Ok, so, for starters, let’s say that we had some issues in figuring out what to say for this video, because the two of us disagree about this topic slightly. Martina’s of the opinion that making friends in Korea is difficult. I’m of the opinion that making friends in Korea is easy. And we discussed it with each other for a long time before we agreed about what we were going to say in the video.

Our main issue: I think we’re stuck on what the word “difficult” means. See, we mentioned in the video how you’re more likely to talk to strangers here in Korea and make friends that way than you would be back home. I can’t really remember the last time I spoke with a random stranger in Canada and then the two of us hung out. That’s…a bit weird. Here in Korea, though, you sometimes do talk to strangers. If you see another foreigner, you sometimes get excited, and either they’re as excited to see another foreigner as you are, or they remember what it was like to be that excited, and so they might humour you. The same thing can happen with making Korean friends: they’re excited to see a foreigner and are excited to speak English. Seriously: imagine studying a language your whole life and never using it. Oh wait. We did that. We had to learn French back in Canada, and I feel really excited when I go to Quebec (our most French speaking province in Canada). It’s like, “OMG I can read the menu and it’s totally in French…and I can also sing a song about Halloween…in..French…I’VE WASTED MY LIFEEEEEEEE!!!!” *ahem*

Martina’s of the opinion, though, that you can meet people more easily in your home country through your lack of language barrier, and also from your more abundant connections (such as those you have from school and work). These kinds of connections are not as readily available to you here in Korea. Your work, for instance, does not have as many people that are – how do we say – available for friendship. Some of your schools might have more opportunities for frindships, especially if you’re working in afterschool tutoring centers which have a group of foreigners working together. But not all schools are like this. In my situation, I had nothing but older married women with kids as co-teachers, all of whom were very busy. The couple of times that I had a teacher that wasn’t married or with kids, we had a great time! But that was only a temporary teacher. Otherwise: nada. Martina’s school was a bit different, as she explained in the video, and she had more options than I did. Either way, the possibilities of you branching out through your connections in Korea are a lot slimmer, since you have far fewer connections. Fewer connections mean can mean more isolation as you spend time alone in your apartment, take the bus alone, and sit at work alone, come home alone, and so on. But this also happens to people living in their home country. So the question is, which way’s easier to make friends?

I think that, if you’re in Korea and you see other foreigners, you share something in common with them. Being foreigners in Korea is sometimes an opening for conversation. But you probably share more things in common with them, since you both decided to move very far away from your home, friends, and family. It can be your sense of adventure, your interest in Asian culture, your troubles in making lessons plans, your difficulty in finding your way around campus, etc, all of which seem like normal things to have in common with people living abroad. While in your home country, you might not have these immediate icebreakers.

Ah. We’re still torn about the topic. Let us know what you think. Is it easier to make friends while you’re in Korea, or is it not? We didn’t talk much about making friends with Korean people, partly because it’s too generalized a topic for us to be able to say anything about, apart from relating our own experiences, which probably don’t or won’t reflect your experiences, you know? Every Korean person is different, while foreigners in Korea at least have their foreignness in common. Also, it depends on where you’re meeting your new Korean friend, like at your local coffee shop or at a club in Hongdae…two very different results…*eyebrow wiggle* or are they…*eyebrow wiggle*…my eyebrows cramped.

  1. This reminds me of something someone we met encountered. My mom and I live in USA and were from Kenya, Africa, so we’re Kenyans. It’s kind of like a think in the Kenyan community, those surrounding us, to say hi if you see another Kenyan, it’s quite easy to know who’s Kenyan and even more easy to know whether they speak our mother tongue, there are over 42 languages in Kenya. So the other day my mom and i were grocery shopping and my mom came across another Kenyan Lady also shopping with her daughter and my mom said hi so after talking for a bit the lady thanked us for saying hi because she recently had a negative encounter with the while she was with her friend at the mall. So the main language in Kenya is Swahili, so the lady happened to come across a group of women talking in Swahili and she hand her friends decide to approach them and say hi. Unluckily for them this group was not so nice they denied having come from Kenya or even any affiliation with Kenya now i know that there are foreigners that are fluent in Swahili but they are not common so if you come across one 90% of the time they are from Kenya. So this group of strongly denied being from Kenya and switched to talking in English, although the woman was talking to the in Swahili they would answer in English. Now i know that Swahili is the main language to 3 more countries but each country has a very distinguishable kind of Swahili it’s like when a language have many dialects. So although you may see other foreigners when you go to other countries some may shrug you off, for their reasons I don’t know.

