little part of it just stays with you.
I have never one time been on a date in
2. Language mistakes.
Okay. You can sound the hypocrite alarm if you want to, but it has less to do with thinking anything is cute (in fact, it has nothing to do with thinking anything is cute), and more to do with the fact that I just really, really like the way second language speakers talk. I dig poetry, right? And there's something in the way that a second language speaker will come at conveying an idea at times that just strikes me as purely beautiful. They aren't trapped in language cliche or idioms, and sometimes they have to get quite creative to get their point across. I'm constantly surprised and pleased by the way this happens, and I feel like you can see a lot of a person's personality in it. I've spent far, far too much time around second language speakers to have even an ounce of condescension toward it left in me. It's admiration, if nothing else. They're doing something that I have never been able to do, something I desperately want to be able to do in Korean. I'm still floored by this, everyday. And the truth is, there's nothing I find sexier than a man I have to admit is, in any way, smarter than I am.
Of course, this isn't a part of Korean dating culture, but it definitely plays a role in inter/// dating.
3. The Korean ideal of masculinity.
A lot of Western guys love to take digs on this one, don't they? And that's fine. They're entitled to their opinions. What these particular types don't like to face is that a lot of us women are so fucking relieved to get outside of the stereotypes. I like that Korean men aren't afraid to cuddle up to their buddies. I like that Korean men aren't afraid to be cute. I like that I've noticed a tendency, by and large, to just come out with some random, whimsical thought they've just had, without any fear of being perceived as poncey or, god forbid, "gay". I like that they'll get really excited when the food comes, because it's pretty, and want to take a picture.
I also like the fact that they'll turn right around and challenge their friend to an arm wrestling match right there at the table to see who is top dog. That they'll scream and shout at each other in that way that only Korean men can sound. That they'll respond to any compliment about how big, strong, tall or tough they are as though you've just given them the best Christmas present ever.
I like both sides. I like that both sides are present and readily visible.
4. The friend zone: an absence.
This one is a double-edged sword. I hate it as much as I appreciate it, to be honest, sometimes more on certain days. For the most part, with a Korean man, you know exactly where you stand. They aren't, generally, good at being "just friends" with women, and they'll make no qualms about making it known when they're interested, in general. To them, to Korean culture, that's the way things are supposed to work, between a man and a woman. You don't get all this dancing around the issue at hand, is he/isn't he, are we/aren't we nonsense that goes down so often in Western dating circumstances. Although they may be shy, they aren't insecure, if that makes sense. They'll still act shy, but you'll know why it is they're acting that way. They're not super defensive about having an interest in a girl -- it's only natural. Nothing to be ashamed of.
5. PDA: an absence.
Look. I just hate PDA. I don't know why I do, but I do. I don't want some guy slobbering on my face in public. Not everyone within a ten mile radius needs to know that we're involved, or exactly how involved we are. For all my liberal ideas and big talking (and I do believe in everyone's right to be as sexual as they choose, without being judged for it, just to clarify), I am actually a very, very modest person. For me, there is a time and a place for everything, and, excepting the extremely rare night out with one too many jack cokes, for me the place for playing tonsil hockey is not the bar, the street corner, the coffee shop or the restaurant. I don't have a problem in the world with the fact that Korean culture outlaws this behavior. Not a personal one, anyway. And I appreciate that I no longer have to have bitchy little arguments about how I'm "ashamed" or what have you with significant others because I don't want his hand on my ass in the parking lot.
This closely relates to....
6. Taking it slow.
Okay. First of all, this is not all Korean men. I've met far more Korean men, in fact, who are more likely to beg you just get into the damn taxi with them and find a love motel than who are interested in taking you home to meet their mother. But. That's because a huge percentage of the Korean men I've met have been drunk as hell and in a bar at closing time. They don't speak for the whole, majority population. They are not looking for the same things as the men you encounter in your daily life -- the ones you meet at work, in the bookstore or at the coffee shop. Obviously. I guess that I'm just trying to clarify that this one is dependent upon the kind of situation you're dealing with, just as it would be in the West, and not give the impression that Korean men are all sexless saints. Because men are men, before they are any sub-category there within, right?
But. When you look at normal everyday life in Korean dating culture and put it up against normal everyday life in Western dating culture, in general, Korean men tend to move a lot more slowly. Physically, that is. There isn't pressure to get right into the bedroom to make it clear that everyone is really attracted to everyone else, and then try to sort out the aftermath after the fact. You can take your time, and it doesn't become an issue. In fact, it's expected. I like that. This goes back to my ideals being a hell of a lot less modest than my personal life actually is, most of the time. I certainly don't think that getting physical right of the bat removes the possibility for a long-term, healthy relationship, but I prefer, basically, to take the long way around, when I'm dealing with something serious. I think things can get way too complicated way too fast when you get into the physical stuff so soon. It puts too much pressure on the situation. And I don't need to worry about some guy either chucking me into the friend zone, or deciding to act like an asshat and make demands that are going to get him absolutely nowhere, while I'm taking my time making up my mind. In general, in
Okay. Now you wanna hear the really tacky ones? I'll give you two, and then I'll hit on my last two, my favorites.
