Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Korean Equation

I am going to go out on a limb here and be ambitious. You see after the break up with BK and hitting the dating scene here in Korea I came up with this formula in my head for dating Koreans. Now I am no expert and I still don't really have a good sample rate to validate my findings. But after talking to some seasoned expats and some coteachers (women) I got the feel for this equation.

What I will do is present to you my idea of the American (western) dating equation coinciding with the Korean dating equation. Keep in mind that this is probably not true for every American (Westerner) or every Korean.

Let's begin..

The American (Western) dating equation(s):
(likes the same things) (loves / likes each other) (man) + (woman) (likes the same things) (loves / likes each other)
(likes the same things) (loves / likes each other) (man) + (man) (likes the same things) (loves / likes each other)
(likes the same things) (loves / likes each other) (woman) + (woman) (likes the same things) (loves / likes each other)

The Korean dating equation:
(Family matches) (Age is not too high or too low) (Job is honorable) (Body type is desirable) (Education background is honorable) (Blood type compatibility) (loves / likes each other)(man) + (woman) (Family matches) (Age is not too high or too low) (Job is honorable) (Body type is desirable) (Education background is honorable) (Blood type compatibility) (loves / likes each other)

And although I am positive that there are gay / lesbian Korean couples I am not going to include that equation because it isn't considered a standard here.

As you can see, from my point of view, there are some fundamental differences between the Korean equation and the American one. Most importantly that the Korean equation is based upon certain requirements instead of simple platonic love.

When you think about these two equations, as I did, you have to wonder where you fit into it. I realized that I didn't fit into BK's equation or that he couldn't fit me into his. As a western person with no real moral checklist I feel free to include anyone into my equation as long as they aren't creeps or a**holes.

But there are many expat women out there who have managed to get themselves inside the Korean equation and successfully. (Although there are some who have gotten on the inside but still it ends badly, so it varies.) I believe this was done because the individual they found put aside most of the stuff attached to that equation and matched it with the American or (western) equation.

In the end, these ideas of mine are just .... ideas. Whether Korean or Western we are human and looking for companionship. But this is how I see myself as a woman embracing the dating scene here in Korea. I feel my competition is not with Korean women but with this equation. However, my theories may just be pudding one day...who knows?

What do you think? Am I completely bonkers here? Is this too bias, obscene, obtuse...? Lemme know~


  1. While there's probably five Korean female / Western male couple for every one Korean male / Western female, it's certainly not impossible. You already know that Western guys usually find themselves looking at the Korean women, and the Korean men that speak English and would love to make their acquaintance. The problem is finding the Koreans that speak enough English to be conversational... If they're not as familiar with Western culture, they may have very different expectations of your role in a long-term relationship...

    Have fun with him - and when / if it gets to the serious level, have a talk about expectations... For now enjoy it :)

  2. If you haven't read it already, check out Edward Said's Orientalism, because that's basically what you've just done.

  3. Daniel I have read parts of that in one of my Art history classes. Hmm maybe it is time to brush up on that hahaha...

  4. I think on each side you should add pressure from parents to marry and have children. It's much more intense here.

  5. I don't think Western relationships are that easy. You may claim that anyone fits in your equation "as long as they aren't creeps or assholes," but most people have deal breakers. You said you have "no real moral checklist," but most people have some sort of moral checklist. I am positive there are a lot of non-creepy, non-assholes I would never date. There are also a lot of people I like and have things in common with who I wouldn't date.

    You also wrote "most importantly that the Korean equation is based upon certain requirements instead of simple platonic love." Well, first, are you sure you understand Platonic love? I don't want my romantic relationships to be Platonic love. Platonic=no sexual relationship at all. That aside, I think most Westerns have certain requirements, too. This goes back to deal breakers. I require a man with no kids. Most Westerners expect their partner to do partner-like things. Most expect fidelity. Most expect someone who won't steal money from them. Most couples want to have kids, etc etc.

    If Western relationships were as easy as your equation, nobody would ever break up. The fact of the matter is, dating a Westerner, dating a Korean, dating a Martian--most people break up with every person they date--until they finally don't. MOST relationships end. That's the way life is.

  6. I think you're hurting, and I'm so sorry, I know this is a painful time. I also think your dramatically oversimplifying the american dating equation.

    Age is definitely important to me as an American, I won't date a woman too much older than me, and I think most guys I know are the same. Family isn't important nor is blood type, but Education and Job are considerations.

