Being Single in Korea: Expat Advice For Dating from Someone with no Success.

Part 1 of 3

Lame Advice Regarding Dating

Do you ever get bad advice about dating?  You know, the advice that is normally provided by older people or your really attractive friends who effortlessly transition from one relationship to the next.  It’s the crap that sounds good, but doesn’t make you feel any better.

“Love will find you when you’re not looking for it.”

“Just focus on improving yourself.”

“It wasn’t meant to be.”

“There are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Is there some truth to these sayings? Maybe.  But, I’m thankful my family doesn’t spew out this crappy advice.  They are awesome and usually make comments like these after my relationships end.

“She was pretty, but you have a big head and she had a big head. If it worked out, you would have made alien babies.” – My sister

“Brent, she was too tall. When she wore heels, someone might mistake you for her child at the mall.” -My dad

“Honestly, I wasn’t sad when it didn’t work out. She was kind of… nerdy.” – My Mom

As an English Professor in Korea told me, “Relationships come and go, it’s our relationships with our family and friends that determine our quality of life.”  That is, of course, sound advice.  I’m thankful to be surrounded by people who aren’t afraid to tell me the truth. If you stop reading here, this will ultimately be my conclusion of this article. Spend your time building friendships and talents in Korea. This advice will improve your quality of life and it is far more beneficial than trying to fall in love.

Korea: Land of the Lonely Expat

During my two-year tenure in South Korea, I’ve participated in relationships, but I have spent most of my time as a single male.  The isolation from other foreigners and the communication barrier with the locals has easily extended my droughts of singleness. Korea can be, however, a great place to live as a single expat.   After all, being single forces us to step out and experience new things.   In turn, new experiences transform who we are. As an individual learns from watching Into the Wild,

“The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.”

But, don’t let that self-improvement hot garbage fool you; Korea can be a brutally lonely country for expats.  Despite how independent you are, most people hit a wall at some point during their time here.

Why is Korea Lonely for Expats?

The main reason is the language barrier.  Most people cultivate relationships.  What do I mean?  I mean we don’t initiate relationships through purely lustful methods like making out with strangers in bars.  Sure, that happens, maybe even more in Seoul than most cities back home (Hello Cage at Gogo’s); but as an average looking 5’9 male, I can vouch that most of my relationships develop because of exposure and time.  A girl may decide I am eligible for dating within five minutes of meeting me, but if she doesn’t receive adequate water and sunshine, the relationship will never blossom.  The problem is, unless people work together, different schedules and distances apart hinder the necessary time for proper courtship.

For those of us who are not exceptionally attractive expats, this means Korea kills dating possibilities. The language barrier minimizes meaningful conversation and opportunities with the opposite sex.  Gone are the days of charming a girl at Starbucks Tom&Tom’s or randomly meeting a girl while picking up a pack of Corona at Publix E-mart.  In fact, good luck finding anyone who adequately speaks your language when you walk into a coffee shop; much less lying to her about your knowledge of the author of the book in her hands.

When expats do congregate on the weekends, job stress and isolation typically reinforces nasty, if not extreme, drinking habits.  These advanced levels of inebriation typically nullify meaningful conversations and reduce expats to faster and more barbaric standards of qualifying the opposite sex.  If you are not tall and handsome, your personality risks never being put to proper use because people simply don’t have the time to get to know you.

Misconception Mania – As Demonstrated By What I Write

The second reason is misconceptions.  Expat women tend to assume that all expat men have yellow fever.  This is false.  While there are plenty of male expats who reserve themselves for Koreans, I have plenty of friends (myself included) who prefer women who are easier to communicate with.  This doesn’t mean we date people with a certain English proficiency based on a test, but that we date girls who understand the nuances of our language, humor and our culture.  The western-man yellow fever myth is nothing more than an excuse for being single or a coping mechanism for rejection.

There is also a misconception that it’s easy for western men to pick up Korean girls.  I covered why this isn’t true in the Myth of White Men and Asian Women.  Korean women prefer Korean men from within their own culture for long-term relationships.   Korea is still a very homogenous culture.  Furthermore, if a Korean woman is attracted to a western male, it’s more than likely because he is an attractive male, not because he is of western descent.  Korean women are extremely picky when it comes to height, clothing, appearance, etc.

Western women, on the other hand, are a rarity in Korea.  I’m unsure if there are actually less western females who live in Korea, but they are certainly outnumbered by men in Hongdae or Itaewon on a Saturday night.  The competition for western women can be intense among the plethora of western-men living in Korea.

Furthermore, Korean men adore western women.  This is especially true if a western woman is blonde (although she will be confused for being Russian).  Oddly enough, while Korean men are unforgiving regarding the appearances of Korean women, they are much more forgiving of the appearance of western women.  People might crucify me for writing this, but I’m still shocked at the amount of attention Korean men shower on western women who are significantly overweight.  It puzzles me considering the demands they place upon their own women to be comparable to match sticks.  Given the amount of attention western women get in Korea, I would argue they have a great dating situation.

Now, let me flip what I just wrote on its head.  I have to think most women who read the above paragraphs vehemently disagree with my opinions.  I would tell you their criticism is fair, and what I wrote was based on my experiences and misconceptions of dating in Korea.  My point isn’t that my misconceptions are true, but that we all have gross misconceptions based on our experiences.  Korea can be a confusing place for dating as a foreigner.  This leads to an atmosphere of distrust, distractions, and ultimately inaction – all things that diminish the chances of forming a meaningful or lasting relationship.

