Are Korean People Friendly? Talking to Strangers in Korea

If you’re a foreigner in Korea, you’ll definitely stand out, and you’ll have a different experience of talking to strangers than Koreans! Watch this video to see a few different examples of what you might experience if you come to Korea!

Covered in this video:
Talking to strangers as a foreigner
What Korean people feel about talking to strangers (other Koreans)

What’s it like to talk to strangers in your country? Let us know!

About Keith

Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea. Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeith e-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com

34 comments

  1. I wish I had seen this a few months ago when I first came to Korea. Explains a lot!

  2. Hope

    OMG !!!! wow the first two examples were hilarious …..she literally looked like she was having a panic attack
    Had to click replay …Great video!!!

  3. 안녕하세요~ This is my first comment on your page ^^ You have some nice videos :D
    Here in Brazil is not weird talking to strangers, even if is to just talk about the weather or how the bus is getting late hahaha And many times it’s happened of someone asking me (while waiting for the bus or even in the bus) about what I study, or people tell me stories about their lives (well, I don’t think that is super cool hahaha but I don’t consider it weird xD), specially old women do that, I think they don’t have many people to talk to, so they end up talking with random people :)
    But if someday I go to Korea, I’ll remember of this video! xD

  4. Thanks for the comments!
    Just wanted to add…. Of course the older people in Korea are more open to talking to strangers :)
    I have conversations with older Korean people all the time!

  5. Poh Xing Wei

    Oh! This is a different vibe from your previous videos! What happened to Songah? :D

  6. Heh, funny video!

    It’s exactly the same in Singapore. People don’t really talk to strangers unless there’s a purpose.

    But yeah, when I was in Korea, I got chatted up a lot by 아저씨 and 아줌마 들, which I didn’t really mind.

  7. Michaela

    In England it varies. London is famously known worldwide for being very unfriendly when talking to strangers and is probably only done when there is a purpose. I’m from South Yorkshire and people are well known for being really friendly. Expect to randomly start talking to people in shops, car parks, pubs etc. There is also a really strong local dialect which is hard to understand if you aren’t from here. I had an American friend who came to visit and got annoyed at not being able to understand anyone. I’ll see if I can get some friends together and make a video of it. Entertainment value = high!

  8. Michaela

    In England it varies. London is famously known worldwide for being very unfriendly when talking to strangers and is probably only done when there is a purpose. I’m from South Yorkshire and people are well known for being really friendly. Expect to randomly start talking to people in shops, car parks, pubs etc. People will often call you ‘love’ even if they don’t know you, e.g. “Thanks love”, “excuse me love”. There is also a really strong local dialect which is hard to understand if you aren’t from here. I had an American friend who came to visit and got annoyed at not being able to understand anyone. I’ll see if I can get some friends together and make a video of it. Entertainment value = high!

  9. Jesse

    I’m an american highschool student and actually just came to Korea last night and am staying with a host family. It’s funny cause today I was out with my host noona and I tried practicing Korean by talking to these two Korean girls… I got reaction number 2 “uhhh… ehh… hehehehe….. uhh…..” :P
    Then I got on my computer and searched how to talk to strangers in Korea and found this video, lololol

  10. Jesse, glad we weren’t wrong! A lot of people have been saying they’ve experienced the same things :)

  11. Intan

    I’m from Malaysia. Talking to foreigner’s for me is not a problem. As there’s a lot of foreigners like to go to Malaysia,
    Some of Malaysian good in English (although some of them are not fluent) but they will help you.
    Me as a student in Malaysian university often see korean student exchange in here. But the problem is (which I think major problem). For boys hostel in my university. they are feeling uncomfortable when they have seen some koreans boys students totally get naked when they are in the bathroom. And sometimes they are taking bath with each other.

    For Malaysian student student, they think the korean are weird. Malaysian are mostly muslim and they always want to protect their gaze for some sort (naked n uncomfortable distractions from koreans) while they are bathing because they are men too. No need to show of that ‘thing’ too. haha.

    Just sharing from my friend experience. ^^

  12. kai

    Yes, i met like the example in video. ^^ ah i got it . The first time i traveled to Korea and i got lost the way.Then looking for someone who walk pass us. And when asked ‘ Excuse me?” ????? many guys walk pass and showed me X Cross sign. ah…right now know more culture or korean style. Thank a lot for you video!

  13. Maria Luisa

    I’m spanish. And if you visit Spain, you can ask to any person… they will help you.. i realized with you video that we are too much talkative . Thank you. This is great!!…

    • Jooeun

      Great video. I live in Madrid, Spain, and I love how everyone here are so nice and welcoming. I have a great conversation with complete strangers almost every day. Even in New York people are very helpful and easy to talk to. It is so different from Korea!

  14. Phillip

    Do you think that Korean men are more likely to talk to a foreign guy for no particular reason if he is with someone else?

    I lived in Korea for a little while and rarely did any strangers talk to me. Then a friend visited and I showed him around for a few days and it seemed like guys on the train were talking to us all the time. “What are you doing, where are you from” etc. Maybe we just looked like we were having fun.

  15. hugo

    .hi, im from colombia and the truth is that here talking to extrangers is so common as tied your shoes, (especialy if you are in a line, in a bank,buying a bus ticket,etc..) no matter the topic people will talk with you, (especialy eldery people), is just that you aproach to someone and ask for something and the people always would like to talk with you and help you.

    i´ll keep this video on mind when i´ll go to korea

  16. Daryl

    I’m a Filipina living in Canada for about 7 years and people here are very friendly, it still depends on the personality of each person but overall I can chat up people in very random places – in a line, at the mall, or at the train. Gotta make sure they’re open to conversation first xD

    Just curious…if an Asian person (obviously not Korean like Filipino, Malaysian, or Chinese) goes to Korea, is it the same? Like are they afraid of communicating as much as Americans?

