The author of the previous question has been so kind as to stop by and explain what she meant a little more in full. As she said, the space in the formspring box is quite limited and sometimes people aren't able to make themselves clear. To note for future questions from others, I'm always reachable by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, although I can be bad or slow at responding sometimes.... I try to do my best. If you do email me, though, be sure to clarify whether or not you want the question posted in public or not! Usually I respond privately, but if it's a question I've gotten a lot of different emails about, sometimes I'll post the response. Never will do, if you ask me not to, however.
Here was her response:
The space to ask questions was limited, so I didn't get to explain further. My friend is actually my daughter's friend and she didn't mean anything negitive. She was trying to explain to me the difference in the dating culture between Americans and Koreans. It was just from her experiance. She grew up in American but had to move to Korea with her family when her father was stationed in Korea. She spent 3 years there. What she meant was that the young people in Korea don't move as quickly into relationships as Americans.
For example, teens start dating so young here and the relationship can quickly move from kissing on the first date to being more physical within a week. In Korea, she found that most people start dating later and it could take knowing someone a couple of months before the guy would attempt to even hold her hand.
She was trying to explain that she was having issues with American guys trying to move so quickly from saying "Hey, I like you" to "Hey, let's sleep together."
The example of subtracting the age was just trying to show that the Koreans she knew didn't jump into serious relationships as early as Americans.
I didn't mean to offend you or imply that your boyfriend wasn't mature. I was just trying to ask your opinion about the pace at which relationships move when dating a Korean man vs. an American man.
I have read your blog from the beginning and admire your dedication to teaching. I can understand, looking back on how I phrased the question, why you would have taken it the way you did. I apologize if I offended you or anyone else with the way I worded my question.
To begin with, I would say that even by thinking of it in terms of age (which I don't think is the best way to explain it -- it's a little more complicated than that), thirteen years is quite extreme. My boyfriend does happen to actually be 28, and when I imagine dating a fifteen year old, I think more of giddy behavior, petty fighting and general flightiness -- irresponsibility and a childish mindset. The timestamps on appropriate timing of physical aspects of the relationship is one of the last things I think of, which is perhaps why I took the question in the wrong way to begin with. And no, the idea that Koreans are "childish" is not a new one, unfortunately. It's something I've heard (I think we've all heard) pretty often before. Which is why I don't think imagining it in terms of age is very helpful in general. Like I said, my boyfriend works and works hard, contributes to his family and is very responsible.
Your daughter's friend, I would imagine, may have been dealing with university aged men. Or, at least, that is where I notice this "lag" in maturity. It's generally known amongst Koreans that there is a huge difference between a pre-army service and post-army service man, and there's another big gap between university student and company worker. But that's all pretty normal, and in line with what goes on in the West, right? The difference is that American university students tend to have a bigger gap between themselves and American high school students than the Korean counterparts, for the simple reason that most Americans leave home for university. They live in dorms or apartments, do their own laundry, usually work some form of part time job, possibly pay their own bills, cook for themselves and generally have all of the freedoms that come along with that kind of responsibility. Korean university students, on the other hand, tend to live at home. And a (decreasing) number of Koreans continue to live at home, even after university graduation, until marriage.
So, naturally, there is a lag in maturity there, in that regard. But not always. As with everything, it depends on the person.
As far as a gap in the timing of a physical relationship.... I mean, that's a hard question to answer. I could give you a line around the block of women (both foreign and Korean) who would definitely beg to differ. Men are men, and people are people, -- desire is desire, and things will happen, as they are wont to do, regardless of culture. If you catch my drift.
I think where the difference lies is not so much in the across-the-board "rules" of physical relationships, so much as in the disparity between a "conservative" American and a "conservative" Korean.
Korea has been modernizing and Westernizing at a break-neck pace, and the young people are becoming more independent and more rebellious toward the traditional ways of life in a pattern that naturally follows -- the difference between a 30 year old Korean man and a 20 year old Korean man, and the ideals that each holds in regards to dating is pretty astounding. And the gap between a conservative Korean and a liberal Korean, in regards to such things, is pretty big. Whereas a conservative American man may wait ten dates to sleep with a woman for the first time, a conservative Korean man is more likely to push it up into the months-to-years territory. And probably won't touch you at all for several dates. Both of their liberal counterparts, however, are likely to grab your hand straight away, and try it on by the first or second date. The funny thing is, within the frame of the original question, in my experience, the ones who try it on the quickest have usually been the least responsible, most childish of the bunch.
Skinship (or non-sexual physical affection) is also in and of itself a different ballgame. I've had girlfriends who slept (or who were intending to sleep) with a man on the first date turn right around and complain about how he tried to kiss, hold hands, or otherwise touch them far too early in the evening. That will sound strange to someone who hasn't been living or dating in Korea very long, but to me (and to them), it makes perfect sense. A man trying to casually touch you too soon, and especially in public, generally gives the feeling of being too aggressive and possibly of having the wrong intentions, in a manner which is completely unrelated to whether or not he is invited up at the end of the night.
The long and the short of it is, the rules are not just on a different scale or in a different order -- they're completely different. And that's why trying to create a /=/ relationship between them is so difficult -- because, as far as I can tell, there is no such relationship. It's just a matter of relearning your "instincts". Which, oddly enough, myself and most of my friends have found to be most difficult in reverse. As in, we find it more difficult to shift back to the Western way of thinking than we did adjusting to the Korean way to begin with. I assume that's what your daughter's friend is going through, as well.
It's something that's very difficult to explain (at least for me), and I don't know if I've done it much justice, so I can understand why your daughter's friend may have resorted to putting it into such terms. Because, in truth, it's very difficult to verbalize to someone who doesn't already know.