Korea is a Revolving Door

The third reason Korea is the land of the single expat is because it is also one of the world’s largest revolving doors.  Expats come and go and the average time spent in Korea is around two years.  So, making any attempt of a long-term relationship is usually meaningless.  What’s the point of having a serious relationship if your love interest is leaving the country in three months?  This reality undoubtedly reinforces the hook-up mentality that is so prevalent among expats in Korea.

Knowing is Half the Battle

First of all, dating is the worst reason to come to Korea.  If you have dating problems back home, Korea will only amplify those problems.  Korea severely limits the amount of people you communicate with.  Furthermore, Koreans will not find you more attractive because you are a westerner.  Simply put, if you are ugly back home you might even be uglier in Korea.

Koreans take their appearance very seriously.  They are tall, thin, and dress well.  Job applications often include pictures, plastic surgery is viewed as a way to gain a competitive edge on your peers, and Korean women don’t shop for food in sweatpants; they buy their Captain Crunch wearing heels.

The only exception is if you are an attractive westerner with a poor personality.  In those cases, a language barrier will help mask those inadequacies.  However, the cultural and language differences do not put the odds for a successful relationship in your favor.

In general, if you come to Korea with dating as a reason you are wrong.  Come to experience Korea and meet interesting people.  Come to Korea to save money, teach, or travel.  Come to Korea to teach and use your spare time to pursue a master’s degree or focus on hobbies like photography or writing.  Do not come because you think your dating life will improve.  That is a really, really, stupid reason.

Although I will review ways to meet people in Korea, the best dating advice for any expat is to focus on being in Korea for the right reasons.  Build fantastic friendships with the people who you are blessed to have as coworkers or who live nearby.  Also, focus on your goals and adjust your dating expectations.  Korea provides an exceptionally rich lifestyle to those of us who value our spare time and enjoy pursuing our passions.  Don’t let dating ruin an incredible opportunity.


63 Comments Add yours

  1. endlessframe says:

    Man I can really attest to that Revolving door policy. I had a such a close group of friends here. The best friends I’ve ever had in my entire life. Every weekend we did something together, even it was nothing. We all had motorcycles and visited all corners of the country. But now they’re almost all gone. Like 10+ people just vanished over the course of a year. Its brutal.
    I know it’s not the same thing you’re talking about here, but god dammit if it doesn’t make me feel lonely at bars.


    1. I totally relate. Lost some good people here. Friends totally dictate the quality of life in this country.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. astridchan says:

      Although I agree with almost everything..I disagree about the foreign women part. I am a pretty good looking foreign expat. I do not get showered with attention by korean men. I think it so has to do with the way Koreans socialize compared to westerners. I ve been out at clubs and bars but most foreign nor korean men hit on me as a foreign women! I think most foreign men do get korean gf because it is easier to get or they were just not secure with their dating skills back home so they settle for a local. JUST my opinion..


      1. I think we agree. I wrote, ” the only exception is if you are an attractive westerner with a poor personality. In those cases, a language barrier will help mask those inadequacies.”

        Did you say you were an attractive foreign women? Why Hello!


  2. Sarah Elizabeth says:

    Great article! I really enjoyed reading it. Makes a lot of sense.


    1. Thanks, I was afraid this was reaaaaalllllyyyyy horrible. It’s not hard facts, just kind of the way I see things which often doesn’t match reality!


  3. I have to agree with most of what I read here. I’ve been here in Korea for 3 years. I agree that Korean guys fawn over western girls and say how beautiful she is, when she would be average at best in her own country. I’ve noticed the most beautiful western girls in Korea are dating a western guy. Of course there are exceptions. Also, western women are usually not as attracted to Korean guys as western guys are attracted to Korean girls. Just like Korean guys love western girls, such is the same with western guys and Korean women. As you said, Korean guys think their women are just average looking, when I point out a Korean girl I think is pretty. These guys are so strict, if the girl’s face is not perfectly round and small, she is not pretty. When I tell them that beautiful girls in my country (USA, or any western country) all have different looks, different bodies, hair, eyes, lips, height, weight, they don’t understand how it’s possible. Then they see a western girl and, well I already talked about that. Western guys are more forgiving with the looks of Korean girls, a big reason being they wear a lot of make-up, may or may not have had surgery, and are usually dressed well with high heels and lots of leg. We think back to our time spent at the supermarket or Wal-Mart back home, and seeing someone dressed sexy like that was a once a year event. I disagree that it’s harder for western guys to date in Korea than it is back home, but for different reasons. Here in Korea, we have lots of time to explore without the burden and stress of working 40 hours a week to pay all the bills. Making friends in Korea is pretty easy (albeit, we are seen as a novelty and deep friendships are not common). So, I found it pretty easy to meet single, eligible Korean women through friends. I often had friends offering to introduce me to pretty Korean girls they knew through work, university friends and social clubs, etc. You just don’t know where to look. Bars and night clubs (like in Hongdae) are not an easy environment to get to know someone (as in our countries). Koreans are more hesitant to meet strangers. The trick is being introduced by someone else, so you need to make the right friends to meet the right girls.


