Sunday, May 19, 2013

Finding Friends in Grocery Stores

As foreigners, living in a country where we don't speak the language, making friends can be slightly more difficult. Since living here, we have found friends in...well, less than conventional ways compared to back home.

Our favorite story is when we met some of our closest friends in the grocery store. Compared to other towns in Korea, there's actually a ton of foreigners where we live. But even though we're not as far and few between as other places, there's still that camaraderie between foreigners here that leads us to give a knowing smile or friendly hello whenever we pass each other on the street.

Have you seen this Seinfeld episode? It's kind of like that but with 'Hey! You speak English?! speak English! Let's be friends!'

But even though there are plenty of other foreigners, other foreign married couples our age are still uncommon, especially when we first moved here. I remember every time we would pass one on the street, I would nudge hubs and say 'look, a foreigner!' It was as if we had just spotted a rare animal species.

So when we were grocery shopping one day, and we kept bumping into this other foreign couple, it caught our attention. We'd nod to each other, exchanged a friendly 'hello' but then just went on our way. Well after about the dozenth time, and after hubs hearing me say 'they look nice' one too many times for his liking, he did what he does best. Embarrassed me (don't worry, most of the time when this happens, it turns out well in the end). As we were driving out of the parking garage we passed them...again. But this time hubs stopped the car, rolled down his window and yelled 'Hey! How are you guys? Are you new in town?' Thank goodness they were and we started chatting, exchanged phone numbers and the rest is history. Don't worry, they know the whole story and still for some reason hang out with us. My point is, sometimes it can be hard to meet new people in a new town, sometimes you have to risk getting out of your comfort zone. But more times than not, it's worth it.

So how do you make friends in a new country when you don't speak the language?

Join a Facebook group- many times, especially for expats, there are Facebook groups for foreigners in a certain area. I know that where we live there are several just for teachers, moms, other working expats in our city in addition to groups for just about every activity imaginable.
Find local city expat groups- along with Facebook groups, there are expat groups that meet up during the week for different activities such as cooking, hiking, or touring around the city.
Pick up a new hobby- I know that in our case, once we moved abroad we had a whole lot more free time than we did in the states. Since moving here we've started several extra hobbies and activities that we wanted to in the states but never had the time to. Pick something you're interested in, find a group and get going. You never know who you'll meet along the way.
Volunteer- this is a great way to not only meet new people in your area with the same passion as you but to get to know the people in your country and help out.
Join a church- our first year abroad we simply watched the podcast from our church back home. While it was great, we were missing out on the incredible community and support that we have now found in our current foreigner's church. 
Start up a conversation- remember that couple that we stalked met in the grocery store?  Yea, it can be awkward just starting up a random conversations but sometimes it pays off to be that overly friendly person.
Sign up for language classes- this is not only a great way to make living in another country easier, but you can also meet a ton of other people wanting to learn the language and make friends with the locals that teach the classes.

What's the weirdest way that you've met someone?

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