    What I think you're not including is social pressure in the Korean equation. Family and peer pressure is far greater on the Korean side, and if your family doesn't approve of someone, it doesn't really matter if you love them or not, you can't stay with them. That's something totally different from us in America.

  7. Thanks for your insights everyone. Sure this reflects some personal choices of mine. And I recognize my formulas don't include every possibility or circumstance.

  8. I've been thinking more about this today. Joy, your Western equation doesn't even cover you. You said (several posts ago, and more than once if I remember correctly) that you wanted to meet a KOREAN man. So wouldn't you equation be something like

    (woman) (likes the same things) (loves / likes each other)(wants a Korean man)

    I also think that when things don't work with someone from "our own culture," we're likely to blame it on something else. "He didn't want to commit," "I didn't find him attractive anymore," etc. When it's an "other," it's easier to blame culture. Culture becomes a scapegoat.

    This isn't to say culture doesn't matter--it does. But I think it matters a lot less than your equations allow for. It's almost like you're comparing a high school sweetheart Western equation with a marriage-minded Korean equation. A marriage-minded American equation would be a lot more complicated.

  9. Amanda - I see your point that my American equation is too simple and not inclusive enough.

  10. Joy,

    I know you're going through a big transition--breaking up with someone you'd been dating more than a year and meeting a new person in the same month--but I agree with the folks who said you're oversimplifying it. I'm not saying you're 100% wrong about BK--the things I read on your blog made me think he was rather selfish and even pigheaded on the cultural difference issues--just that even you know there's more to it than this "equation."

    Anytime you have an intercultural relationship, there are new "rules" for dating that are formed because inevitably, each culture's rules conflict in some ways. You're right that one way this could work is for one of the partners to give up his or her culture entirely for the other person, but those are rarely the healthiest or most effective, happy unions (often with the dominant culture partner being completely unaware of just how happy the other partner is). If you go into your new romance expecting him to completely defy everything he's ever known (especially when YOU live in HIS country), you're asking for heartbreak. A lot of it.

    Recently, I posted my reflections on dating Korean men in Korea. Although I'm no more qualified than you to comment on the issue, I have the benefit of some distance from the immediate emotional scars of heartbreak in Korea or the rush of new love. It might give you some more to think about: http://storysinger81.blogspot.com/2009/05/dating-korean-guy-in-korea.html

    Best of luck and thank you for posting some of your thoughts,

  11. Call me silly, but although Joy oversimplified, I found this post a funny way to show how cultures are different.

    And that (duh!) would likely make dating more complicated.

    Glad to see all the Junior Sociologists chime in, though. ;-)

  12. Equations for relationships? Isn’t that a little formulaic? ;) Are you talking about machines or human beings?

    I certainly hear you on difficulties with different cultural expectations from relationships. I had this difficulty in Japan. I had a difficult time with the notion that communication was not important in relationships. That was always number one for me. (Ironically, I later found that communication is a little overrated.)

    But your comparisons of the different dating scenes do probably make you more aware of how cultural assumptions play a role in deciding how humans should interact with each other.

    I think the end, what you’ve gone through has expanded your mind in a way that may not have been possible had you just stayed in the US. You’ll have a better idea of what is important to you…hopefully in an honest way and not in a formulaic way.

    I was going to comment on an earlier post to say that all of this is a process. You cannot bypass certain parts of your life to get to the more desirable or less hurtful parts. (I think it was the post about the phases of post-breakup. And really, phases are a little cut and dry, too. Life is a continuum. It’s not broken into defined parts.)

    아만다, I like your comments, too.

  13. Besides actual compatibility and attraction, a mutual respect for each other's cultural heritage is essential....it's getting the world at large to understand that can be difficult

  14. All very interesting!

    Over simplifications, generalizations, and compartmentalizing, rationalization....can only temporarily comfort fresh emotional wounds and lingering scars that haven't completly healed.

    There's a lot of literature out there on "relationship"! I suggest that "Foreigner" plugs into some of it before trying to author her own theories!

    Some of this can take a "lifetime" to process!

  15. mziriz,

    I agree with your first statement. As for literature on “relationship”, what will that do other than reveal that there are many ideas on what a relationship should be? And what credential will the literature have, really? It’s just written by people. Just other people’s relationships and what they’ve learned from their experiences. That’s not to say you can’t get some perspective from other people’s relationships, but in the end, you have to experience these things on your own. Aren’t Joy’s own experiences valid sources of information on relationships as they pertain to her?

    Also, if Joy hadn’t authored her own theory, none of these comments would be here, including yours ;)


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