  2. Hey I have a question. would you ever take a new foreigner under your wing and just help them if they found you and asked you before hand through your site or another way. not sure if I worded that right but I hope you get the gist of it regardless.

  3. But what if you are a teen on vacation? Is it just the same or different?

  4. So i just wanted you guys to know that you’re pretty great….i leave for Korea in 18 days, have all kinds of anxieties but you guys are helping alot

    oh and your Canadian like myself

    oh and you like Catan…..wanna be best friends? 

    but seriously, these videos are great

  5. I WILL BE FRIENDS WITH YOU BOTH! I’m Canadian and was forced through French Immersion. LET’S SPEAK FRENCH AND MAKE FACES.

  6. I’m surprised that you make it sound that difficult. I’ve been here since February 2012 and think it’s really easy to make friends!

    First, if you’re hired through EPIK or another governmental program, they’ll start you off with a week-long orientation that provides huge networking opportunities. With the whole group taking workshops and eating and living in the same college dormitory together for over a week, you’d have to literally try not to meet people. So, sure, once you arrive in your city you all head off to different schools, but by then you’ve already met people and joined eight different highly active Facebook groups, and then you spend all your free time at school online swapping lesson plan ideas, telling funny work stories, and planning weekend events…. Don’t even pretend you don’t, other NETs. :P

    So, it’s hardly like you’re bereft of company once you arrive in your city and split up, even if you don’t become close with any of your coworkers. I see my foreign friends at least every weekend, and some nearly every day because we do the same extracurricular activities.

    Speaking of which, regular activities are IMO the number one way to meet people, both Koreans and foreigners. There are sports clubs, language exchange clubs, volunteering, Korean classes, all kinds of things. Every single day I’m either climbing at the local rock wall, taking hip-hop dance classes or going to Korean classes, so I’m always hanging out with somebody. Even though my Korean is still barely conversational, I still have Korean friends who don’t speak English, because we have interests in common and can do stuff together and mime hilariously.

    The other thing worth mentioning is that although there are definitely certain social boundaries here you don’t find in North America, in some ways it can actually be easier to get close to people. Since native teachers are often young and far away from home, it’s not uncommon for an older Korean person to basically “adopt” them. Family is so important here that if you’re lucky, your friend’s mom or your boss or whoever will decide you need family here too, and invite you to family outings and holiday celebrations and so on. Just last night I had the surreal experience of playing badminton with my vice principal and her two sons, going out for drinks afterwards, sleeping at her house and going back to school the next morning in the same clothes. Craziness!

    Also, because foreigners are different, sometimes the rules of engagement with them changes too. I know a girl who’s made friends with random bodyguards and bouncers at K-pop concerts before, even going out to dinner together. In the US that would probably be really weird, and even here it would typically be against the rules for a young single woman to hang out with older men. Somehow it happened anyway, though. Martina’s story about being friends with an older person is definitely not the only exception.

    Anyway, sorry that was so long. I hope it reassures people who are thinking about moving to Korea. Yes, you have to put in some effort, but you don’t have to be a super-confident social butterfly to make friends here. Come to Korea and have fun! ^^

  7. can you tell us the product that we should buy in korea if we were there?

  8. Thanks for sharing Settlers of Catan… I have now spent several hours playing it O.O Why is it so addictive?? I saw something about a board game…. do you guys play the board game or online? It took me awhile but I finally won the seafarers one :p

  9. All this time I thought of you guys as my best friends. ^-^

  10. I’ve watched your videos for quite a long time now and was still rather skeptical until today…YOU LOVE SETTLERS OF CATAN??? you are now officially the coolest people I know/don’t really know…
    If you make your way down to Busan, look me up!! I will build an army to destroy your villiages and NEVER NEVER let you make a city! And then I might just buy us all a glass of wine!
    I taught my Korean boyfriend how to play it and he thinks it great too…
    thanks for being so cool, you make us Canadians (what up Ontario!!) look good!

  11. I’ll let you start out with an extra brick and wood if you let me play Catan with you guys when I arrive! (Just think of the extra road you could build!)

