One of the great fears that one faces when moving to a new community, let alone a new country, is “Will I be able to make friends?" Certainly this is a challenge that anybody who goes abroad to teach English must confront, but the good news is that moving to a new country like Korea to teach English offers the opportunity of a lifetime to make new friends and enjoy experiences that you would never have otherwise. Not only will you be welcomed by the local population with open arms, but you will also meet, live, and work with a diverse assortment of people from throughout the English-speaking world.
Pointers for Making Friends while Living in Korea:
- In all likelihood you will be working with other English speakers, many of whom have a background similar to yours. There are 25,000 native English speakers who are teaching English in Korea, and approximately 15,000 teaching English in and around Seoul alone. If you are teaching in a private Korean language school (commonly known as hogwans), you will likely by joining a team of 5-15 other foreign English teachers. They will provide a great social network and will be a great resource for helping you adjust to your new home. When you first arrive, old hands will be more than willing to show you the ropes, and more than often than not, you will also be working with rookies like yourself and you will go through the experience together. Later, after you’ve settled in, you will probably help newer teachers learn the ways of whatever location it is that you are living and teaching in.
- Most English teachers in Korea live near or with other teachers. In Korea, where many schools provide housing to teachers chances are high that other English teachers (and perhaps other expatriates) will be living in the same building or complex, so you will likely have English-speaking friends or colleagues living within close proximity.
- The English teaching community in Korea is extremely vibrant. As most foreign English teachers in Korea are in their 20s, it figures that gatherings at parties, bars, nightclubs and other social venues are extremely common, especially in a world class cities like Seoul and Busan.
- Learn as much as you can of the language and culture and don’t be afraid to socialize with the locals. This may seem obvious, but you will surprised to learn that in many cities where English teachers live and work, the expatriate community is so vast that it can be easy to fall into the habit of only associating with other English-speaking foreigners. The best thing you can do is to learn as much as you can about the local culture, including the local language, and don’t be shy about meeting and associating with local citizens. Check out resources like the Culture Shock! and Lonely Planet guidebook series, which provide a wealth of insights into the local culture; consult with people familiar with the local culture and customs; and just dive in!
- Take advantage of local English-language publications and other resources. There are a whole variety of English language publications in Korea, including newspapers, magazines and websites like www.groovekorea.com/ that cater to the local expatriate population and provide extensive information about social and cultural goings-on. Many Americans also meet up and organize weekend outings and social gathering using social media like Facebook and Meetup.com. There are also local organizations like Adventure Korea that organize all sorts of social and recreational activities from weekend hiking and sight-seeing excursions to holiday parties and booze cruises.
- Participate in local sports and cultural activities and join groups that suit your interests. From choir groups to softball leagues, there are all kinds of groups, clubs and other organizations that enable foreigners living in Korea to pursue their personal interests and meet like-minded folks, both expatriates and Koreans.