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How To: Make Friends in Korea

Have you seen my last article? You can check it out here. As always, a large portion of your questions can be answered by going to my list of resources page here, or the contact page here. There are article-specific resources at the bottom of the page.

I love and advocate for solo travel, especially by millennials when at all possible, though one does have to recognize the unique barriers to entry that millennials, however, the hardest part of traveling alone is building a support system and a life that has meaningful relationships in it. Once the excitement wears off, being in Korea can be really tough if you don't make friends. Luckily for you, through trial error, I've learned some (almost) foolproof ways to make new friends while you are in Korea. While a few of these tips are generalizable, some of them are Korea-specific. Just remember if you're feeling really lonely, reach out to someone! You'll be surprised how compassionate people are, especially in your time …

Would You Like Your Racism Kimchi-Flavored?

Be sure to check out my last post here and the Ultimate List of Resources here.

Race, my race, is the Elephant in the room both here, on this blog you're reading right now, and also when I tell people that I will be living in South Korea for ten months. When folks ask "Why would you want to go to South Korea?" or "Aren't you scared to go there?" what they are really asking is if they think my blackness is going to be an issue. So to those thinly veiled questions and those who ask them, the answer is a sure-footed "no more than it already is."

Lately, I have been getting lots of calls (okay, voicemails because I definitely don't pick up the phone) and texts from people who have taken on the task of trying to talk me out of going. When these folks are thinking about the reasons South Korea isn't for me, a lot of their foundational arguments are based on stereotypes of the Korean people and East Asians in general. They believe that the homogeneity of South Korea ensures that I will not only stick out when I arrive but will, therefore, be made into a spectacle. More so, these people believe that the opinions of blacks South Korean's hold do not favor me and the countless experiences of fat and black women in South Korea should deter me from hopping on that 36-hour flight at all.

Yes, I have read the countless stories about the ways South Koreans have walked up to black folks, feeling their skin and touching their hair. I've read stories of women being "mistaken" for Beyonce or Rihanna (okay, the dream ), and children and adults alike pointing, staring, or laughing. I have browsed through anecdotes of teachers who have come to teach English being denied the job explicitly for being black, and the many assumptions government agencies and civilians alike may hold. I also understand that the likelihood of mistreatment is only exacerbated by the perceptions of black folks being more aggressive and feeling less pain and could get me killed. What I'm trying to say is that I am upset by those who have asked me "Aren't you scared?" because of their implications that South Korea is any different than the United States. Apple pie-flavored racism is still racism, and lately the sour apples the U.S. has been using to make this patriotic pie? Putrid.

I am far more frightened of crippling loneliness or learning how to detox from having dessert every day rather than racism in Busan. Black folks, especially black women fight racism in our sleep. Black women, who have been at the helm of every modern fight for racial equality, who take racism and misogyny from those outside of our communities and individuals within our own household and in our very own hearts, can take it. Should we have to? No, of course not! No question, but can we? Yes. We can handle this kimchi-flavored racism with charm, poise, and of course, some of that Black Girl Magic because we have been for the entirety of our lives. Being careful not to cross the line into Kendrick's fave- respectability politics, I offer this: Just by seeing black women traveling and literally just being ourselves, those who hold prejudiced in their heart may just change their minds about black folks. If they don't though, that's okay too! Live your best life, sis!

I have no (0!) tools in place for dealing with any race-related aggressions thrown at me. I have led a sheltered life where my encounters with racism have mainly been within dating or microaggressions I have realized were actually microaggressions years after they happened. Okay, quick story: once, someone on Tinder said my skin reminded them of a chocolate fudge pop tart and inquired if it tasted like one. Hindsight, racist but hilarious! At the time, though? Disheartening. Surprising. Saddening. I need you all, readers from Facebook, new followers from The Financial Diet, and people who have just stumbled across my site to realize something. There is no place on this planet any black folk can go where we do have an increased risk of death, humiliation, or deportation based on our race. Of course, there are controls for class standing but in some ways, even one's socioeconomic status will not completely protect them from the risks of traveling while black.

Yes, strangers and family alike who I choose to share this good news with, I am terrified, I know that something could happen to me while abroad. Here's the thing, though. Unless God forbid, something happens to my mother or my best friends, I am going. I'm leaving. Wrap your minds around it! Embrace it! I get living your life as cautiously as possible, as fearful as possible but I can't let a little racism stop me. For me, the only question that remains to you is: When will you start to support me?

Good Luck  Wish Me Luck

Thumbnail Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash