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Speaker’s Corner: Gender Roles in Korea

January 25, 2015


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Hi everyone from Osaka, Japan! We’re currently on vacation in Japan and finally visiting a different part of Japan rather than Toyko. We just left the lovely Kobe yesterday where we were staying at the home of our good friends and now we’re staying at an apartment (AirBnB as usual) in the heart of a hustle bustle downtown Osaka that really resembles Hongdae. I’m currently sitting at a Starbucks on the corner of a busy intersection enjoying an Orange Mocha Frappucino and trying desperately hard not to sing WHAM’s “wake me up, before you go go” while dancing around in ode of Zoolander. Must…resist…okay just a little crotch thrusting under the table…no one will notice. Oh shit guy at the cash just judged me a little. So onto our Speaker’s Corner for today!

The question we posted was about gender roles and if you think the man should typically pay for everything or if things can be split up. I think most people agreed that splitting the bill is okay but if someone wants to treat you it kind of makes you feel special because they wanted to spend their money on you. I’d like to know if that applies to men as well because all the responses we heard about this was from women. If a women wanted to treat a guy would he feel special and happy or would he feel lacking in some way or even embarrassed due to existence of past gender roles?

I think in order to answer this it really depends on understanding the culture you grew up with. Let’s look at Korea as an example, and forget gender roles for a second. Let’s look at age roles, something that isn’t very present in Canadian culture. If you’re older than someone by a couple years as a Korean, you’re expected to pay for the meals for your younger companions if you’re out together even if you’re the same gender. In turn your younger friends are expected to be there for you and help out if you need them with something, for a simple example, running out to grab you coffee or helping you clean your car. This isn’t a solid set in stone culture rule, it changes on your group of friends so don’t be freaked out to come to Korea and be expected to pay for everyone. It’s really just something people are used to culturally the same way how men were expected to pay on a date because men used to be the only people making money.

In Korea I think because there is no part-time job culture for young people it would just be impossible for anyone—let’s say in high school or university-to treat anyone. In Canada, however, almost all my friends had part time jobs by just the middle of high school. I’ve had a part time job since grade 8 and have literally not stopped working since then. I had three part time jobs in university! This idea is weird to my Korean friends who told me being in school was considered their full time job.

So the point of my example is that paying for someone in Korea could be an age related “I’m taking care of you” kindof thing more than solely a gender role thing. Generally speaking most men date women close to their age/younger than them, so there is the double whammy of paying based on your age AND paying based on gender roles. BOOM NO MONEY! HAHHAHHAA. But in Canada this age thing doesn’t really exist as hardcore as it does in Korean society. You can be the older person on a date and also broke-flat-broke so you’d hope your date would be willing to split the bill. Being older doesn’t always equal better job or pay.

So I’m curious what it’s like in your culture. Do you have the age thing that Korea has or do you have a clear gender role? Are men expected to pay for the date or is it okay for people to split it? As a man, would you feel weird if your female date payed for the bill? And what if you’re gay? How would you determine who “should” be paying? What if you’re an older women dating a younger guy? Hrrrrmmmmm…so many shades of possibilities! Let me know in the comment section! Time for me to go find more Sailor Moon treasures in Japan. So happy for the remake of the show because there is stuff everywhere while last year Toyko has nothing. Martina out!



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Speaker’s Corner: Gender Roles in Korea


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  1. Here in Czech Republick a man usually pays for woman, if they didn’t decided on splitting the bill. Also, when the guy knows that the girl is in highschool It is always nice when someone wants to pay something for you, it makes you feel special.

