5 Ways to Make New Friends in South Korea


Today’s post is written for the Reach To Teach, Teach Abroad, Blog Carnival. I’ll be participating in their monthly series focused on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers from all over the world. You can catch it here on the 5th of every month. The host for October is Reach To Teach themselves! They’re an amazing recruiting company; the entire application process for EPIK was seamless because of the help they provided for Lauren and me.

The topic of the month is:

What are your top tips for meeting new people abroad?

After recently making the leap myself to teach abroad in South Korea (half a world away from home), it only seemed appropriate to tell you a little bit about what it’s like to make friends in this beautiful, but intimidating country, specifically. So, if you’re a newly transplanted expat in South Korea or thinking about joining the forces of foreigners from all over the world who teach young minds, I hope these tips help bring some perspective on how to make your experience as memorable as possible. After all, it’s not always about where you are, but rather whom you’re with.

1. Join a Group

Photography ClubPhoto by: Dirk Moggee

Now, you don’t need me to tell you to “put yourself out there; get involved!” You know that already. However, one of the benefits of teaching in South Korea (at least for EPIK) is having the flexibility to explore your interests in your free time. That’s why one of my main goals for my time in Korea was to join a group, whether it was through volunteering, or theatre, or a different type of hobby.

Since moving here, I’ve joined the Daegu Photography Club, and I’ve already met people I never would have ran into otherwise. Being far from home can be lonely, and establishing a sense of “belonging” is so, so important for your sanity.

 2. Seek Beyond Your Cirlce

LaurenExpat

2% of the population in South Korea is foreign. That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that it’s the 26th largest country by population with not much landmass to support it, you’ll realize how many opportunities you have to meet new people. We’re squished in here like sardines!

You’ll find that whatever program you’ve secured a job through gives you the opportunity to meet other expats. If you’re teaching at a Hogwan you’ll probably have foreign coworkers to show you the ropes, and EPIK offers a unique 9 day orientation where you’ll have plenty of time to make new friends from your region.

These are all great places to get the ball rolling, but don’t forget about the people outside of your program. You’ll learn much more about your new city, country and yourself if you make a point of making friends outside of your school or the orientation you attended.

The best thing about being here is that there are also people from other parts of the world, not necessarily English speaking countries. Get to know the foreign exchange students! You’ll be a better rounded individual for it. Most cities host an international party at the beginning of the semester. Do some online research and you’ll be sure to find a Facebook group or something similar. If you’re in Daegu, check out the KMU International Lounge page; they’re always posting information about new events.

 3. Utilize Social Media

SocialMedia

There are so many social media groups you can be a part of. The best way to find them in your city is by searching for your program, city name, and activity. For example, I live in Daegu and I’ve been dying to find a yoga class, so I searched on Facebook for “Daegu Yoga,” – simple enough. I might have also thrown in there something like, Daegu Yoga for foreigners or Daegu Yoga for EPIK teachers… anything that seemed relevant, and I found the perfect yoga class.

These pages are filled with fellow expats (and sometimes locals) informing their fellow Waygooks of upcoming events or meet ups. It’s also highly likely that your area has a designated group that gets together for monthly or bi-monthly dinners/gatherings.

Other key words to look out for are “Adventure” or “Experience.” Look for your program by name, as well, since most have their own designated pages to meet other people within your city.

My recommendations for finding info & friends for those working for EPIK/DMOE in Daegu are:

In Daegu

Daegu English Teachers

Daegu EPIK Fall (or the equivalent of your intake year… I attached this years so you can check it out)

Buy The Book Cafe

The Daegu Flea Market

4. Travel With a Tour Group

UidoIsland

In my opinion, this is by far the funnest way to make new friends. Not only do you get to experience something new and culturally stimulating, you also get a discounted price if you go with the right company, and you get a busload of new acquaintances that can quickly turn into lifelong buddies. Guards are down, the soju (or cider) is up, and you’re surrounded by a dozen opportunities to take a new Instagram photo you can look back on as a fond memory.

Some tour companies in South Korea are:

Adventure Korea

When in Korea (WinK)

Enjoy Korea

WinK Busan

Get your tourist cap on!

 5. Say “Yes” more than “No”

View

One thing I realized about being in a foreign country, specifically South Korea where there are so many other foreigners also trying to make a connection, is that almost anything goes. I’ve heard multiple people compare it to freshman year of college because everyone is bright eyed, excited and hopeful. Almost everyone is open to making a new friend, and they understand what you’re going through. Sometimes it’s such a welcome relief to see another foreigner on the street that your lack of language barrier is all the connection you need.

That said, you will be invited to do things you wouldn’t normally do. You will be forced to interact with people you wouldn’t normally interact with. Last but not least, you will be put into situations where you may feel uncomfortable or out of your element, but it’s so, so important to say “yes” more often than “no.” Lowering your inhibitions will broaden your perspective on people in general, hopefully teach you some life lessons, and help you be less lonely. Besides, a life full of yes’s is far less boring than a life full of no’s, so try that silk worm or hike that mountain – you’ll only be a better you for it.

Disclaimer: This is not to say you should ever put yourself in a dangerous situation, or abandon your morals.

Friends

I feel truly fortunate to have found a wonderful group of friends to share this experience with. We’re all quirky, adventurous, and unique. They each make this new place we call home feel a little less lonely. Thanks guys!

Do you have anything to add to the list? Are you a soon to be expat in South Korea and have any questions about life and making friends? Leave them in the comments!

Previous Korean Street Food: A Culinary Adventure in Photos
Next Island Hopping in South Korea: Floating Mountains & Distant Ships

9 Comments

  1. […] 5 Ways To Make New Friends In South Korea […]

  2. October 7, 2014
    Reply

    Great article!! Couldn’t agree more about the value of saying ‘yes’! Some of my best experiences, and best friendships, came from doing agreeing to go along with something on the spur of the moment (three days white water rafting in Peru with 20 strangers? Yes, please!)

    And if it doesn’t go well, you’ll get a good story out of it, so it’s a win either way!

    • October 8, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks Jamie! Oh man, white water rafting in Peru sounds absolutely invigorating right now! I’ll have to do it someday.

  3. Roxy Riess
    October 10, 2014
    Reply

    Great post and EXCELLENT advice!!!

    I also feel so thankful to have met like-minded people like you, Lauren, and the rest of the “the crew”!

    Feeling so blessed!

    xoxo

    -R

    • October 13, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks for reading girl! 🙂 I’m glad you liked.

  4. August 21, 2015
    Reply

    Hi this is Frank Boampong from Ghana and won’t a friend

  5. Hannah B
    April 16, 2017
    Reply

    Hi! I was so happy to stumble across your post, I’ll be moving to Daegu for at least a year in May, and one of my worries was making new friends – but it seems like there’s just so much to do there and ways to make new friends so I’m really excited now!

    • June 3, 2017
      Reply

      That’s awesome Hannah! I’m glad it was helpful. Enjoy your time in Daegu 🙂

  6. Timothy Tetteh
    May 24, 2017
    Reply

    My name is Timothy Tetteh am from Ghana but I reside in south Africa am looking for friends in south Korea

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