Dealing with Cultural Differences and Breaking Stereotypes

One of the very interesting things about dating someone from another culture is all the differences you will no doubt encounter, as well as the stereotypes that you might have gotten or heard from people who have had bad experiences.

As for stereotypes, Hyo and I both admittedly had a few that we thought about when we first met each other. This has never stopped us from prematurely stopping us from taking things further in the beginning, they were just there. And we both seemed to continue to break the stereotypes that we might have had about one another.

For example, coffee. If you didn’t see the first episode on this site, I HATE coffee. Now this came as a a surprise to her as she thought that all Americans just drank coffee. My coworkers also express the same surprise.

Another one was that many Koreans simply find black people to be scary and have many prejudices about us (think LA riots, US military in Korea)…especially since the only experience they get with a black person is through a tv or movie screen where we are often portrayed as criminals and…mean looking. I am known for having a straight and serious face most of the time and Hyo admittedly said to me that when she first met me, it made her think of what she and others had thought before.

And I’m not a scary person at all…unless you get on my bad side which a few unfortunate souls have seen.

Another one was all these stories I had heard from other guys who had dated Koreans about how they had to pay for everything, buy expensive things, and were nearly all broke after all of this (this can happen in any culture). Of course, they lambasted all Korean women, and took no responsibility for sticking around instead of leaving while all of this happened.

Admittedly though, this had made me weary of getting involved with anyone here, but after knowing Hyo and dating for awhile, I knew that she wasn’t that type of person so it was all good.

Now one of the biggest cultural differences we had to work through was the fact that like many Koreans, she still lives with her parents. In the USA, living with your parents past a certain age is a bit embarrassing, but in Korea, it’s pretty common to still live at home even into your thirties until you are married.

It is changing a bit now, but it’s still more common. So with her, I had to get use to her having a curfew. Yes a curfew. It was frustrating at first, but I wasn’t going to mess up a great relationship over something that could be worked out. And one thing I had to learn was to stop comparing my relationship to other friends who were able to spend more time with their girlfriends. Comparing is never good and quite frankly now, I could care less what other people think.

And we have worked it out. She has been able to “get out of it” so to speak on certain occasions and I really cherish those times.

We have been able to take weekend trips around Korea, to Hawaii, to my hometown Detroit (boy do I have a story about that), and New York and she has stayed over many times….with permission from her mom of course.

Which brings me to my final point. In the states, it is common to meet the parents of your significant other fairly quickly even if you haven’t planned on getting married. It’s really no big deal. In Korea though, you usually will not meet the parents, especially the father until you are certain that you are getting married.

For us, I was able to meet her mom and sister after about 6 months of dating and they love me. I also enjoy being with them and they make an effort to invite me out for bar be que and other outings with her mother, sister, and her sister’s boyfriend. They have been really kind to me and really try to make me feel at home even with the language barrier.

It’s also good because I was able to see how Hyo interacted with her family and where she gets a lot of her personality and mannerisms from (as she did with me when she visited my family). Despite her short stature :p, Hyo is a very independent and head strong woman who really rebels against many of the conformities that are put on women here in Korea. After meeting her fam, I saw that she definitely got this side of her from her mother….her mother actually scared me a little bit when I first met her lol.

Now as for the father, I still haven’t met him yet. It doesn’t always work like this, but it is a pretty common situation with many couples here (Korean couples included).

The good news is that me meeting her father will probably happen sometime this year and I have been studying Korean even more so I can at least have a basic conversation with him.

So that’s it for now. There will be more posts about other subjects along the way when they come to me. Look out for a new episode of the webtoon on Friday as I’ve been recovering from a nasty cold and been busy this whole week.

Have any of you who are involved in/have been involved in a relationship with someone from another culture had any similar experiences? Or different experiences?


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  • Jim

    When I was here the first time I was out with this girl a few times. Actually you might remember her she was at my birthday party the year you came. Anyway it was nothing serious but one weekend she went skiing with one of her friends. She fell and hurt her shoulder and was actually in the hospital. She text-ed me about what happened and told me where the hospital was. I went down to Suwon Station and was just about to get on the train when she text me back and said something like “No don’t come see my my mom his here.” I already knew about that cultural thing with the parents so I got it. If I would have showed up and gave her a kiss on the cheek and a present it would have been big trouble lol. Of course it’s not funny that she got hurt but it’s a funny story now. I’ve told many people back home that story when they ask about dating girls.

    • detmi7mile

      Yes I know that experience as well. When she has been sick, I’ve wanted to come visit her and bring her some things, but couldn’t because of the father situation. Thanks for the comment.

  • 째즈 스타

    We’re very fortunate Dom. Many older Koreans won’t accept their children’s choice to date a foreigner. My coworker, she told me that her father would disown her if she ever became involved with a foreign man. And another friend of mine, from the UK, her boyfriend’s mom went all out nuts when she found out her son was dating a woman from the UK who wasn’t descended from a Korean blood line. Like “suicidal” nuts. I am really happy that not only does Giwon’s parents accept me, but often look forward to seeing me and even poke at the “marriage”topic from time to timethemselves. It’s one less thing i need to worry about that gives me more freedom to date with him.

  • Samantha

    This is crazy! I am also an poc (from Michigan too!!). So I totally understand all the stereotypes with dating someone from another culture. This post was excellently worded and explained a lot.