    But sometimes it’s just too much. I feel really uncomfortable when I date a man and he insists on paying for everything (every little thing!) on every date. I dated one man and he insisted on paying everything, even though I told him on our first date that it makes me very uncomfortable and that I would like to splitt the bill. After that he was trying to pay everything even more, so before I got into my coat, he already paid for everything (it made me so angry). So every date I was arguing with him and it always took me 10 minutes to convince him to splitt the bill … It is really nice when a man wants to be a gentleman and pay for you, but he shouldn’t over do it and they should let the girl pay for something from time to time, if the girl wants. There is nothing wrong with it :)

    4 years ago
  2. Although I live in the United States and the culture is not the same as it would be in Korea, as a Chinese American, I feel some of these traditions sometimes. Still, after living in American for over 20 years, my parents have become more assimilated to the culture in the United States, where having a part time job as a student and splitting bills is more of a normal thing. Probably one of the only times when I experienced a dramatic shift in cultural values was when I actually went back to China a few years ago. I remember our relatives asked us why we would be getting so involved in other activities and would be looking for a job. Where my family comes from (Guangzhou), apparently (according to my aunt and my cousins) , most students do not look for work or any other activities (at least at the level you would in America), until they are attending college or a university. Even then, the most important job for a young person is to be a student. I just find it very interesting because I cannot immagine what my life would be like without volunteer work, clubs, sports, and my part time job. I suppose it is just a matter of culture and growing accustomed to focusing solely on one objective. In China, it was normal for someone else to pay for us, usually someone who made money. Here, whenever we go out to eat, it becomes more common for us to split the bill, or depend on whoever has enough money to pay at that moment. This is a very interesting post! I always find learning about other cultures fascinating!

    5 years ago
  3. I’m Italian and in Italy we definitely don’t have the “age thing”; I’m not very sure about how people do in general when a man and a woman date but I can share my personal experience.
    When my boyfriend and I started dating he was really nice and always payed for me: I don’t think the boy is the one who always have to offer but of course it’s nice when the guy you like treats you =)
    We are in a 2 years relationship now and we always split the bill, except maybe for my birthday when he pays for my dinner in some great Italian restaurant… I don’t usually offer a whole meal (because none of us work yet so we basically use our parents’ money and his family is richer than mine!), but I like treating him with small things, for examples offering the coffee or the dessert when we go to a café to have breakfast together.

    5 years ago
  4. ooh, interesting about the whole age thing…

    I think it’s really nice when a guy pays for you. I didn’t really care about it that much before, but I dated a guy who was younger than me for about 3 years, and he was a university student and kinda broke. and although he had a part-time job, we would usually either slipt the bill, or i would end up treating him, which was fine, really, cuz i had money and he didn’t. but coming from a culture where it’s kinda seen as chivalrous when the guy pays, it was sometimes kind of a downer that he NEVER did pay for me. afterwards, when i dated guys who paid, it always felt kinda nice, haha.

    In general though, i think a guy should pay for you at first, and then when you get more serious you can split the bill, and sometimes he pays and sometimes you pay… balance ^_-

    5 years ago
  5. Also chiming in for same sex couples, for my generation, its generally accepted that if you asked, you pay— from dates with someone who stills believe in chivalry. Additionally, an occasionally, polite offer to cover your own meal, is expected from the one who was asked.

    That said, I frequently also take into consideration who I’m dating and what knowledge I may or may not have of their financial situation. My perspective on respect and general civility has me: always offering to cover the elderly (you’ve lived a long life and regardless if you are the sweetest thing ever or a cantankerous elder, if I’m out with you I will offer to cover your meal); if I asked you for a date (romantic or not), I will offer and insist upon covering; if I know your finances are limited (I will offer to cover or at least pay for my half of the meal, and probably leave the tip); and if I’m with a group, I expect everyone to cover themselves, and those like myself, who carry cash to have to make up for everyone else short shifting the wait staff.

    What I hate, is being with someone who always wants to split when they asked you out, but never offers to split when you ask them out. It’s not even about the money, its about the implied level of caring—from my perspective they are stating their money is more important than you, but your money is fair game. Not having money is one thing—I’m happy to do free things or offer to cover for things we’d both enjoy— but some people are just stingy and I can’t tolerate that.

