I received a request for this post and I thought it was a great topic. Thanks for commenting and following my blog, everyone! Your support means the world to me. There were a few times I wanted to quit, but I’m glad I didn’t This post is dedicated to how I made friends in Japan and Korea and where I met them. Each country is unique but making friends in both countries overlaps in some ways. These are the ways I made friends based on my own experiences. This may not be true for everyone, but nonetheless, maybe you can get inspiration on how to make friends in your host nation whether it be Japan or Korea.
How to Make Friends in Japan
Join a social activity
When I lived on Okinawa, I made friends with the old guys in my karate class, at my Cross Fit gym, and work. My roommate did a hula class where most people would socialize and not do very much practice. Since most Japanese spend the majority of their time at work, clubs are a great way to meet people and make friends.
I met the majority of my good Japanese friends through mutual friends. My friends would host potlucks or parties and invite their friends. I often met really cool people through mutual friends. It’s really hard to just approach random Japanese people so it’s better to have someone introduce you because then you’re accounted for.
Okinawa boasts a large military presence and they often opened the base for civilians to come on and enjoy American food and music. I met local people at the concerts. Music is a great way to connect with people and start conversations.
I didn’t have many Japanese friends, but the ones I was close to were awesome. The Japanese friends I did have could speak English, had an open mind, or they lived/worked/studied abroad and could see the bigger picture of the world. I never had a Japanese friend who didn’t travel abroad. It just doesn’t work for me because I know the world is bigger than America, Japan or Korea.
I mostly had Japanese acquaintances. The Japanese have a society valuing harmony, politeness, and your best face forward. It’s hard to know their true feelings because they don’t want to lose that “face”. It takes awhile for them to trust you and before they shed their “face” and show you their true selves.
Some people say it’s harder to have true, meaningful relationships with the Japanese and I agree. It did get frustrating at times when the Japanese friends I would make would have surface conversations. Coming from a Mexitalian background where everyone is hugging, kissing, crying, or slapping the shit out of each other, it was difficult to be in Japan where no one really does any of the above.
I lived in Okinawa where the people were warmer and kinder, but I often didn’t see them hug or touch each other. It’s a cultural thing, but one that made me uncomfortable.
How To Make Friends in Korea
Here’s my disclaimer because I haven’t been here very long, but this is how I made/been making the majority of my friends. There’s so many amazing people I have yet to meet and Korea has been great for networking.
I would say this is the number one way I made friends before coming to Korea. I did a language exchange and made wonderful friends through that website. Yes, you find some creeps, but you also find some cool people too.
Some Koreans are super friendly and they will just talk with you. I made a Korean friend by going to a Korean alcohol tasting. It was awesome and she was so fun. Get together in big groups and you never know who you might meet. Find groups where people have similar interests.
Since I’m still kind of new to the Korean scene, I rely mostly on meeting the friends of the new friends I make. I’m friends with a lot of foreigners, but they are friends with people they met at language exchanges or club activities.
I made one of my good Korean friends in Okinawa, when I helped her out of a sticky situation. Since then, she has been a sweetheart! She’s helped and shown me around Korea. I find Korean people to be more straightforward with their emotions and feelings. They don’t always smile and you can tell what’s on their mind. I really appreciate that because then I know if someone likes me or doesn’t like me.
Let me reiterate by stating the Korean friends I do have are interested in other countries and cultures. They are open to the world and they can speak or understand English pretty well. For me, it’s difficult to be friends with someone who hasn’t been outside their own country.
Night Life in Japan
I lived in Okinawa, but I partied in Naha, Osaka, Hiroshima and Tokyo. This is what I have to say about the night life in Japan—it wasn’t my scene. While it’s all fun and games getting silly drinking your host nation’s traditional cup of death, I didn’t find the night life to be that entertaining, especially at Japanese establishments. I actually stopped going out in Okinawa because I was tired of getting groped by drunk Japanese AND military men in the clubs. Yes, they would get a punch in head, but I hated having to be on my guard ALL the time.
In Japan, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman, you have to pay to get in the club. You receive 1-5 drink tickets depending on the club, which sucks if you’re already toasted from the bar and want to cool your jets dancing.
In Okinawa, I would often find people just sitting at their booths drinking and trying to talk over really loud music. If anyone started the dance party, it was always my foreign friends and I. I went to a lot of foreigner bars and clubs because I like jumping around and dancing. To me, that is a club/bar scene. The night life was fun in Japan, but organized, tame fun, if that makes sense.
Night Life in Korea
The guys in the clubs are grabby, but I never had anyone grab me below the waist in inappropriate places. No means no and Korean men leave you alone after that. I’ve never had anyone try and get weird with me.
If you party in Korea, you’re gonna do it all night long. Koreans start their night at barbecue drinking soju. They move onto the next “party” which is a bar, then to the club, and karaoke to end the night. It’s super cheap to drink in Korea. A bottle of decent soju or makgeolli costs abou $2. Yes, please. I never have to pay to get into clubs which gives me the freedom to leave and go to another place I choose. A freedom I did not have in Japan.
In Seoul, the clubs are bumpin, the music is good and people are dancing on the speakers. Girl, gimmie some space on that speaker because I’m about to join you.