    1. I don’t like Korean girls, so Your advice doesn’t apply to me. And yes, of course being introduced by a friend to a girl is the best way to meet them. That’s universal. Anyways, this is a three part series so I haven’t even gotten to advice yet.


  4. stephenworldwide says:

    Being introduced is especially important here in Korea. Back home, you can make a date with the girl at the supermarket produce section, or at the post office if you’re slick. Here it’s much, much more difficult to cultivate anything romantic unless you’ve been introduced.


    1. The problems aren’t the introductions, the problems are maintaining the relationships.


  5. seaphrael says:

    As a western woman who has lived here for a while and dated both Korean and Western men, I have to respectfully disagree with a lot of what you wrote. I think you neglected several important aspects in some cultural issues here. First, beauty standards between the two cultures are quite different. Korea’s standard of beauty is rather narrow, which I think is why you will have a lot of Korean guys disagreeing with you when you point out beautiful Korean women. I’ve had this discussion with Koreans multiple times. I say that I always see pretty average or not so good looking western guys with really hot Korean girls, and they always tell me that they see great looking western guys with average looking girls. Girls who are average looking to them are often hot to us, and guys who I see as really average are seen as really attractive by a lot of Korean women. I couldn’t care less about a small face when I evaluate how pretty some girl is, and a lot of Korean girls would never admit a short guy is hot.

    Second, as far as Korean men and western women, I have to say from personal experience and the experiences of a lot of my friends (a limited sample, I know) it’s easy to get laid here but really hard to have anything long-term with a Korean guy. There are a lot of factors that go into this- the novelty factor (“ride the white horse” is a Korean expression for doing a white girl, something a lot of men seemingly want to try) as well as the perception that western women are more liberal when it comes to sex. This works against the average western woman- we’re not considered long-term material because we tend to be a lot more liberal when it comes to sex and dating. The Madonna-whore complex is strong and it’s not uncommon to meet guys who sleep around a ton but want to marry a virgin. I see a lot more Korean women who are open to the idea of long-term relationships with foreign men for various reasons. I don’t think this is necessarily best painted as a Korean/western thing, but perhaps more of an expectations/desires thing. Being a strong, independent woman isn’t really the sexiest thing to the average Korean man (of course there are exceptions) and a lot of the western women who come here embody that to some degree, having left home for adventure in some form or another.

    A few other points- Korean women can entertain the idea of marrying a westerner and leaving Korea at some point if they have brothers around to take care of their parents, while men have a harder time leaving parents behind as it’s generally the cultural expectation that they stick around and take care of them. A lot of the Korean men who marry foreign women marry Southeast Asian women- who are more willing to stay in Korea as it’s an economic step up. And I think stephenworldwide makes a great point too when he says that a lot of it is knowing where to look- people here don’t easily meet strangers or step outside of their social circles. You’ve got a much better chance of meeting someone if you ask your friends to set you up than if you’re just hoping to pick up someone at the coffee shop with a smooth line, regardless of your language ability. As far as westerners dating westerners…that revolving door is a killer, but I know more than one couple that met here and got married. I I think you’re right that a lot of western women think the vast majority of western men here have yellow fever. I don’t think this is a fair assessment by any means; but it absolutely contributes to the dynamics of your dating interactions in the expat scene.

    Just some thoughts, also from a not-so-successful-at-dating expat lady.


    1. Thanks for your response.

      Honestly, you really only reinforced several of my points. Our differences aren’t so much the reasons you provided, but that your perspective is from being a girl instead of a guy. First, I never said there weren’t different standards in judging beauty between westerners and Koreans. My point wasn’t that beauty standards weren’t different, but that personality in Korea does not make up for physical shortcomings like it can back home.

      There certainly are different standards for beauty. However, this favors western girls. If a guy is short in America, that’s not great but he still has options. He’s cursed if he’s under 5’11 in Korea. An overweight girl in America has options too, but she gets a lot more attention in Korea because she is a westerner. I wasn’t talking face size, I was comparing a healthy thin person to someone who is overweight and obese. The physical differences I pointed out weren’t minute, and its amazing how Koreans overlook something like being overweight in western women when they demand their own women to look like toothpicks. I assure you, western men don’t receive the same type of grace from Korean girls for being overweight or short.

      You say it’s easy to get laid. That kind of proves my point. I think as a western girl in this country, it’s extremely easy to get laid in Korea. However, as an average looking guy, I can vouch that it’s not easy at all. Plus, if you want a long term relationship with either a westerner or a Korean girl, it’s very difficult to maintain which is ultimately my point. Your singleness would also reinforce this notion along with your paragraph on the difficulty of maintaining long term relationships. I completely agree with that paragraph. It also ultimately means dating is difficult in this country.

      My point about picking up a girl in the coffee shop was to show that dating is more difficult here. Of course, having a friend introduce you to someone is a better method, that’s true anywhere in the world. However, it’s far more difficult to talk to a random stranger or pick up a random girl in a coffee shop than be introduced by a friend. Your point of stepping out of your comfort zone makes no sense in the context of examples you provided. Parts two and three will be advice on meeting people. I’ll address western “click” culture and I certainly agree with Stephen and yourself that joining different social groups and spreading your wings is the best way to meet people. However, the real trouble is not meeting people, it’s maintaining relationships.


