Dating....dun, dun, dun...
So the big question that I get asked a lot when I talk to friends and family back home is the inevitable "Are you dating anyone?" or "Do you have a boyfriend yet?". I guess I understand why people ask this; I mean, I'm 24 and almost every single one of my friends in the US is in a serious relationship, and here I am over in Korea like "Where am I traveling to next?". Well, I'm certainly not lonely or desperate to settle down by any means, but recently I have started to dabble in dating a little.
I'm sure we all can agree that first dates are almost always a little awkward and you can't be yourself 100%. Well throw in the fact that I'm a foreigner and not nearly fluent in Korean, and that's bound to make things a lot more complicated. Since I can't speak Korean fluently (..yet!), I do need a guy who can speak a good amount of English; this automatically eliminates probably 99% of the Korean guys in my city. I could probably have much better luck in Seoul, but since I'm only able to travel there on the weekends, it doesn't give me a lot of opportunities to meet guys; and on the occasions when I do meet guys, who can speak English, once I tell them I live in Jecheon, things go downhill...fast. It's not that Jecheon is a bad city; I actually like it a lot. It's just that Jecheon is 2 hours from Seoul, and in the minds of Koreans, that's like traveling to the moon and back. Koreans don't have the same concept of travel and time that most westerners do. When I think of traveling to Seoul, I think "Wow! Seoul is ONLY 2 HOURS!", but when Koreans think of Seoul, they think "Wow! Seoul is SO FAR AWAY 2 HOURS OMG HOW WILL I EVER SURVIVE THAT BUS/TRAIN RIDE!!!!!". So my location and Korean language skills have seriously hindered my dating prospects.
BUT, I have managed to have some help! Blind dates are super common in Korea. Actually, most Koreans meet their significant others through blind dates. I've been fortunate enough to have some friends want to fix me up, so I've been able to meet a few guys through blind dates. I had never been on a blind date before Korea, I had only set up a friend before (which went terribly...), so I was a little apprehensive at first but ultimately decided what the hell why not.
The Good, The Not-So-Good, and the Bad
My first date with a Korea guy actually wasn't a true blind date; I met him at a bar that my friends and I frequent. He was brave enough to initiate a conversation with my friend and I, which is pretty uncommon because most Koreans can be quite shy. I ended up giving him my number and he called me and scheduled a date. He picked me up one evening and we went to eat chicken and then to a cafe for coffee. At the beginning of the date he proceeded to tell me he couldn't speak English well, so I was forced to speak Korean the whole time. I love practicing speaking Korean, so I wasn't mad...it's just that my ability isn't that great yet, so by the end of the date I felt like I had literally said everything I could possibly express; so there wasn't much need for a second date since I felt that communication issues would quickly arise if this continued.
My second date was 100% a blind date and I knew little to nothing. My good friend JiYeon (aka Mandy) set me up with her friend's friend. He was also an elementary school teacher in Jecheon, and had previously been an English teacher. We met at a coffee shop and I was pleasantly surprised. He was really good-looking and his English-speaking ability was SO GOOD!! We really hit it off and had a lot in common. He told me he had had the chance to practice his English in the military because he happened to be stationed on a mixed Korean/American base and was able to talk to American soldiers. We got along so well and our date was almost 5 hours long! After the date, we tried making plans to meet again, but he was always busy. We didn't stay in contact long after that. I found out a couple months later from our mutual friend that he had really liked me but he was a little nervous to date a foreigner. So that's how that ended.
My third date was also completely blind. My friend's co-teacher (who also happens to be my friend) set me up with her husband's co-worker, who happened to be a police officer. My friend warned me that she didn't know anything about the guy, but that he had told her husband he could speak English. After my last 2 dates I was a little apprehensive to agree, but went ahead and said yes. We met at a coffee shop and things immediately got off to a rough start; he was 15 minutes late, which I personally think is a little rude. I was about to leave the cafe when he finally showed up. Honestly, it was a terrible date and I couldn't wait to leave. He lied about being able to speak English, so again I was forced to speak Korean the whole time; we had absolutely nothing in common and there were a lot of awkward silences...cringe! The date lasted about 45 minutes...which was 45 minutes too long.
So why don't I date other foreigners?
So some people might be wondering why I don't date other Americans or foreigners in Korea. Well...I actually did go on 1 date with an Army guy not too long after first arriving here but nothing ever came of it. Also the distance problem still seems to arise. Many other foreigners are in the Seoul area which can hinder dating when you live a couple hours away.
So there you have it. This is what it has been like to date in Korea so far. It definitely doesn't come easy (especially when you're a foreigner); it has been awkward and frustrating at times, but also fun and something I can laugh about. I don't think blind dates are really my thing, or at least if I ever agree to another one I think I will have to ask more details beforehand to save me some trouble. But as for now, I will use a little Korean advice: 화이팅!!! (aka don't give up!)