  17. Lucy

    Very different from Brazil – here, people talk to strangers all the time and anywhere, at supermarkets, at pubs, at the beach, at church…hehe…the sky is the limit. I guess Brazilians are curious, because anything can become a topic for a conversation, for example,if your wearing something interesting, the person next to you can ask “where did you buy this? it’s so beautiful”. People also talk about the news, like the recent changes in town, price of the bus ticket, the elections, the score of the football game. Half of the time, some of these “small talks” only happen when your waiting in a line or in a doctor’s office, the other half happens for curiosity.

    Unlike Koreans, we don’t ask people’s ages, unless your very close to them, because it’s considered impolite.

  18. Ain

    Hi, i’m ain from Malaysia. I went to korea on Sept last year during early autumn. It was a really good & nice experience. Well, when I go there, i just follow my friends since i can’t speak & understand korean…but now, i start to learn korean bit by bit & it was fun…i miss korea so much & wish can go back there next year…so much things i wish to do & so much places i wish to go & yes, older people in korea is really friendly..still remember this ajusshi or we can called him as harabuji (grandpa) who help us when we were looking at a seoul subway map…he’s asked where we want to go & he even bring us to the right station to take the train where we want to go…i’ll never forget that..same things happen when my friend & I were looking on how we want to go to Insadong…i’m glad that i have the opportunity to visit korea..definitely going to go there again!

  19. Cynthia

    In Puerto Rico , taking to strangers is not uncommon. And when we do most of the time people around you would think you know each other since most of us talk to strangers… And mostly in a friendly manner…

  20. Ola

    Hi! I am Olga from Russia) Talking to strangers in Korea is very different from ours. We often start talking to strangers when we are waiting for something or want to find a temporary group. We can start a conversation anywhere: at the bus stop, in a public toilet on the bench in the park, to the movies and so on.Usually the conversation starts with the indignation over what ever. For example, “Oh, they are preparing the food for so long,” or “Today, this wretched weather” But then we move on to other subjects, and sometimes can even talk about privacy. If we see in the familiar stranger company, we try to quickly get acquainted with him and start a conversation.
    About the Russian people usually say that we are very sociable and hospitable people. And it’s absolutely true. We can not hesitate to invite a stranger into his home and, like in Russian fairy tales, “feed them, give drink to put in bath”, and only then begin to ask, who is this man and what he does.
    I’m sorry if you do what you do not understand, because I do not know much English language >.< ~

    • Ana

      Hey! That’s pretty much the same as in Iran. Iranians are famous for being very hospitable.Talking to strangers also is similar to what Olga described.

  21. C.C.

    Do Korean people often take photos of their fellow countrymen (strangers) without the subject’s permission? This has happened to me twice while staying here… A quick snap with the iPhone along with some sleight of hand to make it seem like nothing happened. Not cool in my book but I didn’t know what to say!!

  22. Rosel

    This is an interesting topic. I am and ESL Tutor for koreans and I can say that my students are friendly once you had 3 or more times meeting them. Yes, it can be a bit awkward and hard in the first few meetings. Most of them were very aloof at first. You might even be surprise how cold they can get even if they are really fun and outgoing people. But I guarantee,once you get well acquainted with them, they are the most humble, appreciative and polite that you could ever meet. Especially korean chidlren and teeangers. They are the sweetest students compared to Turks and Chinese.

  23. bella

    In Indonesia, the people are very welcome to the foreigner. they treat them nicely. even when they cannot speak english, they would try to understand. e.g if you get lost, they will lead you the the place you going to. we always treat people like family.

  24. 안녕하새요!~ I need help!! I dont know much Korean.. Can u tell me a website that might work help me? I know the alphabet pretty well.

  25. And please if u have a instagram add me :) my user Puppy_Lover228 BYE!!!

  26. c

    i’m an asian female. have been to Korea (Seoul and Busan) thrice in my life.
    about two weeks per trip and the elderly were very friendly towards me.
    the men and children were very polite and nice too.

    but the women.. scary. especially those in their twenties to thirties.
    fierce. i am def not trying to generalize here but i wouldn’t dare befriend a korean woman anytime soon.

  27. rouzbeh

    hi !
    sorry to be asking this,but was this video serious? because it didn’t seem like it !
    but if it IS serious, i’d love to pay Korea a visit !

  28. Came across your blog while i was surfin, call me critical.. though koreans have a rich heritage which is admirable( elder respect and cleanliness. etc. i know for a fact that they dont bother to “give a damn” if your not american or someone with white skin. its all about the color. (for now

  29. Hi Keith :) Are you saying that Korean people, in general really don’t talk to strangers? Hmmm.., i had this experience in Hong Kong while I was watching the Symphony of lights, 2 Korean guys approached and actually had a long conversation with me. They were really friendly and did not feel awkward at all. They were both cool and cheerful :) And oh, btw, i will be in Korea this August, can u suggest activites that my friend and I can do during summer there in Korea? Thank you Keith! :>

  30. Olivia

    I’m from Sweden and we do not talk to strangers most of the time. We do not even glance at strangers and it is often weird if someone you do not know talk to you on the street.

  31. Rene

    Hi, I’m from Malaysia. Well actually Malaysian people are friendly so when it comes to foreigners it’s nothing to us in fact we love to treat foreigners. We, as Malaysian, do know how to speak English, but some of them aren’t that fluent. Besides, in Malaysia there are many ethnics & of course, it means we could speak many languages. I could say that Malaysia people are very friendly since we’ve a lot of foreigners here. Even at my school there were some foreigners that lost & we helped them. It’s actually weird for a 14-year-old girl like me to tell about my country but I found it is good to share.