    1. I couldn’t agree more – take dating lightly and focus on other things in life.


      1. Nicole says:

        Hello! I am a beautiful Western girl, lol! I have been going in circles with my life for the past 5 years! I am looking into teaching in S. Korea! Korea, UAE, or Qatar! SHould I choose Korea? LOL. I am so overwhelmed and just want to start a fantastic journey!


        1. Wow, makes me want to ask for a picture. I can’t tell you where to go on your journey. Don’t worry though, you can definitely find someonein South Korea.


  6. mashmollusc says:

    This is a very interesting article! I wish I had come across a blog like this during my 4-year stint in Korea. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this, as it brought me back to the days where I would sit with my girlfriends at the nearest Ho bar, and talk about how there’s no point even bothering to date in Korea, and how it was impossible to find a decent guy. Almost every dalliance we had ended in some sort of horror story – be it with a Korean or a Westerner! I think it’s difficult to seriously date because Korea is where a lot of people lose their inhibitions – the same codes of society and even laws seem much more lax (to us) in Korea. Plus there’s the feeling of being anonymous and temporary within the country, that it’s only what you do at home that “really matters”. Someone once told me that being in Korea was like being in college again, only this time, you’ve got money, so you can really do whatever you want! And I’m sure everyone has stories of couples that come to Korea together only to break up in the most dramatic way. That being said, in my last year of Korea and after a 4 year stream of constant dating, I met “the one”, and we were married within the year. So even though it is unlikely that people are going to find “the one” in Korea, it does happen (I know three couples (all western) who met there and are married now). Thanks for a great article and for keeping your writing consistently interesting!


    1. You certainly can find the right person in Korea and I’m glad that worked out for you. I would just never bet money in it! Thanks for reading!


    2. Nicole says:

      That is adorale! I wonder if I’ll have a story like that someday! 😀 LOL


  7. Goober Crunch says:

    Hi – Yes – I know the basic keys for dating success in Korea.
    1) Language … take it seriously – learn it – and make friends through it. It will serve you well.
    2) Dont be afraid to pay the bill – take her out … pick up the room fee – dont hesitate. It is assumed behavior,
    3) Dont date at work!!: Learn about culture, make friends, practice language … dont do it – will backfire, too much gossip.
    4) Dress well!!: Dont mess with this – find a young girl to help you … and do what she says – it makes a world of difference.
    5) Lead?: If she asks you to meet, and assumes the lead, it will happen, go with it – and dont push, not initially.
    6) Sex: Be a bull – seriously, sorry to the average K-man … westerners are better in bed, use it as a way to bond
    7) Be tech savvy: Kakao, and every thing mobile web – Koreans are the masters, learn the methods and techniques.
    8) Meetups, Language Exchange, Itaewon – these types of venues attract the 10% that like Westerners … use them.
    9) No PDA: Dont make a K-girl uncomfortable in public, keep it behind closed doors … seriously – it matters
    10) Expect success, but dont let it make you lazy, you have to be active in process, or it will stall – Koreans are busy folks !!!


    1. This is great advice for those looking to date Koreans. Let’s be honest though- most foreigners don’t learn the language


    2. Perfect advice for dating Koreans – I was leaning more towards expat dating in the article.


  8. Goober I agree this list is pretty solid for Korean girls (except the “take the lead” part, I think the guy should be the one doing the leading). But like Brent hinted at, the language part is not key. It’s important for Koreans in general, but I’m pretty sure Korean girls interested in a foreigner man (those girls usually speak some English) don’t care too much if he can speak Korean. I know many guys with Korean wives or gf’s and they don’t speak any Korean (which is crazy to me but besides the point).
    #8 on that list is a big one. You can meet girls anywhere, but I’ve found that random places aren’t great for meeting Korean girls open to dating foreigners. Many Korean girls are (10% sounds generous), but you need to go where they are concentrated, which are the various events and meetups with international flavor.

    Also, I’m sure many of us guys are open to dating any women regardless of nationality. But if you’re a foreigner in Korea and not looking to date Korean women, you’re in the wrong place. It’s an uphill climb, numbers game is way against you. However, living in Seoul, you have a better shot at meeting the right expat girl for you.

    Brent, I think a blog about dating western women in Korea is in order (both a Korean and western viewpoint).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you were immortal, your wisdom would make you a god!


  9. Matt says:

    Great article, but I was wondering if you could clarify one of your points. When you say “as an average looking 5’9 male, I can vouch that most of my relationships develop because of exposure and time,” do you think your height is an advantage, disadvantage or neither? I ask because height seems to be very important here in all aspects of life, and I’m about your height, but much less attractive. So I was wondering if, at 5’9”, you’re included in the tall, tall end of average, or average group of men here?



    1. Yeah, Tom Cruise has a nickname in Korea as Tom Loser because of his height. 5″11 is considered the start of acceptable height by the younger generations. I could be wrong, but this is what I’ve been told. Being short here is not as acceptable as in America – you can still work it though.


      1. Matt says:

        That’s crazy to think about; everyone I knew in America, including me, thought Asians were generally shorter, but it seems that they have the genes to be much taller than Americans, judging by the young adults here. Anyways thanks for the response and posting all the articles; I just spent a solid two enjoyable hours perusing this site.


