Relationships and making friends is difficult for me it seems. Yet here, I’m talking about friendship. Some people will tell you it’s as simple as stepping out and starting a conversation, but for someone like me living in a foreign land, that’s a pretty daunting task.
To be honest, most of us only hang out with those we are comfortable with, or those who speak a similar tone with us, be it language, interest, religion or whatever. So naturally, I had fewer friends here in South Korea compared to my home country of Malaysia.
Most of the friends I had when studying in a Korean University were those fellow students that came with me. Back then I didn’t bother with making new friends since I had the mind-set of “I’m the alien here, and I should let them strike the first conversation”. Also being a cautious person, I’m always wary of people who would only befriend someone in whom they could benefit from.
By experience we also know that there are many kinds of people out there. Some may even try to harm us, or stab us in the back for one reason or another. However this attitude will kill any opportunity to build lasting relationships. As life goes by, we can increase our sphere of friends if we only take the effort to seek them out. I had been skeptical about this since the first time I moved to Korea.
“Although they want isolation, and a place for contemplation, Monks form monasteries, and Nuns live in convents. For solitude is prison without companionship.” Christopher G. Rither
There are always stereotypes placed on various countries and ethnicities. Koreans are generally stereotyped as people who are not very friendly, and often quite arrogant (to fellow Asians at least). This particularly seems to apply to those from Seoul. However after graduating college, and entering into the Korean 8 am to 8 pm corporate working environment, I have been forced to re-construct my social circles. This is especially true among the workers at my job in Korea, especially since all my old friends have left, and I am now alone.
Maybe I was fortunate, because most of the people who I had befriended up to now were really good people. I know have those in whom I can trust, and would give me a hand when I’m in trouble. So I had concluded that I was wrong in my first assumption, and there are friendly people everywhere, making the stereotype of Koreans substantially wrong.
Right now, I have people I consider friends, and friends that I consider brothers and sisters. I had never thought it was possible especially when I first moved to Korea. Even though some are from the management level, and significantly older than me, I am able to communicate with them well, and can talk about anything. Mind you, South Koreans have this social hierarchy that’s really hard to handle, since it is basically based on age. There is also the language barrier that hinders clear communication, but most are good to overlook that most of the time.
You would think that by being a foreigner you would naturally be attracted to and meet people from similar countries as your own. However this is not the case because you still have to apply effort. Once I realized this, I have been able to make friends from other countries. Even though most are people whom I met through work, they would just be another acquaintance if I had not taken the initiative to keep in contact with them. By just taking baby steps, friendships can flourish pretty quickly, just like leaves on a branch.
This is because friends beget friends, and over time you become introduced to their friends as well. The funny thing is, after you get the courage to meet new people, you can band together easier, especially in a foreign country. This is because you are all practically in the same shoes, and are facing the same things other dealing with.
I have learned from many of these people. Especially since they are from all walks of life, have traveled more, and have more experience in life compare to what I have seen. So, now I realized that I missed out some great opportunities of meeting great people while I was studying, and also realized that 1 really close friend is better than 5 superficial friends. Leaving all my friends and family back home has been difficult, but I know have people from all walks of life to interact with.
It is nice to have these people in my life, even in the age of social networking. Here in Korea it is common to see people with their face glued to their smart phones even as they sit across from one another. It seems they are more interested in poking their friends on Facebook, and sending tweets and IM’s, than talking to someone face to face. Technology might do wonders connecting people far apart, but they could also distance us pretty quickly and easily if used inappropriately. Nothing beats direct communication for creating a more intimate relationship, even between friends.
We humans are social animals. We cannot take away the fact that we rely on each other to get through day by day. I can imagine how mundane life would be without my friends, far or near. A shoulder to lean on; an ear to listen to, someone to share laughter, and happiness can make all the difference. They are the ones that make the days more worthwhile – something that I always look forward to everyday.
Don’t you think so too, my friend?
Finding Friends in a Sea of People – Moving to a New Country is just one of many interesting articles here at One Mean Dream. So if relationships, making new friends or even moving to another country interest you… Read on.