Is it normal and common to talk to strangers in Korea is the newest question we attempt to answer:
I’m heading to Seoul in March and studying Korean for one month by myself, I would like to know is it common to talk to strangers in bookstores, coffee shops and make some local Korean guys friend when I’m alone? Or vice versa, will the guys talk to single woman in coffee shops or so?
Thanks a lots.
We’ve given a short answer directly to the writer of this question because it seemed time-sensitive for her. Since we get some version of this question often, we decided to write a longer reply and one that might be useful for everyone.
Kimchi Man and I talked about this and we are both wondering is it really common anywhere to just go around stopping random strangers and striking up conversations with them? Is it common in your country?
Regardless, people’s reactions to a stranger approaching them depend on much more than which country they are from. If you want to know how Koreans might react to you, consider this:
- Are you in a large Korean city or small rural area? In public places, especially in large cities, people are wary of strangers. They are used to their personal space getting invaded often by pushy sellers, people with no manners, drunks and people of questionable intentions. That’s why it’s easier to approach strangers in smaller settings.
- Which situation are you in? If you are at a bookstore and you reach for the same book it is a good opportunity to start a friendly conversation that’s not too forced. But interrupting someone who’s engrossed in their book, or seems in a hurry, might not go over so well.
- Do you look Korean? Being an obvious foreigner might both help and hurt your efforts in approaching strangers in Korea. While some people are going to be very eager to practice their English, others might be so shy that you have to force words out of them (I’m looking at you Kimchi Man). Also the novelty of seeing a foreigner might entice them to give you some of their time.
- Do you speak Korean? Similar as above, some people may be eager to use English but for others speaking a foreign language may seem daunting and it gets tiring after a while if you are not fluent. The writer of the question mentioned she’s been studying Korean for a month, but that is not even close to enough to be able to hold a conversation.
- How old are you? How old are they? A guy approaching a much younger girl is probably going to make her suspect his motives. A guy approaching a girl of the same age might have a much easier time. Also, older people are generally more likely to chat with someone they don’t know.
One thing that’s specific for Korea and might be worthy to remember is to be respectful of older people, even if they are just a year older. Koreans excuse foreigners from doing it, but minding your manners in front of older people will certainly make for much smoother interactions.
Also, I can’t help but notice how the writer of this question seems only concerned about approaching and being approach by people of opposite gender. That makes me wonder if what sparked this question in the first place isn’t hearing about Korean sogeting and meeting.
Sogeting (소개팅) and meeting (미팅) are Korean versions of blind dates. This video explains it well at 4:03
Since it is common in Korea many foreigners get the impression that it is the only way to date and meet someone.
Of course it is not.
Kimchi Man and I were strangers once and no one introduced us to each other. And if you think meeting online doesn’t count, then you’d be glad to know that Kimchi Man’s best friend met his current girlfriend in a Korean gym, and they’ve been dating for a long time. Just last week while he was at the gym Kimchi Man got approached by a Korean woman who asked him out.
Hmmm, now that I think about it, maybe you should join a Korean gym? :)
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