        1. Appreciate it man – remember, nothing on this site is factual. It’s just a collection of experiences. If you go to Thursday Party in Hongdae I think you’ll be find. Dating in the summer is much better!

          I also agree, I think Asians with the right diet have the potential to be giants. Remember, Europeans used to be pretty short.


  10. Alex says:

    One of the reasons I came to Korea was to find a girlfriend but that’s because I prefer northern Asian women (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolian, etc.). America wasn’t the best place to meet northern Asian women. :p

    Anyway I think foreign men have a better chance with Korean women if they are planning on staying for the rest of their lives. Korean women also seem very busy all the time so we have to be patient and interesting at the same time.

    As for Korean men being more lenient about the appearance of western women, I think it’s simply because Korean men haven’t met a lot of western women. The “exoticism” by itself is enough to attract Korean men. However, I think relationships based on only exoticism tends to be just short-term flings.


    1. I will never move anywhere for a girl.


  11. sajad says:

    Thanks guys, I’m a student at Busan. Hope your tips can help me too.


  12. Annabellista says:

    Hello everyone. I’ve enjoyed reading all of your comments.

    I’m a Caucasian American female who has been living in Korea for a few years now, and as far as your main points go, Brent, you are spot-on in many ways (and they are very well-written), but my observations are also similar to seaphrael’s.

    Without getting into all of that, my story is a little different. I am in my 40s, so older than your average ex-pat here, but I am still considered exceptionally good-looking, and look a lot younger than I am. I am not overweight, but am very busty. I am also very tall, but do not mind dating shorter men at all, and I like Korean men. I also have an unusual celebrity status here in Korea. As a result, I have had Korean men falling out of my hair since I moved here. @Goobercrunch- assuming you’re a straight man, how can you assert that western guys are better in bed? Men of any nation are men, and some suck in bed, some are good, but overall, Korean men have been better lovers on average for me.

    What is the same for me is that it has been extremely hard to find any Korean man for a long-term partnership. Unlike many foreigners, I can see myself staying in Korea for the rest of my life. I have met many younger single men who are open-minded towards marrying a foreigner, but finding an eligible, single, Korean man in my age-range is much more difficult. Most Korean men aged 40-55ish, are married, and even if they are not, they are generally more old-fashioned and less open-minded about marrying a foreigner, especially a “wild” westerner. They have no problem with sex, but more than that, no.

    The biggest problem I have faced so far is that many, if not most of, the unmarried men, or divorced and childless men, still live with their parents. I understand that that is common here, and they are just being “good sons” as dictated by society. While we may really like each other, there is no way that they will ever introduce me to their parents, never mind marry me. They are of an older generation, and as much as they might want to break free, they really feel they can’t. I recently had to break up with the best guy I ever met here because of that. We really cared about each other, but at 51, his mother still dictated his life, so there was no way it could work. I left home at 18, so at first that was hard to understand, and it’s still hard to understand a little bit, but I can’t really blame the men for being “mommy whipped”- it’s just the way it is here. Unlike you younger folks, I’m beginning to think that there may be only 100 eligible men in Korea for me, and I have yet to meet one. Sigh.

    Just wanted to share my perspective, and best of luck to anyone else who is hoping to find love here in Korea.


  13. Goober Crunchier says:

    Goober Crunch Part II – Son of Goober Crunch … “Goober Crunchier”
    Thanks to all regarding comments above – this is a refined list.
    This is also – modifications to comments.
    This is also – commentary to the comments … again thanks for the feedback.

    First counter-point: Language and Dating a Korean Women.
    Proposition: “It is not required to have a successful long term relationship”, Factual Answer: “True”
    Commentary: Honestly – spending three or more years here and not embracing a bit of language and culture is a pass on a great opportunity (I know obvious statement). From My experience – I have pursued language, it makes breaking the ice easier and also allows you to meet more women. It is not a key to success, you have to want to meet people, and go out there and be active. Women like fun, and when you can make jokes bilingually … then you have a dating success edge. It also dis-balances the tension – mostly in your favor. Further, most Korean women are western-phobic and you can break (sometimes) through via language. Language ability allows you to work 1-1 with someone – to qualify if you like them enough to date, it helps to avoid the group setting. In Korean culture it is a harder place to socialize with respect to dating – due to cultural peer pressure. Final comment on this – yes it is correct to say most westerners dont learn Korean … why ? … because it is Damn Hard (no joke). So it sets you apart, and you get keys to the castle, which in turns gives you a responsibility. You dont disrespect the castle, or steal the towels, or leave the toilet seat up (you get the picture).

    Second counter-point: Lead versus, indication of interest.
    In hindsight – I made a mistake using the term “Lead”. If you get a text, or a phone message, or anything of even small interest, it can be mis-leading as a westerner. We may confuse it as interest, and all it is – is a desire to learn English. However, if a Korean woman, agrees to meet you in the evening, dinner and drinking, that is a very strong indication. When a Korean woman is welcoming – it will be clear.

