Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Growing a social life from scratch

The decision to uproot myself yet again and place myself in a totally different culture - this time one where I don't even speak the language - was a decision I made rather easily. When I made the decision, I thought "oh, people do this all the time. All the cities have at least hundreds if not thousands of foreigners, and I know they don't all speak Korean, nor do they sit in their apartments by themselves." Thus, I assumed, there must be some kind of built-in network of foreigners that makes themselves known to newbies.
This, of course, was a completely ridiculous assumption. Many schools do have multiple foreign teachers, and some have many. So far I am the only one I know who has no other foreigners at their school. (Update: EPIK teachers (public schools) are generally the only ones at their schools, but they have an orientation together so they know who's around, and I think there's one at each of the bajillion public schools, so they have a network going in.) Many of my friends find the thought of getting plopped here by myself kind of amazing.
But there I was. All by myself. And so I went out on a Saturday night. By myself. It was probably one of the scariest things I've done, and I've done some pretty scary things. Meeting people is not my forte. I went out on a Saturday night. By myself. And for the first while, I stood in a corner. It's not something I'm proud of, but I just can't do that first little bit of putting myself out there. but then I ran into the people from my plane. And then someone else recognized me from Facebook. And so I entered into the ridiculous network that is the Cheongju expat scene.
I did make friends my first night out.
Photo pilfered from: Vicky Franklin
I already have a good bit of thought on a follow-up to this, but I'll leave this here for now and end by saying that being the only foreigner at my school is difficult, and I think for some people it would make the first couple months difficult. I've somehow managed to not let that happen to me and have broken into the world on my own, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it for everyone, and I still think it would have been much easier to have some coworkers to hang out with. Who knows if easier is better, though, my life is pretty great right now, so despite the tough first couple weeks, I'm not complaining at all.


  1. I was SO thankful that I ended up at a school with other Expats. I am absolutely not a social butterfly and, while I've gotten out of my comfort zone quite a bit since coming here, I think having to adjust to a new culture completely on my own would have been a bit too much.

    Kudos! I'm glad you were able to meet some people! Are you going to be around this weekend? If I can kick this plague, I'll definitely be around Chungdea Friday or Saturday night.

    1. As I said, it's been tough, but everyone has been great about introducing me to people! I just last night met some more people from my neighborhood! I should be around this weekend, all the normal places... I think you're probably the only one I haven't run into randomly while out previous weeks.
      And I totally understand the plague thing, my God do these kids not know how to cover their mouths!!??