14 Dec 2016

Couples Culture in Korea

For singles around the world, February 14th is the hardest day of the year and in Korea, Christmas too is thought of a hard time for singe people with all those lovey dovey couples. The streets are filled with these smug couples arm-in-arm on their way to expensive dinner reservations. Stores are filled with chocolates and cards and red roses and other things you won’t receive. Facebook is so flooded with annoying posts and photos by couples gloating about the dinners they ate and the presents they got that you just want to deactivate your account and drown your sorrows in a tub of ice cream. It’s like the whole word is screaming “You’re alone and nobody loves you!

But hey, at least it’s only one day a year right?

Well yes… in most countries. In Korea, it’s an all-year-round thing. Even Christmas has a more distinct couples feel to it than what you see of a western Christmas which is more family orientated.

Anyone who’s spent even a little time in Korea would have noticed that the couples culture here is unlike anywhere else in the world. It doesn’t seem that it’s enough to simply be in love – love is something to be displayed in public. And not only on Instagram or on anniversaries, but in what you wear, where you eat, and on the 14th day of every single month.

1. Couples Celebration Days 

If you think it’s hard enough to remember your annual wedding anniversary, imagine having to figure out each 100 day anniversary of when you started dating. Maybe this says something about the average duration of Korean relationships, but couples here like to celebrate each 100 days they’ve been together as baek-il (100 day), ee-baekil (200 days), sam-baek-il (300 days) and so on.

In addition, the 14th day of each month in the year marks a specific couples celebration – so if you’re in a relationship you should probably record the 14th as a recurring event in your calendar. If you’re single, you might want to mark the date too, so you remember not to leave the house that day.

Here’s a quick guide:

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Photo by Luke Ma / CC BY 2.0

February 14th “Valentines Day” – On this day, women around the world are spoilt with roses, chocolates and teddy bears, and men are generally left with nothing but empty wallets. But not in Korea – on Feb 14 it’s all about the boys and it’s the girls who shower their crush, boyfriend or husband with gifts.

March 14th “White Day” – Don’t worry girls, you get your turn too – on White Day the men will buy presents (candy is tradition) for the special lady in their life.

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Photo by egg™ /  CC BY 2.0

April 15th “Black Day” – This one is for the singles. If you weren’t already feeling depressed enough after two months of couples celebrations, this day is set apart for singles to console themselves in a big bowl of noodles with black bean sauce (ja-jang-myun). Singles are also said to wear head-to-toe black on this day to signify their single status – which probably means it’s a good day to go out and meet other singles too.

The three days above are the most commonly observed, and only truly hardcore couples will keep going with these less well-known couple days:

May 14th “Rose Day” – Couples exchange roses.

June 14th “Kiss Day” – Couples have an excuse to engage in the PDA that they might otherwise get heckled for. Some websites say this day is for people to “kiss everyone that you see” which means it might be a good one for singles to participate in too!

July 14th “Silver Day” – Couples exchange silver accessories.

August 14th “Green Day” – Couples spend time amongst nature by hiking or picnicking, while singles are meant to drink Soju (which comes in green bottles) to commiserate their loneliness (or to celebrate their freedom!)

September 14th “Photo Day” – Couples take a romantic photo together.

October 14th “Wine Day” – Couples enjoy a bottle of wine together.

November 14th “Movie Day” – Couples go and watch a movie together at the cinema.

December 14th “Hug Day” – Couples hug each other to keep each other warm in the winter.

January 14th “Diary Day” – With all these dates to remember, you need somewhere to write them down – so couples buy each other yearly planners to ensure that none of these very very important couple holidays are overlooked.

While some of the above events include a (pretty condescending) singles counterpart, that doesn’t mean singles can’t participate in the other days by, for example, photobombing a couple of on “Photo Day”, throwing popcorn on couples in the theatre on “Movie Day” or drinking a whole bottle of wine by yourself on “Wine Day”.

2. Couples Fashion 

While not as common as it was 5 years ago, there is still a big market for couples fashion in Korea. Couples here seem to really love the “cuteness” of wearing matching t-shirts, shoes, hats – heck, sometimes you’ll even see couples wearing identical outfits.

For foreigners, it’s a bit of a novelty and it can be quite fun dressing up in a “Couple Tee” with your boyfriend or girlfriend when they come over to visit and going somewhere Lotteworld together.

It’s not easy to find “Couple Shops” anymore but you can easily find all your couple fashion needs online.

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Couple hoodies

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Couple mobile phone accessories

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Couple mugs

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Couple rings

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Couple pyjamas

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3. Couples’ Cafes 

A lot of the restaurants and cafes in Korea – especially in ‘university towns’ – will have special seating for couples, sometimes even with a curtain if you want extra privacy.

If the relationship is getting pretty serious and you’re willing to invest a bit of money into a special occasion or maybe even a proposal – you’ll be happy to know that in Korea, true romance can be bought. There are few ‘Event Cafe’s around Korea like ‘Love in Love‘ and ‘The Rose‘ that will do all the hard work for you. These cafes are premium venues decked out in chandeliers, rose petals, candles and royal French furniture staffed by professionals who will create the perfect romantic evening for you complete with food, wine, live music and a beautiful view of the city.

But love doesn’t come cheap – these packages will set you back between 100,000 and 500,000 won.

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So what do you think of Korean couples culture? Annoying? Oppressive? Cute? Romantic? Just a bit of harmless fun? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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