7. 나만 봐.
This was one that came up big time when I was in
Really? You're out with two girls and you're going to forego that situation to have the same conversation you have everyday sitting on the couch in your flat together? I looked the kid straight in the eye and said, "There is no way in hell this would ever happen in
Korean guys are not about to let the ladies sit there looking bored. In fact, they'll rarely take their focus off of them for the entire night. They are fantastic at keeping the conversation going, making you laugh, even pulling out magic tricks when there's a lull just to keep you entertained. They'll refill your drink before you even get to the bottom, notice if you shiver or seem uncomfortable in your seat, and immediately do something to rectify the situation. They won't be looking around at other girls, and they certainly won't get lost in conversation with each other.
They're there with girls. GIRLS. They generally have an appreciation for that that I've rarely seen matched in any other culture. Call me a fucking princess, if you want, but I like it.
8. GQ as fuck.
Look. I'm just going to admit it. Looks, in general, are not that important to me. But style, while not being something I'll count a guy out for not having, will move a guy up a few notches if he does happen to pay attention to it. Am I proud of it? No. But hey, at least I'm not a height snob or something else like that, that a guy doesn't even have a chance of fixing.
What that style actually is rarely matters, so long as it's something. A personal expression, a little effort here or there. I know it's not nice. But it's true. And Korean guys have this one head and shoulders above Western guys, just as Korean women far surpass their Western counterparts in this realm.
Looks are important in
But I appreciate a well-dressed man with a nice haircut as much as the next girl. And you can't swing a stick on the sidewalk in this city without hitting at least ten of them. And you can be damn sure no Korean guy is going to be showing up to a date in sweatpants without a fresh shave.
So there. I said it.
Now the two that are closest to my heart.
9. Family matters.
Yeah. I get tired of hearing, I can't come out tonight because I have to stay with my mom. I don't like that a grown ass man has a curfew and has to scurry home before a certain hour or else face his mother's wrath. But. At the end of the day, the most important thing to me is my family. And I appreciate a man who has the same values. When I see a man put aside his own desires in order to take care of his family, I feel like I am really looking at A Man. He knows what it is to value someone else's needs over his wants, and to take other people into account. And that is so fucking important when you're looking at getting involved in a relationship with someone.
In general, because of the communal aspect of Korean society, I have found Korean men to be far more willing to listen to your point of view, or even accept things that they don't even understand, because they see that in some way something is making you unhappy or uncomfortable. In Korean culture, preserving the group harmony comes before all else -- even, in some cases, common sense or rationality. And, while I have my struggles with that as an American, I appreciate that it means that someone doesn't always have to agree with you or have the same feelings as you to take your feelings into account. What matters isn't so much why you feel the way you do, or if you should feel the way you do or not, but rather, what can I do make sure you don't feel that way anymore? That is an aspect I have struggled long and hard to find in a partner, and one that I struggle with developing in myself as well. I like that it comes almost pre-built in the Korean mindset, thanks to the culture.
This leads nicely into....
Okay. I'm no blushing flower. A Western man is likely to take one look at me and size me up as someone who doesn't need or want absolutely anyone to lift a finger to "take care" of me. And I can get really fucking irritated with the way this just doesn't seem to register with Korean men at all. To them, I am a woman. And women are fragile and to be treated with gentle care. Which really got on my last nerve in my first few months here.
But, when it comes to those more tender moments in life, sometimes it's nice to have the external persona overlooked. When a man looks down and sees that, on a cold day, I'm wearing nothing but thin tights, and immediately you see his face strain with worry, as he automatically moves to cover your legs with his coat, without even realizing that you're already pulling away. When he overrides his own hesitation to make physical contact with the opposite sex to offer you his arm on an icy road, because you are a little unsteady on your feet and he's worried that you might fall. When he looks absolutely horrified to see you come through the door carrying a heavy box and knocks over his chair jumping out of it to rush over and take it from you. Those moments can be nice.
And they ride over into the emotional side of things, as well. Where your Western male companions are more likely to accept your masculine presentation when times get hard, throw a slap on your back, tell you to buck up and buy you a beer, a Korean man is more likely just to see a girl who's having a hard time. Both are necessary -- I appreciate both equally. It's just nice to have the option. As much as it may mean that so many other things are assumed in the process, as well.