212 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. Evewa

    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. Teresa McAllister

    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. Can i be your best friend Simon? I’ll give you Ranch?

  4. tessaxnomy

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

  5. I WANNA BE YOUR BESTFRIENDS :D

  6. THEBeardedDude

    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

  7. Hello , i love all of your videos , they’re so funny and amazing! I have one question : You guys are teachers (duh!) , but how can i , for example , get a job in korea in another area? Is it difficult? thank you and kisses from Brazil!

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

  9. Sara Farooquee

    I was wondering… how did you get used to how they punish kids here? How can you be empathetic to what they are doing but be able to carry on with class?

  10. 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. :-(

  11. Soo, I saw this video on youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5GvkcjszLk&feature=related
    It’s about Korean students and their high school life. I want to ask, since you’ve been teaching in Korea… Is it really that hard and stressful? Can you do a video about students in university and high school? Because I was planning to go to Korea for university but I would like to know how it is like before making a final decision.
    Thank you ^.^

  12. Do you guys Reddit? Simon seems to keep making meme references :)

  13. Larisa Hohenboken

    The other semi-obvious tip is to learn Korean!

    Making a serious, visible effort to learn the language does wonders for how people perceive you here. Foreigners have a bad reputation of just showing up to party with other foreigners, and never learning more than the absolute basics. Showing that you’re taking the effort to do the same thing you’re asking of your students is a very positive impression, and can only help you socially. In fact, I have friends at the gym who never revealed they knew any English at all for months until they saw me frantically memorizing Korean vocabulary for my weekly quizzes and trying to practice with anyone who would listen. Lots of Koreans are super-stressed and self-conscious about making mistakes in English, even if they’re actually quite proficient. Solution: eagerly practice your Korean on them, even if it sucks! They’ll be relieved that their English is awesome in comparison, start talking to you, and bam! Friends.

    Of course, this can go wrong if you give the impression you just want to use someone for their language, but that doesn’t usually happen. All the foreigners I know of who work hard at Korean do so to create better friendships and relationships, so of course you’re practicing the language to be friends and not being friends for the language. (It does happen the other way around though sometimes, where someone who seems eager to be friends turns out to basically just want free private lessons. This hasn’t happened to me personally, but it’s apparently not that uncommon.)

  14. Larisa Hohenboken

    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! ^^

  15. black tear

    WOULD YOU BE MY FRIEND?? ahahaa

  16. black tear

    THIS IS AWESOMEEE <3

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

  18. what do korean students think of foreigners ?

  19. 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.

  20. haha I’m going to korea to teach english in two years, if you’re still there I’ll be friends with you guys!!

  21. umm i want to understand the whole 2 years older in korea because i heard from some where that they are different then ours.(like international i guess???)

  22. 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

  23. christiank04

    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?

  24. 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.

  25. kimberly collard

    My husband and I are learning about Korean culture and taking language
    courses now in preparation for moving from US to Korea to become english
    teachers. We have 3 kids that will be 10 and under by the time we move
    in 3 years. So while it would be awesome if you already had kids for
    that insight, its also nice that you’re waiting for what time is right
    for YOU! But do you have any way of obtaining that info from anyone
    else? What would having American kids in Korea be like? Would we have to
    get a car? Do they offer bigger housing? Daycare, medical care,
    school….Lots of questions!! All we hear of are single people or
    married w/o kids, so if you found the time for making even a short vid
    or even just a reply comment that would be awesome. We love you guys,
    you make such an awesome family! I look forward to your next video!

  26. I’m curious about gender roles in South Korea. Next TL;DR anybody?

  27. theicecrumbs

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

  28. etcha sketch

    i’ve heard that many girls get double eyelid surgery after they graduate as a present. is plastic surgery a common occurrence in korea? my friend got her eyelids done too and my mom told me its inexpensive

  29. 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!

  30. Scarlette

    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.

  31. knightowlnessie

    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!)

  32. thanks for this video guys! i caught it at a good time! a similar question to the interracial marriage one but in relation to friends. say you went to a uni or a highschool there and your ethnicity differs from them…would you be looked at or treated “differently” by the people of korean ethnicity at that high school/uni? and if so in a good way or bad? many people have come up to me talking about the whole “close minded” issues and i dont want to be pointing fingers because i am willingly going there :) however im nervous about meeting new people and paranoid about what people would think of me…or if they would approach me? so anyone have an insight?

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

  34. 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? ^^

  35. LOL you guyz are never going to answer that question right? haha had fun watching it! I WANNA BE FRIENDS WITH SIMON AND MARTINA!!!!

  36. 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 ???

  37. 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?

  38. 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.

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

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