I've been in South Korea for the last month and a half, and will be for the next 11 months. It's lovely, so far.
Last night I had my first date with a Korean girl.
From what I've gathered from talking with Koreans, doing a little research on the side, and my own observations, the dating culture here is nothing like it is back home in the States. Well, it's similar, but moves a pace that is MUCH SLOWER than everything back home. That isn't to say that an extremely gifted lady's man couldn't make things happen fast, but it's going to be a different, perhaps harder road.
First off, Korea is a very patriarchal culture. Despite what feminists want us all to believe, the United States is nothing like this. Women are actually treated differently by the boss than men, they have different social rules applied to them (e.g. women who smoke in public are looked at with scorn, the girl I took out was rejected by a man because she told him it was OK if he smoked because she smoked too), and have a completely different mindset when it comes to sex and dating. The family is very important, and so many women are genuinely dating to find a husband, and it is considered shameful in some circles to not be married by your late twenties. Marriage is a major life goal of many women.
In regard to sex, any sort of touching or kissing before several dates have passed (I've heard tons of different numbers, from a couple dates to a couple months before it's OK) is considered, for lack of a better word, slutty. A Korean friend of mine explained it in limited English by saying the girl just does not know until then if your feelings for her are genuine.
Enough on culture. I met this woman, "Um-ma," in a night club in down town Seoul. She looks perhaps 23-25, very petite, short hair, and has a set of girly adorable mannerisms juxtaposed along side a genuine "don't give a fuck what you say" attitude that I'm drawn to irresistibly. However, when we asked each other's age (common in Korea because it helps people decide how much respect to speak to you with - Confucian culture) she told me she is 32. Whoa! She said, jokingly, that I should call her Um-ma, which means older sister.
I approached her while looking for my friend's glasses, and discovering that she spoke good English, started talking to her in what way I could in the loud night club. I asked her for a mint, and then moved us to a less loud area of the club. I was surprised she was so willing to follow me after such a short interaction. We talked quite some time, at one point I left the club not intending to come back after we exchanged facebooks (I only just got a phone), but I did come back and we talked some more. I was the only person who had commented on her rain boots as "ridiculous" and she seemed willing to let me touch, move and rearrange her posture to fit what I wanted.
After awhile, I convinced her we should talk some place else and we left the club together. We held hands and walked around in downtown Seoul, just talking and getting to know each other. That night I told her I would call her as soon as I got a phone, and would send her an e-mail asking for her number. When we parted, I hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She only weakly hugged me back and did not kiss me. I took this as a sign of Korean culture and not any sort of disinterest.
I called her up later that week, we made plans, and we met up last night in Seoul at about 7. We did not hug when we met, it felt like it would have been forced and somewhat awkward. We walked around a really neat district, just talking to each other and enjoying each other's company. Then stopped at this restaurant to eat some of this ( http://lorencz.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/800px-korean_chicken_soup-samgyetang-01.jpg ). Very delicious, if a bit expensive. She offered to pay her share, but I told her she could pay for the next place. I was told it was bad manners not to pay for your date in Korea, but much of what this girl said to me seemed very disillusioned by much of Korean culture, especially in regard to dating customs and social norms (she smokes in public!).
We walked around a bit more, talking and talking. A lot of my humor was lost on her because it just doesn't translate so well, and she would often respond logically to some of my jokes - One thing I do sometimes back home when somebody talks about a weird quirk or fear is to assume a faux Freud accent and look at them seriously and say, "Tell me about your mother!" but Um-ma responded by actually telling me about her mother. She has such adorable mannerisms, like when something excites her, or if she finds her way when looking for something, she will skip one step, or the pitch of her voice gets higher. Such a cutie.
She took me to the waterfront and we went up into a cafe for a waffle and a milkshake. It's adorable watching any Korean use a knife because they don't ever do it (if they have long noodles or a big piece of meat, they cut it with scissors. Seriously). So after she struggled enough cutting the waffle, I took the knife from her and showed her how to use the teeth and saw through the food, busting on her a little, and then I forked a piece and tried to feed it to her. She refused and got embarassed, playfully, but I persisted, treating her like she was the young one of the two of us. She conceded at last and held my hand while I delivered the food. When there was only one bite left, she told me when she was young her parents used to tell her "the last bite is for the youngest" and so she forked it and tried to feed me, laughing at my age. It was probably the best few moments of the night.
We were out too long for me to catch the subway home, but I have a friend who lives near where she does, so she said I could come with her to meet her friends while I waited for my friend to call me back. He didn't call back for a couple hours, so I ended up at a bar having drinks and talking with Um-ma and her two cute female friends, who were already well drunk by the time they showed up. I got a hold of my buddy and he said I could stay, but i wasn't ready to head to his place. The friends insisted that Um-ma and I sit next to each other, which in Korea is what couples do, and at one point one of the friends said I could go home with Um-ma and she wouldn't mind at all. The two friends talked to each other in Korean, and Um-ma and I sat close, touching each other and listening to a shared pair of headphones while talking. She ended up pretty tipsy (extreme light weight) and was ready to get out of there.
I got up with her and took her downstairs to get a taxi, and she said "It's OK if you come home with me, tonight." Normally I would take this as a surefire invitation for sex, but this is Korea, and nothing is as it seems. She took me to her place and told me just before we got there that she had a roommate, but she works the nightshift and wouldn't be home. More good signs?
We walked in to her apartment, which was spotless and yet she still apologized for the mess, and there was her roommate, flopped over on her bed, passed out with her bedroom door wide open. No matter, we went into Um-ma's room and got ready for bed. She wanted to shower before getting into bed so I waited for her to return (again, I'm made somewhat unsure by Korean customs of how I should behave, and decided this was not a green light). She did, with nothing but a towel on, then put on a long night shirt that made her look like a little girl, with no panties on underneath. She put on some boots of hers and did a short model walk for me, which got me very excited. Then she took them off and climbed into bed with me.
We cuddled a few moments, me deciding if I should just act on my desire and relieve her of any responsibility, before her phone rang. It was the roommate. PISSED OFF that Um-ma had brought home a guy. They texted a few times before Um-ma got up saying "she had to do something about this" and went out to talk to the roommate. 10 minutes later, after some heated argument in Korean, Um-ma came back and told me that I had to leave. She apologized profusely, but would only explain her roommate's agitation as "a Korean thing" and started ranting about how sometimes she hates and doesn't understand Koreans.
I pulled her into my lap and held her for a few moments, told her everything was OK and I could call my friend, and that she need not be sorry. I had told her about being into Jujitsu earlier in the night, and I held her close and pulled her down onto the bed and whispered "this is Jujitsu" jokingly. I pointed to my cheek, she went to kiss it and I turned to steal a kiss on the lips. She caught me and pulled away coyly, and I gently pulled her in for a kiss on the lips. We hugged again, I dressed, hugged her again and kissed her cheek at the door, and left.
I had an hour and a half to kill before the subway opened (it was 4 am) so I just walked around her neighborhood till I could leave.
What a fuckin' night.