    Updated Keys For Success for Dating Korean Ladies
    1) Language … take it seriously – learn it – and make friends through it. It will serve you well.
    2) Dont be afraid to pay the bill – take her out, pick up the room fee – dont hesitate. It is assumed behavior.
    3) Dont date at work!!: Learn about culture, make friends, practice language. Dont do it – will backfire, too much gossip.
    4) Dress well!!: Seriously – find a young girl to help you and do what she says – it makes a world of difference.
    5) Welcoming: If she asks you to meet in romantic way, it will happen, go with it – and dont push, not initially.
    6) Sex: Be a bull, seriously, sorry to the average K-man, westerners are better in bed, use it as a way to bond
    7) Be tech savvy: Kakao, and every thing mobile web – Koreans are the masters, learn the methods and techniques.
    8) Meetups, Language Exchange, Itaewon – these types of venues attract the 10% that like Westerners … use them.
    9) No PDA: Dont make a K-girl uncomfortable in public, keep it behind closed doors … seriously – it matters
    10) Expect success, but dont let it make you lazy, you have to be active in process, or it will stall.
    Additional keys …
    11) Age: This is a vital component of Korean culture, dont expect a serious relationship, with great age difference.
    12) You will never be a Korean: This is a tough thing to understand, no matter how hard you study the language, culture or become friends with Koreans, you will always be an expat. Be Zen about it, and dont try and be something you are not.


  14. Annabellista says:

    Goober Crunchier,

    Much of what you say is true, but I still disagree with #6: “Sex: Be a bull, seriously, sorry to the average K-man, westerners are better in bed, use it as a way to bond”.

    What the heck do you know about how good the average “K-man” is in bed? Maybe some young Korean girls have told you that western men are better in bed, but I bet they have had few sexual experiences with men in general, and they probably only dated other young Korean guys who were also inexperienced. If they said westerners are better in bed, they were likely elevating the experience only due to the man having more experience in bed, and the exoticness of having a foreign lover.

    I am 45, and have had lovers from all around the world, and men are just men. Korean men are just men too, but in my experience, they have been more attentive and better lovers on average than most western men I have known.

    It sounds like you have a good grip on a lot of the cultural customs and differences here, and that’s nice, but, sorry, you still come of as a little creepy and predatory to me with your list. Maybe I am wrong, but that’s what I read into what you wrote.

    While I too will never be Korean either, I am about as close as any foreigner could get, and that’s because I don’t talk or think about Koreans as “them”. All of my friends here are Korean, and I never hang out in popular expat places unless I am meeting a Korean friend there. I really don’t understand why any foreigners come here only to spend most of their time with other foreigners. I moved here because, among other things, I really like Korea and Korean people and will likely spend the rest of my life here.

    What is your reason for living in Korea, how long have you been here, and how long do you plan on staying here?


    1. Whether you agree with it or not, many foreigners come to Korea mainly to work, either in the military, teaching ESL or other jobs. Many don’t come here to learn how to speak Korean, eat kimchi, visit temples, or other cultural activities in Korea. Those are the ones that need western bars and other foreigners to hang out with.


  15. Jamie says:

    I’ve been in Korea 6 months, (I have a Korean girlfriend) but I don’t hesitate, in saying so far I’ve found it very easy to attract attention from Korean girls (Especially at the water parks or beach). And often when I’m with my girlfriend. I’ll get blatant stares, smiles and giggly ‘hello’s” ”so handsome” remarks (which my girlfriend takes exception to). She even got upset one day on the bus because a group of girls apparently said ‘I was so handsome and too good looking for her’.

    I often think had I come with mates or single etc, how easy it would be to ‘hook up’ compared to back home – but I guess that’s a big assumption, taking into account their ‘cultural baggage’.

    Also as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the superficiality of many aspects of Korean society (Korea lifeguards come to mind), which could probably be paralleled to this attention from females – ‘Cock tease’ often crosses my mind when I think about how much effort goes into sex appeal in Women (of all ages between 15-45) which by logic is a major contradiction to their ‘proper’ or ‘conservative’ approach to relationships etc….

    For the record, I am tall, blond, blue eyed with an athletic build but I would not consider myself ‘traditionally handsome’ back home. I was often described as ‘cute’ or a ‘pretty boy’ but where I’m from masculine, tough looking guys got the attention grom girls…


    1. “I am tall, blond, blue eyed with an athletic build”

      “I was often described as ‘cute’ or a ‘pretty boy”

      1) You are Hitler’s definition of Handsome ( I kid)
      2) The Justin Bieber or pretty boy look is in.
      3) Your answer really just confirms everything I wrote in my essay, but I’m happy it’s easy for you. Be nice to your girlfriend and make sure she knows she’s beautiful.


  16. Annabellista says:


    I know that the majority of western foreigners come here for work, so there is no matter of agreeing with that or not. I also understand that most of them want and need contact with other westerners. I get that. I do have a few expat friends as well, but they are also generally long-term residents here married to Korean spouses, and they love living in Korea too.

    What I don’t get, and don’t like, are non-military foreigners who stay here despite hating the country and who complain about it all the time. I think they really need to shut up, or leave.

    The other foreigners I don’t like are the ones who prey on Korean women, or make lists about how to prey on Korean women, even if they make it sound like they are just being culturally sensitive. Sure, there are some cultural differences, but classifying them as a group is insulting. If a man’s goal is to “bag a Korean woman”, that is not a man that I want any of my Korean female friends to know. You want to know a Korean woman, just talk to her like she is any other human being.

    That said, I myself only date Korean men, but that is because I love Korea and want to live here for the rest of my life. I like men from everywhere, but even if I wanted a foreign partner, finding an eligible foreigner would be even harder than finding an eligible Korean man.

