How to Meet Foreigners in Korea
Living in the sticks? Came here without a plan? No idea where to start? I was in the latter category as I made my way to Korea. The Facebook groups for the GOE and EPIK programs are not terribly active. Some of the groups I joined on Reddit or Facebook seemed only full of negativity. I’m pretty friendly but it still took me a couple months to develop a real friend group. Here’s the various methods I used to meet foreigners in Korea.
This is one of the easiest options, but I found to be the least effective. Although I had great conversations, I didn’t really wind up meeting up with any of the people afterwards. If you’re in the larger EPIK program, it might be unlikely that you find people headed to the same area as you. Even if they divide you into provinces, cities can be very far apart from each other. And larger cities in Korea have the tendency to be very spread out. Such as my city, Changwon. It’s really three cities in one. For people new to an area, trying to meet up while learning about your new job, the public transport, buying supplies, etc., is a big hurdle.
So, try to get people’s Facebooks or Kakaos, but don’t rely on it like I did to meet foreigners in Korea.
This can be a source of frustration and also a good way to meet people, depending. I’ve actually had OK success with it. I met a girl who was from Busan who introduced me to her Korean friend who helped to tutor me in Korean. If you’re actually looking to date people it can be annoying to navigate the world of “language exchanges” and masses of people who won’t show their faces. If you’re looking to make friends it can also be frustrating when people who claim they want a language exchange or a friend, don’t really. Just because Korea is much safer than most countries you’ve been to or come from doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a lot of weirdos here.
Facebook Groups for Your City
Join a few and see if the events interest you. I’m part of two for my city. One is Changwon Culture and Activity Group, which regularly has events that I’ve never attended. Most of the expats seem to be a fair bit older than me and that’s held me back a little. However, the instant they have another outing to a local tea shop, I’m going. The second is the Changwon Hiking and Outdoor Activity Group. While I haven’t actually gone on a hike yet, I was introduced to this group by a free Korean class for expats. They regularly have weekend hikes. Just type your city’s name into Facebook and see what you get. If you can’t find anything, expand your search to the nearest large city or all of Korea. Once you are in that group, write a post asking to meet people in your city. Try specific groups for your interests. For me, I wanted to know the LGBT scene so I joined Lez Be Friends in Korea, which has a Kakao group. Then you’ll know about good events to go to where you can meet more people.
Find the Local Expat Watering Hole
My city seems to primarily be long term teachers, from what I can see. But O’Brians and Next Bar in Changwon is one of the best places to meet other foreigners. Try to search your area for clearly English speaking bars or even restaurants. Sometimes someone else has already written a blog post about the place you’re living in. Up until 2014 there was a fairly prolific blogger for my city and some of the stuff they suggest is still out here.
I don’t know if this happens in every region or just GOE. But about 3 months into my contract we had a two day workshop all teachers had to attend. Much like an orientation, but with more chance to get to know each other. Since we were all much more comfortable living in Korea, it was easy to make friends.
I hope this post helps you meet foreigners in Korea! Don’t forget, even having one friend tends to expand your chance of a large friend group. My taekwondo friend introduced me to two of her friends, and so on an so forth. If you’re in the sticks, don’t be afraid to get on that bus. For the first two months I was regularly headed to Busan (an hour away) for more foreigner-friendly events. Don’t give up!
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