    5 years ago
  6. Another gay lady from the US weighing in. When it comes to dating etiquette I don’t have much to add. I’ve been with my partner for 8 years so it’s been a really long time since I’ve been out on a first date or in the “casual dating” stage. When we first met we were both so broke that we took turns planning and doing things that cost little to no money. Whoever proposed the event was the one who paid. I think that’s a general rule at least in my dating experience. My partner and I learned very quickly that we both love making things and getting handmade things from people we cared about so dates were more about learning to make awesome food or sharing craft supplies to spend the date crafting with the other person. When it comes to dates now we’re on the same bank account so it’s more of a joke like “oh let me get this *wink*”. I do work as a barista though and one thing I often see people doing is treating people they care about who they aren’t dating. I often see moms or dads who are meeting up with their adult aged kids and insisting that they pay for the coffee/food. They often have a manner of “you’re an adult now who is broke so let me treat you because I’m so happy you’re doing something with your life”. Usually the adult is very happy to pay also because one thing that’s very common here is to not see your parents as often once you’re an adult. If you do move out of your parents house you’re either in college and working multiple jobs or you’re a working adult with multiple jobs trying to afford your bills. This doesn’t leave much time to see your parents and they are often just thankful you used your limited free time to see them. I also see a lot of kinship between friends where it comes down to insisting you treating the other person. There’s usually playful arguing about the drinks being all on one ticket and who is going to pay for it. I see a lot of banter at the register of “oh remember that time you paid for my meal? well it’s my turn” or “let me buy your coffee, you were so sweet and drove me home from the bar and held my hair while I puked”. It’s a gesture of love and showing how much you care about and need your friends. I have this banter often when going out to meet with friends because I have no contact with my family (aside from my awesome little brother who lives with me) and my friends are my family. Also can I just say I’m thankful for speaker’s corner videos because I am going through eyk video withdraws. I have shown my partner so many old videos in the past few weeks because it’s second nature to check the website anytime I get online. I need mah fix! I know you guise are long overdue for a break and very deserving. I just… you guys make me so happy… so I miss you. Have tons of fun on vacation though!!

    5 years ago
  7. I loved that last girl’s response…”Picnics forever!” That’s kind of like me. I’m usually broke so I don’t think I like the idea of the guy paying for so much for me. I do want someone who’s chivalrous, like holds doors and puts his own coat on me when I get too cold. In most cases if they are well thought out, cheap dates can be fairly romantic. Picnic by a waterfall, car rides thru the country side enjoying the scenic views, Stroll thru a park in spring with all the flowers in bloom or in fall with the colored leaves spinning all around. Or if it’s winter, good old fashioned snowball fight and snow angels holding hands. :)

    5 years ago
  8. in the US it’s largely situational, but the older a person is the more likely they are to feel that the guy should pay no matter what. i paid alot when i was younger. i starting working when i was 15 so i was used to paying my own way and if i wanted something that was more expensive i would just pay my own way instead of asking someone who maybe couldnt really afford it to pay for it. if i dated older more established guys they usually paid. in the US it is widely expected that if you’re at a bar, club or in another party type situation that the man pay for booze or other intoxicants.

    5 years ago
  9. I think here in America there are no more norms on how it is done when dating. Not at least in my generation and subsequent ones. Take my own relationship for example. It started out my boyfriend Asher wanted to pay for our dates out but after an embarrassing sushi episode where he had to call a friend to bail him out because he said I didn’t need to bring my purse and that he could pay only to have his card declined after we’d eaten. HAHAHAHHA. From that point on I paid for everything and treated him out because I had the job and the allowance to do so. It took about two years for him to get stable footing into the job market and then at that point we were living together so it became taking turns of who is paying for the date.

    5 years ago
  10. As a gay lady from the U.S., I expect the person who asked the other person out to pay. If we split the bill then I just leave unsure if it was a date or not.

    5 years ago
  11. To answer your question about how gay couples determine who “should” pay: most of the people I know in same gender relationships will split the bill so that each person pays for whatever they ordered. However, if one person is in a better financial situation, that person will pay for all or most things. For example, I have a lot more money that my girlfriend (she has a couple of medical conditions that make it hard for her to get a job and are expensive to deal with), so I usually pay for stuff. No clue how people in same gender relationships in Korea work things out though.