  12. I just want to ask about the sports in Korea. I realised that Koreans play volleyball but using their legs and not their hands. I play volleyball too but I find it hard using my feet to play. Can you explain more about the different sports that Koreans play differently and your favourite sport? ^^

  13. Hey guys I was wondering , how is it like the red cross in Korea , I know you al ready visit the hospital once but i was wondering because of the trafic there and stuff is it very different from Canada USA or Mexico ???

  14. I can make korean friends who has the same age as me. I want to create an 86-line when I study abroad. Im a 86-liner. Do you make friends with koreans who are the same age as you?

  15. This is a very relevant post for people planning to live in Korea. Actually, it’s a must-read for just about anyone who’s planning to be a foreigner in Asia! I lived in Korea for 5 years (2002-2007), and lived to write about it (http://amzn.to/HQeH1B), but I think the best antidote to loneliness and Old Vampire Syndrome (great one BTW) is to befriend the locals. Like you said everyone is different in Korea, but if you find one or two great friends that’s really all you need, because many Koreans see friendships bringing benefits in the long-term. Hit-and-run friendships are rare in my experience among Koreans, which is also why it may be harder to get them to open up to foreigners, or even bypass those social levels, because many don’t really understand the benefits of getting to know someone who won’t be there for them on a rainy day. If you like someone in Korea as a friend or otherwise, but they’re being a bit shy, my advice is — be persistent, because the more they get used to you, the more likely they’ll become your friends.

  16. foreigners are great and all that but . .
    how does one make friends with KOREANS??!!
    america is full of “foreigners” lol I want to go to korea to make korean friends so I can practice my korean. I don’t want to travel around the world to befriend a native english speaker =/
    How does one make KOREAN FRIENDS??

  17. i don’t think you have to worry too much about that, it sounds scary but i’m sure you’ll make a good group of friends there ! i’m also interested in teaching there so i know what you’re talking about haha

  18. As a second generation Canadian with both Korean and Canadian friends, I find that in Canada, it’s much easier to form casual friendships and form friendships with strangers you meet in random places. In Korea, people usually do not greet each other if they do not know each other. But on the other hand, it takes a while to become close friends in Canada, whereas in Korea, you become close friends much more quickly. In conclusion, I feel that it is easier to make friends in Canada, but it is easier to form close friendships in Korea, because Canadians tend to be friendly to everyone, whereas Koreans aren’t as friendly to strangers, but are very close to their friends.

  19. Making friends overseas?
    Heard of this thing called ‘church’? :D
    Works for me every time….

    Other ideas:
    – Join a local language class (eg. Korean class). You’re bound to meet a bunch of foreigners that way
    – Join a foreign language class (eg. English class). Sounds stupid if you’re already fluent, but there you’ll find lots of local people who will be eager to speak English.
    – Join some sports group, gym, aerobics class, or even go regularly to the neighbourhood park, even if it’s just to read a book. Handy for finding people with similar interests
    – Develop a routine walk around the area, and greet people with ‘good morning’ everyday. Eventually someone will remember your face and might even stop and talk….dunno might not work for everyone.
    – Make some internet friends in the area via some nice forum like eat your kimchi lol, and meet up with them.

    But yea. Proactive.

  20. Okay, I have been here for almost 9 months and I live in the small city of Yeosu (yes where Expo is) and I’ve made so many friends! I found out that there are facebook groups specifically made for foreigners in particular cities…wayguks/waygooks. I’ve connected with many foreigners this way and have met them either at English speaking service at a Korean church or at other small gatherings. I have to say that I have never been to the foreigner bar here (I don’t drink but I do refuse to go anyways…I wanted to be more among the Korean ppl and culture). Well, I have many foreign friends and also Korean friends. I tend to visit coffee shops and other places and just start up conversations with random ppl I meet. Just by saying hello in Korean instead of English and attempting to speak the little Korean I knew really warmed ppl up to talking with me. You are in a foreign country so why don’t make the effort to just talk with them…yes you will get Korean ppl that just want to practice their English with you so it would seem not very meaningful but I’ve actually built some great relationships with Korean people and they have helped me alot. It’s a once ina lifetime experience don’t pass it up because of fear!

