Q: How do you make friends in Korea?
In the earlier post, social culture pt. 2 (making friends), I wrote about my experience (or lack thereof) in making friends in Korea. It’s nearly a year later, and with a few more friends, I thought it would be nice to sit down and talk about my updated methods and share what I’ve learned while navigating Korea’s social aspect. After all, being all alone in a new country isn’t exactly the best way to adjust to a new culture and isn’t. I mentioned before that drinking is the fastest way to make friends here, but if you’re like me and that’s not your thing, I’ve listed a couple of tried and true methods to help enlarge your friendship group.
#1. Join local community events or programs.
Whether you’re trying to meet other foreigners or hang out with the natives, taking the time to figure out what is going on in your local community and get involved is a great way to meet a diversity of friends. On Facebook, you can find groups in your community and maybe figure it out by word-of-mouth if you live in a small community. I probably don’t do this as often as I should, but I would recommend it for those who are looking for ways to get out there as quickly as possible. In my local community I’ve tried to get involved in a couple of things. I’ve met lots of cool people that way!
#2. Go to language exchange.
I have to say that this method has probably been my most significant exposure to new people. You meet natives and also others who are interested in learning the language. Having this common interest works as a great conversation started. I would recommend finding a well-organized language exchange. A lot I had gone to were free talking language exchange groups, but that only works well if you are already decent at the language and can find interesting topics off the bat (a difficult thing to do with a room full of strangers). You can meet great people, and if you don’t hit it off with someone one day, don’t worry since it’s a casual meet-up. This method is how I met some of my closest friends.
Using language exchange apps was how I initially met many Korean friends, but nowadays, some people use it to find dates rather than meet with a language partner. However, you may find a good person there as well, so I’ll say it’s a method, but not one that I use as often anymore.
#3. Meet friends of friends.
This method is either tied or equal to #2 in meeting people for me. I think when I first moved here majority of my friends were friends of friends. In this method, you can meet people who have a higher potential of becoming swift friends with you since you already have a familiar person. The process is relatively simple and can sometimes be slightly awkward (to me), but things flow a lot smoother when you finish the initial meeting. I’ve also met a lot of great people this way. I like making friends on my own, but let’s be real, that can be crazy difficult sometimes, so if you have a friend who wants to make that process more straightforward, I say give it a shot!
#4. Approach others first.
I haven’t used this method a lot, but I have used it before. Sometimes by putting yourself out there, you can meet all kinds of cool people. However, Koreans are more reserved than Americans when talking to strangers, so this isn’t a method that I recommend to do very often. This method works well if you have something in common with the person (like a hobby or place) to introduce yourself naturally to them. Most Koreans don’t get as weirded out when a foreigner initiates conversation first because they have this idea that foreigners are more outgoing, but since culturally talking to strangers isn’t normal, I don’t make this a habit. I think out of all the friends I’ve made, maybe one Korean approached me first and initiated the conversation.
None of these methods are new or innovative, but I wanted to list some tangible things I’ve done so others can know how to go about meeting new people if they are in a similar situation. For the most part, Koreans are pretty open-minded when it comes to meeting a foreigner. You may find some who are more reserved than others, but if you meet people through these methods (except for maybe the last one), you are more likely to encounter more open-minded individuals who are open to being friends with foreigners. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Until next time,
See you later, friend~~