    My situation here is highly unusual, as I intend to stay here forever, and I am also famous among most Koreans, so a lot of things come more easily for me. That said, I can’t compare my situation to other foreigners’ situations. At the same time, I wish more foreigners would relax a little more, and actually talk to Koreans and ask them for their opinions.

    Your statement about westerners coming here to “learn how to speak Korean, eat kimchi, visit temples, or other cultural activities” sounds like another lame stereotype. That had nothing to do with my coming here, or that of most of my expat friends. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to learn more about Korean culture though, and I welcome that . Just don’t like the haters that stay here and whine and try to exploit all the time.


    1. Annabellista I agree that foreigners living and working here should not complain so much and appreciate the fact that Korea gives us money to speak English (to give a real basic view at it). UNless you’re stuck at a terrible hagwan job, we are lucky to have the opportunity. But your situation, a western girl who dates mainly Korean men and wants to stay in Korea for life, is pretty rare. Also those people who claim to want to “bag Korean woman” are also rare, just internet trolling or young guys taking advantage of the beautiful landscape of women available here, as they would not be in their country. Not agreeing with that language, but there’s no denying the western guy’s desire to date alot in this country. If someone wants to post a list of do’s and dont’s for dating Korean women or men, I’m all for it. Maybe we can learn something from it, or get a good laugh. Like your comment that “men are just men”. For a 45 year old who has dated around the world, I’m sorry your experiences were so uniform. I’m hoping you meant there isn’t a difference in sexual performance with different nationalities? Also, this guy Jamie tells us that he’s had no difficulty at all attracting women here in Korea, and how he’s tall, blond, blue eyed with an athletic build. No clue what we learned from that post, as Brent hinted to. Maybe Korean women like pretty boys? How enlightening.


  17. Annabellista says:


    Yes, I just meant that there is no noticeable difference in sexual performance between men of any nation, though for some reason, my Korean lovers have been more attentive on average. Maybe it’s just that my lover picker has gotten better. Nothing against men in general- I love men! I just didn’t like goobercrunchier’s arrogant-sounding assertion that western men were better in bed, as I have found that to be nonsense. I have had really good and really bad lovers from everywhere, but it’s all down to the individual in the end.

    I agree that knowing some do’s and don’ts are important in dating here, which is why I found your blog in the first place. There is a difference between trying to understand the culture and just trying to scam on women though. The line is subtle, but I have met many young foreign men who seem to to lean more towards “bagging a girl” than towards wanting a real relationship. Maybe that’s also in part because they know they will only be here for a short time, but I have also witnessed that attitude among men in the U.S. who think they have to trick women into liking them, and who later brag that they got some woman through their smooth-talking or some other trick. It’s as if they think the only way they can get a woman in bed is through deception of one kind or another, and I find that very sad indeed. A guy who thinks he has to deceive me to get me into bed, and who would actually believe he had pulled it off like I am just some stupid prey, is the last guy I would want to sleep with. Unfortunately, many men’s magazines seem to promote the very same thing. Many women also play tricks, and like the men, feel that is their only option. Again, I find that really sad. If I can’t have an honest relationship with a man, I would rather stay single, and my male friends feel the same about dating women.

    While I think it is very important to understand the cultural differences, like how my 51-year-old ex could still be such a momma’s boy and how it’s not unusual here, it’s most important to engage in honest discussion with the person as an individual. That’s not always easy here either since a lot of Koreans aren’t used to frank discussions or healthy debate, but even though Korean society is more homogeneous, Koreans are not all one people, just as Americans are not all the same.

    As far as tall, blond guys here go, my tall, handsome, blond brother, and tall, handsome, blond cousin came to visit, and they were literally mobbed by school girls on several occasions. They still joke about it because that would never happen in the U.S. Can’t blame the school girls though as they are pretty boys and exotic here. Can’t say the same for most average-looking or below-average-looking western guys I see with gorgeous Korean women by their sides, but as has been said before here, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. I was with a Korean guy and pointed out Korean girls that I thought were beautiful, but he said “no way, she looks like a horse”; “she looks like a wild boar”, etc. Also, I have always thought some Asian men were handsome, but until I moved here, a lot of the guys that I now consider very handsome I wouldn’t have looked at twice in the U.S. People have very different ideas of beauty, and those can change.

    Anyway, thank you for this post and your comments. I enjoy reading about others’ opinions of life here in Korea. As a foreigner who hopes to stay here forever, and who has a rare special status, I may perhaps be the most unusual expat here, but that does little to help me find a long-term partner here overall. Even overcoming the obstacles of finding an unmarried Korean man in my age-range, there is still the problem of finding one I am truly compatible with, and that is a universal challenge.


    1. Schwartz says:

      Do you still live in Korea?
      I would love to meet you in person. I’m close to 40. : )


      1. Was this directed towards me? Man, I should have checked the site more often.


  18. Annabellista says:

    ah, sorry stephenworldwide, this is not your blog, and no disrespect to Brent Sheffield, was a liitle confused, but my comments still stand.


  19. Antoine Doisnel says:

    Many thanks for this great advices, seems strange that Korean Girls like attractive well-dressed man who can speak with her. Really strange..


