Monday, February 25, 2008


Part of living in a foreign country is that you tend to make friends with other foreigners. Especially ones who speak your language. There are lots of English speaking people in Korea (besides of course the Koreans who speak English of which there are many) from all over the world (but mostly Canada).

Thing is, you have to be a little crazy to uproot yourself from your comfortable surroundings and move halfway round the world (or less) to a place you know very little about. And that particular brand of crazy, which I possess, tends to make friendships form quite readily. But in Korea, it seems like everyone is here for a short amount of time--one or two years, unless they fall in love--and then returns to where they come from. This week three friends are leaving the country, probably never to return. And it's hard. These are people I've become fairly close with over the last six months--Tracey from my Korean class and then later swing dance club, Yumiko who I met at the YMCA because she was in advanced but bonded with over girl talk and has been mentioned frequently in this blog, and Amanda who was in the beginner class at the YMCA and I've hiked/lunched with now and then.

It's different than leaving people "back home." I was going off to have my adventure. This time I'm being left behind (granted it's in Korea... which I also will leave eventually). And part of me believes (naively, I know) that they'll always be there to come back to.

But Tracey's from England and going to volunteer in Africa. Yumiko's from Japan and going to finish her master's and then maybe get a TESOL certificate in Thailand or something. And Amanda's going to grad school back in Canada. Even if we keep in touch, it seems unlikely I will see them again (other than a trip I plan to take to Kyoto this spring... if it doesn't cost too much).

That's heavy.

For now, I go to goodbye parties and lunches and hug them and wish them luck and let them know they will be missed. And I'll meet new friends and so will they and it will be ok. But it's never really easy.


  1. Making REAL friendships is hard in such a transient society.

    Friendships with Koreans often end up being friendships of convenience. Friendships with other ex-pats often end up being friendships of circumstance. But making friendships of consequence...hard.

    This is part of the reason most of my socializing is done at taekwondo and with Good Man.

    I am not really FRIENDS with my studiomates, but I am with Master's family, and I understand my place as the Big Sister in the studio. We've spent a ton of time together, there are private jokes, stories, shared experiences.

    And Good Man, well, that's self-explanatory.

    But I have lots of Korean "friends" that I text message with every once in a while. "Oh, let's meet..." But really, we rarely do, because they're friendships of convenience.

    I remember shortly after I got here, a (real) expat friend (made here, we knew mutual people back home) said that he had basically quit making friends because he had his set and he was sick of people leaving. He also said that he had dual-user friendships with Koreans. Both of them knew they were only using each other.

    I was mortified at the time. Now I understand.

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  3. i say if you've met one friend in korea who you'd invite to your wedding, then you done good.



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