Christine Anusim is a student at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.
I think it should be everyone’s goal to have a few local friends they meet and maintain contact with after your travel abroad. It shows your connection and commitment to learning about them and the culture. But how to do you meet locals in South Korea specifically?
The first (most important) and time consuming thing is to learn some basics of the language. By basics, I mean going above the “hello”, “goodbye”, “I am sorry” and “Where is the bathroom?”. There is nothing wrong with knowing only those phrases —because you will leave knowing more than when you initially arrived— but to be able to have meaningful interactions with the locals who may not know much of your native language, I think it is slightly necessary.
I suggest starting with things you are interested in, what conversations you think you may have with shop owners (how much…?, where is…? etc.), and knowing stuff about yourself (age? where are you from? etc.).
I knew a bit of Korean before I traveled. By a bit, I knew random vocabulary and simple phrases that I learned from apps on my phone. Grammar was not the thing I studied most because being able to get your point across with the simple stuff was more important at the time.
Another method of meeting locals is to travel in very small groups of 3 or less. From what I’ve read and have been told is that a group of foreigners are more intimidating when in larger groups. It lessens the chances of a possible interaction.
This may not be true in all other countries you travel to, but in Korea I think this is true. Also, visiting places that are not very crowded with foreigners could do the trick. If you’re the only foreigner in the area, it may spark interest in why you’re there. This was true for me when I went to Yongsan for a gallery exhibit. After I went to the exhibit, I decided to explore the area a bit. I did some shopping and met a nice couple running the store and they even gave me a discount (raise your hand if you like saving money, *raises hand*).
With that being said, these methods are not full proof and are not the only methods of meeting the locals, but it could be a good starting point. If you have read any of my other blog posts, you will come to find out that I like to prompt others to see what kinds of things they can find out for themselves. Each person knows their interests and I am only here to get your brain going.
I hope this kind of helped! If you have any questions, comments of additions, leave them below! I’d love to hear what you all think about meeting locals in South Korea and other countries!
Until Next Time!
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