  20. Kerry Harknett says:

    Being a blonde western woman with a Korean boyfriend, i find all these things you’ve mentioned here extremely accurate. on many occasions i’ve been told i was ‘desirable’ however its only because I’m english and blonde and actually rather chubby… anything thats a little different and it appears many korean guys can become a bit predator-like~ of course its not really that bad.. just i feel the pressure of being a stick thin, high heel wearing fashionista even though I’m completely the opposite!


    1. Yeah…the pressure you described is tough. We have a three part series on being skinny in Korea.


  21. Jitender says:

    I wonder how much of this is true today (July, 2015). Im in Seoul now.


    1. It’s all speculation. Take it with a grain of salt and follow your heart.


  22. Robert Ko says:

    I’m an adopted Korean thinking of moving back to Korea. Planning on getting my TESOL certification and applying for the Fall.

    My biggest reason to go back is to try and reconnect with a culture I missed out on. While it is not the most important factor for me dating is something I have thought about.

    I’m somewhat short but am fit and have dated almost exclusively Caucasian women while growing up. For one they were the people I most culturally identified with as my adoptive parents were white, and as I’ve gotten older I think back and I was probably also just trying my best to fit in so dating another Asian or minority just didn’t appeal to me.

    Later in college I did date a very Christian Korean girl who I really liked. We were loosely dating for a few months and as things began to get more serious she abruptly ended it, telling me I would never be acceptable to her family (ouch). I got it though, I am totally out of touch with Korean culture, don’t speak the language and wasn’t a devout christian so I didn’t take it too hard.

    All this is to say that I am coming to Korea with an open mind but also not expecting too much. Since college dating has been hit or miss for me. There are times when I lament the realities of being an Asian man in American. The stereotypes in the media and the lack of Asian male protagonists has made it difficult for many Asian men to date stateside, especially compared to the “exotic” beauty that Asian women are blessed (saddled?) with. Couple this bad situation for US Asians with the reality that many American Asian girls are not interested in men from their own race and are looking for Caucasian men, and dating can be a bit confounding.

    Like I said above dating wouldn’t be my main reason to come back to Korea, but all the talk about height makes me nervous that I’d just trade on frustration for another. I am 5’7″ so maybe I should just get lifts and never look back, but after what I’ve experienced in my life I prefer to just be who I am without any sense of shame.

    I plan to get dual citizenship and am really excited. I’ve gone significant stretches without long term relationships so I’m not overly concerned but everyone can get lonely at times. I found your post interesting as well as many of the comments. Thanks.


    1. First of all, let me apologize for the stereotype of Asian men in America. I know it exists and that’s difficult to overcome. Fortunately, Asian men are making headway in the states now(perfect hair, fit, smart, etc.) and caucasian girls in Korea will definitely pay attention to you.

      Regardless, it’s all speculation. Be awesome at who you are and be persistent with who you like. You might lose some battles, but you’ll still win the war.

      Don’t let looks or stereotypes ruin your dating life because dating concerns individuals and all individuals have very different tastes and preferences in people.


  23. Not ugly says:

    Maybe I’m just a good looking foreign man. I’m overweight (not a whale but nowhere near fit) and in my three years here have had tons of korean dates, hookups, and relationships. Way more than back home and my dry spells have been almost non-existent…


    1. Interestingly enough, I don’t feel like Koreans judge foreigners harshly when it comes to weight. Height yes, weight no. I’m glad you are killing it though!


  24. Tal says:

    Thank you for the article. I just moved to Busan, and I am a single, foreign girl.
    Since the amount of time I will spend in Korea is long, I will be looking for a relationship. It’s very interesting to read about how locals and expats interact in that aspect, and how a foreign guy can feel about it.

    I was actually surprised that Korean girls are not as skinny as I expected. I am the sporty type, and quite skinny, and so far I have been one of the skinnies around. That seems to be highly appreciated from Korean men, I do get lots of stares but nobody approached me yet.
    I am a brunette with long hair, quite pretty (I was always successful in the USA or Europe) and that seems just fine. No need to be blond to attract attention 😉

    Most comments regard Seul, is there any advice for people who are not in Seul? 🙂
    Any apps, website, etc?

    Great blog 🙂


    1. You got my attention 🙂

      I think you’ll be fine — a skinny and outgoing Western women. Why hello. You’ll be approached by a ton of western and Korean guys. Brunettes are always my personal preference anyways. I think Busan is a little more relaxed, there are definitely some cool expats in the area. You will do great!

      I think the only challenge you may encounter is a long term relationship with a Korean guy. Most will want to have fun with you, but there is a lot of pressure for them to keep serious relationships within their own race.


  25. Laura Cairns says:

    Hey Brent, I see it’s taken me a couple years to come across this. I lived in Korea as a 24 year old and had a great time It’s now ten years later and I’m returning once again, but this time a little apprehensively. I think I’m quite attractive (if that doesn’t sound too conceited) but I know I’ll have problems with the lack of a dating scene because it does appear that in Asia all the nice foreign men I meet already have Asian girlfriends. In Saudi, where I’ve been teaching for the past four years, we don’t have that problem as there’s a great variety of nationalities and the dating scene is great (if only it was legal!!) but I’ve always missed Seoul. Still, your article was refreshing to read. It certainly made me re-think things. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there!


    1. You can always move to Jacksonville and marry me if things don’t work out 😉


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