As a first timer in Korea, building relationships with locals can be challenging due to cultural differences, language barriers, and pre-existing social ties. Despite the demanding task, making Korean friends can help you gain a deeper understanding of the culture, practice language skills, and create lasting friendships. Here are some tips for making relationships with Koreans.
Be prepared with Korean Language
One of the critical aspects for a first timer in South Korea is the language. Koreans may feel shy to communicate in English and even if they can speak your language, there will most likely be a huge language barrier. Sharing emotions and words deep down in your heart will be very demanding if you lack of Korean language skill.
You may go to language centers of universities (어학당) to start with Korean language, yet to improve the language skill further you will need something different. In this case, you may find local language exchange clubs to meet people and learn the language.
You can use smart phone applications to easily look for the language exchange clubs or other meetups near you according to your interests and hobbies.
Get used to Korean media trends
Finding common interests is crucial in making friends. Absorbing trends of Korean media could help you start a conversation with Korean . There are various sources to find the latest Korean media trends such as:
- Korean news websites
Major Korean news websites like Naver, Daum, and Nate cover the latest trends in Korean media, including TV dramas, movies, and music.
- Korean entertainment news websites
Websites such as Soompi and Allkpop specialize in covering the latest news and trends in Korean entertainment, including K-pop music, TV dramas, and celebrity gossip.
- Korean entertainment forums
Online forums like DC Inside and Theqoo (they both have a section dedicated to Korean entertainment) which are popular in Korea and are often used by fans to discuss and share the latest trends in Korean media.
- Everytime(에브리타임) (For university students)
‘Everytime’ is a mobile application and online platform that provides a space for students to communicate with one another, ask questions, and share information about their academic lives. The app allows users to connect with friends, form study groups, and share non-academic content such as music, memes, and photos. If you wish to use the app to look for Korean trends, you may focus on its social aspect.
Get in to Dongari (동아리/University Clubs)
(For university students)
Another excellent way to build relationships with Koreans is to join university clubs, or “Dongari” in Korean. Dongaris offer a unique opportunity to make friends in your university who share similar interests and passions. Whether it be sports, music, or volunteering, there are many clubs to choose from. By participating in Dongari, first-year university students can learn more about Korean culture, customs, and traditions.
It’s important to keep in mind that Korean social customs may differ from what you are used to. For instance, Korean clubs often emphasize group harmony over individualism. Therefore, it is essential to approach Dongari with an open mind and be willing to learn from your Korean peers.
Enter Governmental Programs
There are various governmental programs in which you can participate. These programs typically recruit foreigners to promote certain topics such as tourism, cultural exchange, and foreign policies. Some programs may also recruit Koreans along with foreigners, providing an opportunity to meet open-minded Korean friends.
These are some of the programs recruiting both Koreans and foreigners:
The Outlookie program offers international students residing in Korea the chance to take a leading role in planning and implementing cultural volunteer activities and engage in in-depth learning about Korean culture. Participation in the program broadens students’ exchanges with Korean society and enables them to contribute to public values.
KOREAZ Honorary Reporters is operated by the Public Diplomacy and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and promotes Korea through digital public diplomacy to the world. As a member, you will have the opportunity to create social media content with your Korean counterparts.
Building relationships with Koreans as a first timer in Korea can be challenging, but it is undoubtedly rewarding. Learning the Korean language, staying up to date on Korean media trends, and joining Dongari are three practical tips to help you make lasting friendships with locals. Remember to approach these experiences with an open mind and a willingness to learn, and you’ll be on your way to building meaningful relationships with Koreans.
See our other articles that you also may find useful if you’re visiting Korea for the first time: