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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 of need. I have some resources on the list of resources page that could be helpful to you.

As westerners, one should always be critical of the sorts of ways we navigate neo-colonialist ideologies, such as teaching English to non-native English speakers, even if they ask. Always think critically. That being said, offering to teach English (preferably for free) is a great way to make new friends, foreigner and Korean alike. Particularly on college campuses, English in Korea is seen as a major skill for social status and academia alike, and especially when applying for jobs. Posting flyers around your campus or posting in Facebook groups where Koreans are looking for native English teachers is a great way to make initial connections and brush up on your Korean as well.

If you are studying abroad, talking to your classmates is a good way to make new friends. Cafe' culture is strong in Korea, so asking if a student wants to get coffee after class or before class is an amazing way to make new friends in a low-stakes environment. The worst part of this method? Making the initial conversation. In order to appear approachable, I like to start these conversations with something along the lines of "Did you understand (insert concept here)?" but you could always go with the classic compliment of someone's shoes or lipstick. Even if you don't become best friends, you'll make them feel good about themselves and that's already amazing.

In every country you visit, the bar or club is a great way to meet new people. As I discussed in my nightlife article, Thursday Party is where I've met some of the amazing people I still call my friends. When liquor starts flowing, people get more outgoing. The Thursday Party methodology has a few options. You can buy the individual a drink, you can invite them to play beer pong or darts, or you can use what I now call the "game" method. When standing outside of Thursday Party (or any bar in Korea) with the smokers, you'll see large groups of foreigners. With your friends, you can, subtly, guess where you think they're from. Then, someone goes and asks, and one hundred percent of the time, they'll start up a conversation with you and it'll be a free-flowing one.

Once you've made your new friend, make sure you have Kakaotalk downloaded on your phone, as that is the main vehicle for which conversations are held and it's super important to have. Also, make sure you've downloaded the Korean keyboard so that it is easier for Korean folks to give you their Kakaotalk if it's in Korean. Speaking of apps, you may want to consider one to meet new people. Meeff is really common, but please be forewarned that after signing up, no matter how "attractive" you are, you will have upwards of 100 new notifications from the app within 15 minutes. Tinder is super common as well, but be careful, because a good chunk of people really are just there for language exchange and not for... the other thing. Apps are great for talking, but not great for initially meeting people.

In general, remember that you're abroad! You have to take some risks and put yourself out there in order to reap the benefits. A lot of the time, you may be seen as intimidating, and so making that first move is likely going to be the only way to make new friends. Sure, the other exchange students on campus (if you are studying abroad) are super cool, but meeting people who have lived or worked in your new locale makes living there, even if for just a little while, that much easier. I promise, you put yourself out there, someone will catch you.

Good Luck


Kakaotalk for iPhone and for Android
How to Add New Language on Your Android and iPhone
Meeff for Android and for iPhone

Thumbnail Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash


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