182 COMMENTS

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.

ToFebruary
  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 was very lonely in my first few months in Korea, and I was pretty happy to discover http://www.cometogetherkorea.com.  I came back the US after my contract was up, and I miss those CTK friends very much. :-(

  7. 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! ^^

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

  9. I’m actually pretty close in age to you guys, and if I lived in Korea I would totally go out of my way to make friends with you (even if I didn’t know of you guys from the internet) because you look like you could possibly be into the same things as me. I would probably approach you (it would be hard because I’m AWKWARD AS HELL) but it would be “Oh look. They look like they may have similar interests. I LIKE THAT SHIRT AND OUR HAIR MATCHES!” If any of that makes sense. Our dogs actually kind of match. It’s funny.

    Anyway now that my weird awkward rambling is over, I’LL BE YOUR FRIEND. Even though I live in the states. INTERNET FRIENDS.

  10. 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

  11. What do Koreans think about sex before marriage or about living together before being married? Also what is the usual age that koreans get married?

  12. It would be a shame if it’s hard to make friends. I think it’s fun to share stories and cultures. I’ve worked in a bar (in the netherlands) and i’ve met a lot of different people. Some nice, some crazy, some puke after having 3 beer… Maybe it’s also about meeting the right people.

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

  14. 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!

  15. Is it true that some teachers in Korea physically abuse their students as punishments? I don’t mean to offend anyone and I don’t even know if this is true (which is why I’m asking), but some of my friends from Korea told me that the teachers are allowed to like hit their students with buckets, bats, etc. I’m not sure about this though, because I’ve also heard of laws against this kind of thing. I really don’t mean to offend anyone, I just want to know if this is true or not.

  16. 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!)

  17. C’est l’Halloween, c’eest l’halloween Hey! .. That’s the french halloween song that I know…

  18. 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? ^^

  19. 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 ???

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. Is it true that other religions are persecuted in Korea?

  23. If you’re at a public school, you can make friends at orientation. Do it!! Because you don’t want to die alone. I try to be friendly with n00bs, but it is hard because I already have friends and you’re probably not as awesome as them. Even if you are, I have to get to know you. So awkward. You can also make friends with bloggers. Or get drunk and people will talk to you and you can exchange numbers and then you will be friends.

  24. 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??

  25. you guys are such trolls!! All in all i think that making friends couldnt be to hard i mean if ur like young then koreans would just walk up to you right? … Not saying your old or anything >:D LOVEYOUGUYS!

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. Oh gosh, i was rly hoping that making friends in korea would be easy… Lol, I rly wanna go to korea and live there sometime, let’s hope i get a good friend over there in the distant future!

  30. Don’t forget church! Going to a good church in Korea is a great way to meet foreigners and Koreans, and you already have common ground. ^_^

  31. this may have been answered already but why did you guys go to korea?

  32. 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^

  33. can we be best friends? hehe
    going to korea next summer.. :D

  34. i love Korea but.. im scared, the more i learn about this country the more i find out just how discriminating it can be. why can’t people just do that they want..? i’ve always wanted to go to Korea.. but im a strange enough person in my own country, i can’t even imagine what the ahjummas will say about me.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

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