  21. Hi! So, since you’re in Korea, there must be much more k-pop fans, right?
    What kind of music does Korea listen to? Is it all k-pop? ^w^

  22. I lived in Paris for awhile as an au pair, and I made friends either a) through Live Journal, b) an ex-pats forum and c) the OMG YOU’RE A FOREIGNER WHO LIVES HERE sort of thing in random markets in the small area I lived in off the beaten path in Paris.

    I made LOADS of friends that I’m still close with whom I ADORE through the “OMG YOU’RE A FOREIGNER” path. It’s amazing how well that works. When you’re so lonely because you don’t have anyone else that speaks your language or even seemingly cares about things that you do. It’s so nice.

  23. So you like settlers of Cattan – here is cupcakes of Cattan – http://youtu.be/OrV9QNwXxKA

    A good way to meet people is to join boardgame groups.

  24. Best way to make friends would be to star playing World of Warcraft or Starcraft II :P

  25. omogosh editing! lol
    love you guys. i’ll completely be your friend.
    <3s from n.jersey (no, i'm not orange but junsu makes me fist pump)

  26. I have been trying to make friends with this girl from South Korea (she is a foreign exchange student). She is way super awesome but she is 2 years older than me. I feel like she doesn’t like me… Is there some activity that allot of Koreans like to do during the summer? I don’t think she has made many friends at her new home and I want to be her friend.

  27. Oh, c’était si pénible et ennuyeux d’apprendre le français ? It makes me sad to learn that… Anyway, thank you for your video!

    *Yeah, I wanna be your best friend! So, do I need to inform you when I will go to Korea? ^^*

  28. Hey! I’m a VIP, Blackjack AND a Hogwartian! Can we be fweends too?? :D

  29. Last year, I decided to visit Korea alone. I made arrangements to stay in a korean host family and I made korean friend BEFORE leaving for Korea.
    I went to a language exchange website and I wrote to single korean girls who had the same age as me.
    Also, we have a Korean/French club in Montreal. I attended the language workshops and made some korean friends. They went back to Korea so I met them over there! Thank God I did!
    The host family daughter was supposed to hang out with me but she was working all the time! Because I met some friends before leaving, I was not alone at all during my trip. I had many opportunities like going to Busan with the friend I met in Montreal. She showed me her hometown and I stayed at her parent’s house for free. Her mother made crazy awesome Korean breakfast every morning!
    My trip would have had a very different outcome if I did not have any friends. The culture shock and the jet lag can be very overwhelming especially if you are traveling alone. And yes, I watched many k-drmas, listened to k-pop and ate an astronomical amount of Korean food. I thought I was prepared but it hit me in the face that I was alone in a foreign and also very far country. I almost cried when I met my friend Soohyun! A familiar face! I was so happy that she was there!
    Be careful when meeting people on the Internet. When meeting in Korea, always go to public places. I also think that it is safer for girls to be friends with girls only.

    • Hey Majorie! I have a question for you- how did you set up your host family? I’m going back next semester and I would really love to live with a host family versus alone. If you see this I would really appreciate your help :D

  30. if, hypothetically, you ever find yourselves having kids, would you raise them in canada or korea?

  31. Oh, come on. Simon and Martina arleady answered the question about the baby.

    “Because mong-mong isseoyo.”

  32. I moved from Holland to England (which is pretty much on the other side of a small channel/sea) yet I experienced some similar issues. I had been studying English since forever, yet making friends with English people was still really difficult. Because I did not have the language barrier, but I did have a cultural barrier. I found that it was indeed easier to connect with other foreigners (although they might be more difficult to spot in England than in Korea). So I think making friends in another country is always awkward, although not necessarily ‘difficult’. It’s just different :)

  33. How did you guys learn Korean?

  34. lol loved your honest approach about this aspect of a foreign’s life in korea. and when i hit seoul i’m definitelly writing u guys to be my best friends!

  35. Well, there are a lot of methods on how to make friends, but I believe that since you guys are far away from your confort zone, you need to use outside of the box tactics to get to know the Korean culture, language, etc. So that is what I think ^~^

  36. That’s exactly the same in Japan!!
    Btw Martina, is it just me or do you really look thinner??

  37. I totally understand the vampire thing… but for me it’s that I’m Australian and meet many Koreans here but they are usually just on working holiday visas, so they stay for 1 or 2 years and then leave and I’m left alone and having to make more Korean friends… Luckily the Korean guy I ended up marrying managed to stick around…

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