2010 holds more opportunities than ever to become part of a community, and there’s plenty of choose from. It’s time toreally get to know people – going beyond polite conversations on where you’re from or how long you’ve been here. It means getting out of your comfort zone instead of just going to the same bar, the same trivia night, or the same three parks. That more foreign teachers are calling Korea home for longer than usual (thank you, global recession) means they’re less likely to say goodbye right after you meet them. It also means they’re more likely to help out when crap hits the fan and you need a friend.
Take it from science if you like. Several studies have shown people that belong to a community – no matter the kind – have fewer health problems,commit suicide less often, and tend to be more satisfied with their lives. One study (Beem, C. (1999) The Necessity of Politics. Reclaiming American public life, Chicago: University of Chicago Press) equates one’s social connections as a predictor for one’s life span, similar in accuracy to getting married or affluence. The study suggests the same health benefits come from quitting smoking as joining a community of some kind. Abraham Maslow (of the famous Maslow’s hierarchy you might have learned about in Psych 101) listed social groups on the third tier – a pre-requisite to reaching the esteem and self-actualization levels. In other words, you can’t achieve levels of happiness or self-actualization without having other people in your life.
It’s very true that teachers have different schedules, locations across the country, needs, interests, lifestyles, jobs, native cultures, different visa categories. No matter what differences you may have, the nice thing about communities is that they start with sharing a common interest or goal. It doesn’t have to be a huge community – few of the expat-focused ones are – so start with what interests you and build from there.
2S2 – founded by the popular blogger Roboseyo, 2S2 meets on the second Sunday of every month to do something different. The last couple meetings took the group to see the snowboarding festival in Gwanghwamun and taught the group how to play Go-Stop over lots of conversation. Check out http://2s2community.
Adventure Korea – if your excuse for not traveling around Korea has been not going where to go, this community does plenty of trips across Korea while taking care of all the transportation details. The people you’ll meet are fellow travelers – and the trips can take you almost anywhere Korea has to offer. Check out www.adventurekorea.com for a list of upcoming trips.
Swing, salsa, and tango dance – you won’t find the same people at each studio or dance floor, but pick one (or more!) and find some lessons to learn. If you already know the basics, there are plenty of clubs that specialize in each kind across the country. They’re scattered across the city, but a tango and a swing place are within walking distance of Sinsa station. http://swingkorea.
Seoul Improv – flexing those theatrical muscles doesn’t need to happen before a crowd of thousands. While the troupe performs occasionally, practices can be just as much fun. Contact [email protected] for more information. Whatever community or groups you join, I wish you a Happy New Year, plenty of friends, and a great community.
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