Finding new friends has never been easier
Story by: Naomi Blenkinsop
Photos by: Kevin O’Doherty, Michael Karczewski, Thomas Etherington, Seungjae Choi, and Linette Morgan
Foreigners who move to South Korea can initially find it challenging to adapt to their new surroundings. Although a lot of useful information like subway signs, menus, and street names are displayed in English, South Korea can still be a very difficult country to navigate for non-Korean speakers. Many foreigners also feel lonely when they first arrive because it’s not so easy to meet new people. Social media in the form of Facebook groups and meet-up groups have helped ease the challenging transition period that usually comes when relocating to a new country.
Social media in the form of Facebook groups and meet-up groups have helped ease the challenging transition period that usually occurs when relocating to a new country.
Fortunately in the last few years, many meet up groups have been forming all over the country that help people find friends with similar interests or just to help newcomers make new contacts. There has also been a significant influx of Facebook pages dedicated to helping foreign residents access services, sell their goods or provide information that may have not been previously available to non-Korean speakers.
Thomas Etherington, an English teacher working in Seoul, has become a part of the meet-up movement in South Korea. Etherington originally hails from outside of London and has been living in South Korea for three years. He started out his Korean adventure in Daegu, a city located in the southeast of the peninsula.
Soon after his arrival he joined a meet-up group in Daegu that had a large membership and helped him make many new friends. This meet-up group was mostly composed of English teachers. While many meet-up groups are targeted towards those with a mutual interest such as hiking, language learning, and cuisine, the Daegu meet-up group stood out because of its more laid back approach. Anyone was welcome to join and its sole purpose was to help members meet new people in their local community. Meet-ups would usually consist of going out for dinner or to a café and getting to know the other members better.
When the founders of the Daegu group left the city, Etherington took over running the meet-up until he left the city himself for a new opportunity. Etherington relocated to Seoul in 2016 and moved into the Sindorim district.
When Etherington moved to Sindorim, he thought a similar meet-up would also be useful for people living there. “The motivation to set up the crew was to help people meet and explore around Sindorim.” Inspired by the success of the Daegu group, Etherington decided to form his own meet-up group on Facebook called the Sindorim Crew.
The Sindorim Crew is a Facebook group that provides information in English about all kinds of things going on in Sindorim. Etherington also posts dinner meet-ups at restaurants every 2 or 3 weeks on the page. Unlike the Daegu group, which was mostly made up of English teachers, the Sindorim Crew has become much more diverse. People from all over the world attend the meet-up with a mish mash of working professionals, students, and visitors. Since the meet-ups are advertised in English, most people who attend can speak English.
Meet-ups usually take place on week-day evenings to accommodate those with full time jobs. Etherington has hosted six events so far with around four to twelve people joining.
Etherington would like the meet-up to grow because he thinks it could help new residents in Sindorim explore their new neighborhood and also help those who are new to South Korea settle in more quickly. “I know there are a lot of people in Sindorim and around Seoul who want to meet new people and make new friends.”
Each meet-up allows members to explore their local community and see what their neighborhood has to offer. So far there has been a chimaek night, samgyeopsal night and a mart night. In the coming year Etherington intends to expand the meet-up group to include different kinds of activities such as hiking, noraebang, and bowling. Dinner meet-ups will also allow participants to sample some traditional Korean favorites and will also branch out to include international quintessential favorites such as Mexican food or pizza.
The Sindorim Crew Facebook page is more than a meet-up group though and has become a very useful resource for English speakers living in Sindorim. Members are allowed to post anything they want on the page as long as it relevant to Sindorim. You can find recommendations to restaurants in Sindorim, people selling things, or recommendations for good doctors in the area.
The Sindorim Crew Facebook group and others similar to it have really helped non-Korean speakers living in South Korea to adapt more easily and quickly than they normally would. “I think a lot of people arrive here and don’t know anyone. Korea is far from home for them. It’s a way to come out and meet new people and feel comfortable with your life here.”
“I think a lot of people arrive here and don’t know anyone. Korea is far from home for them. It’s a way to come out and meet new people and feel comfortable with your life here.”
The Sindorim Crew and other similar meet-up groups and Facebook pages have really helped make life easier for new arrivals to South Korea. If you have just arrived to South Korea or will move here in the near future and want to meet new people, it is definitely worth your while to check out what’s available for you on Facebook or on the meet-up app.
If you are new to Sindorim or just want to meet new people living in South Korea, check out what the Sindorim Crew has on offer. “If people come to this group, whether they lived here for a long time or short time, they can come and enjoy Korean culture with people who want to enjoy their time here.”
For more information about this meet-up group, visit the Sindorim Crew on FacebookL https://www.facebook.com/groups/270993019917599/