    5 years ago
  12. Well, personally, I think it’s really complicated. When I first met my boyfriend, I remember trying to pay for my own bubble tea lol I think I ended up paying for my own and he paid for his own. I just didn’t wanna be seen like the type that wants the guy to pay for everything. And I’m still not. But… that was because even before buying that bubble tea, we sort of already knew that we liked each other a lot. And I wasn’t gonna judge him on whether or not he pays for the bubble tea. But if I was doing like a sogeting or something, I think I might judge him on whether he offers to pay or not. If he liked me, I might expect him to pay so that I have an excuse to ask him to go out for bubble tea next time or something. If he doesn’t, I’d assume he doesn’t wanna waste his money on me. And if I liked him, I’d take his offer and then pay for something else next time. But If I didn’t like him, I would decline and say I’ll pay for my own since I wouldn’t want to be sort of in debt with him.
    That’s just the first few dates. Now that I’m in a serious relationship, I just pay one time and he pays the next time and so on. If we go out to eat 10 times, I’ll probably pay 5 times and he pays 5 times.

    But I’d never expect the guy to pay for no reason, just because he’s the guy.

    5 years ago
  13. I think the inviter should pay for the invitee…..I’m pretty sure those are not real words buuuuut, you get the idea.

    5 years ago
  14. Jon

    I do agree that in the present and most of the time, it’s still the guy who’s expected to pay, but that’s because we’re still in that phase where society’s in the process of changing. I guess it depends to an extent on the kind of city/community one’s living in: If there’s an equal amount of women who have adequately- or high-paying jobs that are in the past were mostly exclusive to men, then you’ll also see that many women offering to pay for things. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course; it takes years or generations for this transition to happen.

    Having said that, I also agree that gender/sex/age should NOT be a basis of who’s going to pay for a date’s expenses. If he or she offers to do so (because the person likes you or…like me in most cases, I feel brotherly and would love to treat my younger friends out although I’m completely aware they’re equally able to pay), then courteously accept and be thankful. In same-gender relationships I think it’s easier (I’m in one btw) because we just split the bill every time. BUT we also sometimes treat each other out to dinner/whatever.

    If you’re the one treating it’s always polite to ask “Hey, my treat, is that alright? ^_^.” Just so you’d know if the other person would also like to pay for his/her share. If you’re being asked out and are not used to being treated, it’s also polite to say “let’s split the bill, ok? :).” If you asked if it’s someone’s treat and you see him/her getting awkward or you’ve been told “nah” then go ahead and chip in! Just don’t make everything excessively formal.

    So, there: Don’t expect someone else to pay for your expenses, but if it’s offered, thank the person and accept!

    5 years ago
  15. Good morning :)

    As a Dutch female I’m probably steriotyped as a splitting bill person. However that is not true. Serious people, I’d so apreciate if the term Dutch pay would be abolished. Just because we are Dutch doesn’t mean we are all cheap people. :(

    That being said, I do not like to be in anyones debt, so I really don’t like that guys pay for me on a (first) date. So far most guys I’ve dated did want/feel like they needed to pay. I’d let them, but then I’d be paying for the movie tickets, or whatever activity we’d be doing next.

    Have a splendid day,
    The crazy catlady

    (yes catladies also go on dates)

    5 years ago
  16. I usually offer to pay because it’s awkward to turn to your date and ask for money. If they offer, then great. I wouldn’t have to fight over it.

    Trying to work out shared restaurant bills can also be awkward when someone claims, ‘I only had the salad!’ Then everyone else gets angry about paying more than what is perceived as their rightful contribution. To curb that I just pay for those as well and people can give to me what ever they deem suitable. Gets done more quickly that way too. Wait-staff roll their eyes over bill share arguments. Just pay and get out already!

    By the way guise, do you have a declared interest page somewhere? I think it’s ethical to declare who is paying you to mention/review them and who is not. You’ve mentioned AirBnB and Starbucks in this post. I’m guessing AirBnb is paying you, but Starbucks?

    In Australia the media has to declare interests by law because it got to the stage where radio stations were going, ‘pay us to say something good about you, or we’ll say something bad about you.’ It was called the Cash for Comment scandal.

    5 years ago
  17. I’ll start this off by mentioning that I’m a male who lives in the US. If a guy wants to get a second date in America he has to at least offer to pay. Some women will be completely turned off if you want to split the bill because they want to be pampered or feel special and some women will turn you down if a guy just pays without asking because they want to prove their independence and self-sufficiency. So guys have to walk the line and ask. And the popular response from women will be that they’re completely fine with the guy paying.

