For people who are currently living in an Asian country, or are interested in moving there, there’s something they might also wonder about: the dating culture in Asia. Of course, there .are some things that are not different from our culture, but there are indeed really big differences in other aspects.
Of course, it all depends on the country we are talking about since there are over 48 countries ubicated in that part of the world. With that said, I’m going to talk about some of the most commonly observed customs, very present in countries like China, South Korea, and more specifically speaking, Japan.
Honne and Tatemae
This is something that is very present in Japanese society, and it is indeed something that can play a huge role in how foreigners deal with them as human beings. You see, whenever a Japanese person deals with others, they are often engaging in Honne or Tatemae.
Tatemae comes from 建前 and can be translated as upfront or facade, and it is the attitude you take towards people who’s not very close to you, perhaps to get along with them and avoid conflict, or perhaps to fit in a group of school, work, or club.
On the other hand, Honne 本音, which can be translated as true sound, is the attitude you take towards people who’s really close to you and have gained your trust, thus, you know you can be your true self with them.
For people who’re really unaware of this custom, bonding with Asian people to the point of considering them friends can be very difficult since they are often closed people until they feel you are a friend, which can be very hard to achieve.
Reading the Atmosphere
I drag this from the Japanese culture, specifically, and although it is similar to other countries like China and South Korea, there are still very noticeable differences in their way of loving. But Japanese people are much more reserved, to the point of having a very hard time putting their feeling into words.
Is not like they can’t express themselves properly, it’s just that the way they do it is vastly different from our methods. You see, firstly, we have to talk about something they call “Kuuki” or atmosphere, and there’s something that is very present in their culture: reading the atmosphere which comes from 空気読める, which can be directly translated as reading the air.
You can read more information about it here: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200129-what-is-reading-the-air-in-japan.
What they refer to as the atmosphere is the ambient present in a place, created by people and their way of acting towards each other. For example, in the middle of a classroom, you should be able to read the atmosphere to the point of knowing that you can’t talk loudly or scream in the middle of a lesson (which is often very quiet in Japanese schools).
Another example is the ambient present in a company where almost no one talks to each other. It might be considered awkward and uncomfortable, and doing something to fix it might be perceived as not reading the atmosphere.
Thus, on many occasions, they might save their thoughts and beliefs for the sake of not interrupting this current present at the moment. It also makes it very necessary to pay attention to what any people might want to say behind their words and the signals they might be putting out there for you or others to read.
That, with the whole Honne and Tatemae thing, makes it much more complicated to follow up as a foreigner.
No Time for Love and Relationships
Now, considering how complicated their societies are, we can expect that their way of love can be different. In countries like China, South Korea, and Japan you can still find websites that are meant for dating, and you can check them out here if you are interested… But how does it work for people who are looking to meet others in a more traditional way?
Well, it’s not like it is impossible. The process is just different. To understand this, we should first take a look at how much people work in countries like China, South Korea, and Japan.
First of all, China has people working from 9 A.M to 9 P.M six days a week. South Korea was placed in 3rd place in the list of countries with more working hours, surpassing the US, UK, and Germany. In Japan, they even have a term known as Karoshi ( 過労死) which can be directly translated as overwork death, showcasing how harsh is the work environment over there.
What I want to say is that… They have little to no free time, and if they do, they might be too exhausted to invest their time in social activities that can also be considered as exhausting. That is why, for foreigners, getting the opportunity to meet people willing to spend some of their time with them, can be difficult.
Not only that, in dating culture in asia, being talked to by someone who they don’t know can be considered very rude and they are not often open to the idea of getting to know people outside of their circle of friends and acquaintances.
That is why they often engage in activities that can be simply labeled as group dates, also referred to as Goukon in Japan. If I were to describe it in simple words, it would be a date where a female friend and a male friend invite friends or acquaintances of the same sex, to match a group with the same amount of members.
Thus, 6 females and 6 males would sit in front of each other while drinking (often to the point of getting drunk) and talk about each other, either in pairs or globally. At the end of the night, if someone fancies someone and the feeling is reciprocated, they decide to match up, either for a one-night stand, or to meet once again to get to know each other for the possibility of a relationship.
Otherwise, relationships are often formed between friends of friends, acquaintances, and even blind dates, formed by websites or apps, or by friends wanting to help.
On the Last Note
There’s much more to add about the Dating Culture in Asia, but aspects of relationships related to how lovers act among themselves in Asia, marriage, and even having kids, would require a whole article, so I decided to cover only the simple aspects of the dating culture in Asia.