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BYUH students share dating customs unique to their countries, including who makes the first move and PDA do’s and don’ts

Looking up at four people, two women and two men, who have put their arms around one another to form a circle. They are looking at each other and smiling.

Dating customs from around the world include couple rings, rental dates, sharing a meal and hanging out shared BYU–Hawaii students from Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Nevada.

Modern dating customs

Atsushi Sano, a senior from Japan majoring in accounting, said the Japanese have adjusted to dating during a global pandemic by using hand-picked rental boyfriends and girlfriends. The person must pay for the date and for the meal they will eat, he explained.

Japan Today explained renting partners, as well as family members or friends have become increasingly popular in Japan and is not classified as an adult-oriented service. Celebrity stars such as Conan O’Brian even rented a family for a day on his visit to Tokyo, it said.

Yoonjoo Park, a junior from South Korea majoring in graphic design, said in her country, “We usually buy couple rings when we are in a relationship, even though it’s not that serious. There are even some places we can design and make our own couple rings.”

Sano said in Japan they hang out more than they go on dates. When people go out for lunch or shopping, it is not considered a date unless the person clearly asks the other one out. For Japanese people, going on a date is a serious thing, so men and women get nervous when they date, he said.

In general, older people focus more on the financial status of the person, Sano said, but someone from the younger generation may care more about looks. Park said in South Korea the word “dating” refers to the relationship status, not the act of going on a date. Thus, people who date should stick to one person, she added. The only time dating happens before the couple is in a relationship is right before they become official. Otherwise, it’s just hanging out, she said.

“In Korean culture, when we date a lot of people at once, we [say], ‘Oh, they’re raising a lot of fishes in one bowl,’” she shared. She said men in her country are required to serve in the military for one and a half to two years. This causes the couple to be separated from each other and may lead to breakups. It still depends on the couple, though, she explained.

Jimboy Mojica Fajardo, a sophomore from the Philippines studying graphic design, said millennial dating in the Philippines is all about getting to know the other person by hanging out first before moving into the courting stage. In the old ways of dating in the Philippines, men would make an effort to be closer to the women, Fajardo said. “They believe in sticking with one person when you date,” he added, saying you would be judged by others if you dated several people at once.

Alexis Breanne Clement, a freshman from Nevada majoring in elementary education, said dating is getting to know somebody and refers to the act of forming a relationship, rather than being in a relationship.

“At least where I grew up with the Church, most of the kids would casual date. They date other people, ask different people out on dates, and it wasn’t supposed to be romantic. Mostly it was just casual dating as friends,” she added.

Four people dressed in casual clothes, walk arm-in-arm across a grassy field towards the mountains.

Who makes the first move?

Sano said the men usually approach the women first in Japan, however, on Valentine’s Day, the girls have the chance to confess their feelings by giving chocolates or other gifts to the guy they are interested in or attracted to, he added. During White Day, a holiday that takes place every March 14, the boys respond by giving a gift to the girl, he said.

In South Korea, Park said the men used to be expected to make the first move. However, people are now starting to accept girls approaching the guys first.

In the Philippines, it’s the men who show interest first, Fajardo said. Filipinos in general are conservative. Even though they are interested in the guy, they will not show it. This trait is called pakipot in Tagalog, he shared. Clement said in the United States anybody can show interest first.

PDA: Yay or nay?

Sano said, “When compared to the other countries, Japanese [people] are more serious about kissing or holding hands. I’d say most of the Japanese would kiss [only] after they became boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Kissing in the early dating stages is rare, he commented. Couples can be seen holding hands in public, but not hugging, he said. “You know, in Japan, we don’t really hug each other, even in business or church. We just shake hands.”

In South Korea, public displays of affection are extremely rare, Parks explained. “It’s okay to hold hands or hug [in public], but when someone kisses in the street, that’s kind of awkward,” she shared.

Fajardo said the conservative nature of the Philippines means PDA is also rare for them. Like in South Korea, it’s okay to hold hands or hug, “but kissing in public is a really big no.”

Clement said PDA is fairly common in the United States. In fact, she said when she was in high school, she would typically see more than six couples hugging or kissing in the hallway when walking to class.

Common dating activities

In Japan, sharing a meal together or going to the movies is a common first date activity. When a couple gets closer to each other, they might go on a date to Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea. “It’s a dream for [many] Japanese people to date in Disneyland,” Sano said.

In South Korea, they also usually watch movies or go to cafes, Park shared. They have room cafes where they can go watch movies, play board games and eat food, she added. South Koreans also go to escape rooms where the couple will go into a locked room and have to follow clues to get out, she added.

In terms of who pays when they go on dates, Park said the older generation thinks men should pay for everything. “These days, I think most of the couples just pay half and half or when someone earns more money they pay a little bit more.” She also said some couples create a dating bank account they both contribute to.

Fajardo said eating is a huge part of Filipino dating culture. “Filipinos [like] eating. Eating will not be missed on any date.” Other activities in the Philippines include going to the mall, watching movies and eating street foods at the park.

In the United States, Clement said people will also go out for dinner or watch a movie.