    I think that the person who asks the other person out should pay for the date and that seems to be a rather popular opinion of people in my age-group (mid-twenties). However, the problem with that is that 90% of the time it’s the guy asking the girl out. So, basically, the guy is expected to pay on the first date but I’ll always ask.

    I would love if a girl offered to pay on a date. Money isn’t terribly easy for me to come by and I don’t like to spend a lot of it. I assume others in my age group feel similarly, so I’m always honored when someone chooses to spend what little of their money they have on me.

    5 years ago
  18. Gender roles are BS. Honestly. You should never expect anyone to pay for you shit. Ever. If they want to, great! It means that this person thinks enough of you to spend their money on you, and that’s really nice. Instead of being like “I expect you to pay”, you should be “Wow, thanks for spending your own money with me!”. That means a lot to me. I dated for 3 years and I payed most of the time because my bf was pretty broke but I wanted to eat certain places and do certain things with him so I’d pay, because I wanted to do those things with him. He was ok with that and whenever he could afford, he would pay too. I think that’s how it should go. If you can afford, treat that person you like. If you prefer, split it. However, do not EVER expect people to spend their precious money on you, specially if you don’t know them really well. Also, on first date scenarios (and sometimes in other ocasions), if you invite someone to a place you like that’s not really cheap, pay. Don’t be a dick xD

    5 years ago
    • I’ve got to disagree, there are plenty of places—especially other countries— where women, young adults, the elderly or other populations would be unlikely to have any money. This is due to that countries or in the U.S. some regions’ own biases towards hiring ‘bread winners’ (however defined). I agree that you should want to pay for your own stuff. But I recognize, that there are many people who may never have that ability, unless they are somehow jettisoned from their life’s sphere. Though, I only see this as related to gender, when the situation is fairly clear that one specific gender would have a disadvantage role.

      5 years ago
  19. My bf and I have been together for 4 yrs and if there’s one thing my bf cannot stand, are his female classmates (he’s in dental hygeine) that constantly ask gender role related questions. It’s always shit like “Why don’t you carry your gf’s purse all the time?” to “Why don’t you ever buy her jewelry?”. My all time favourite question that left me thinking wtf was, “Why don’t you treat your gf better? You never pay for everything”.

    This frustrates him in that these girls are sticking to such dumb gender roles that, to be frank, have left them single without ever having a serious bf. My bf and I have seen many Chinese couples follow this since we’re both Chinese, and honestly, a majority of them aren’t happy. The girl might be happy for getting treated like a princess, but the boy will eventually snap. At some point, continuously sticking to these dating gender roles will leave you being seen as inconsiderate and picky. My bf and I don’t act within the gender roles. That’s how we manage together and not get into dumb arguments.

    Recently, Vancouver has been considered as having the pickiest girls to go on dates with. Doesn’t surprise me. A majority of reasons that were given as to how the date fails are gender role bias. Guys have to do this, yet the girls don’t and it’s considered right…

    5 years ago
  20. For me it was always the one who did the asking is the one who takes care of the bill. It seems awkward to me to be the one who plans everything out then have the guy run up and pay. seems almost rude to expect it you most likely don’t know if thy can afford it. but at the same time its nice to feel like they really care for you by holding doors and what not. I am a firm believer if he is to lazy to come up to the door and knock why bother..

    5 years ago
  21. If you’re just starting off as friends I think it’s better to split the bill. And later it’s nice if one time the guy pays and the other time the girl. Or when you’re at the cinema, the guy pays for the ticket and the girl gets the food – like that.^^
    I really appreciate it if a guy holds the door open for you. Unfortunately in Korea, men rarely do that. And they spit a lot on the streets which is really ew! :(
    About the part-time culture – actually, nearly all of my Korean friends work part-time while attending university! It’s so impressive how they manage to go to class, work and be in a “healthy” relationship!

    5 years ago
  22. just literally imagined you simon in that first paragraph lmfao it made me laugh!

    5 years ago