The Art of Making Friends

I wish there was a manual wherein you could learn ‘how to make friends’. I’ve always thought it’s an extrovert’s well kept secret. As a child, I’d take comfort hiding under the shadow of an extroverted sister. I’d let her do the talking whilst I’d struggle with the right words to say. And, at every bend of my life — the struggle to make friends persisted.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
― Muhammad Ali

I spent the early months, in Seoul, reconnecting with familiar faces — all who’d eventually leave. Soon, I was on my own, taking me back to the first day of kindergarten, college, ad-school, and work. This time, it wasn’t just about finding the right words to say. There were so many different words that flew around and I barely understood any of them.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
― A.A. Milne

I met Isabelle, in November, at my Hanji (traditional Korean paper craft) class. Back then, she was learning Sunmudo — a Korean Buddhist martial art and also teaching yoga, in a hanok, at Bukchon Hanok Village. She invited me for a yoga session to help relieve the pain in my lower back. And, that’s how I met Seoul locals — Jebi and Yeunsu. Sadly, that very day, the pain from Isabelle’s old horse riding accident resurfaced. On our insistence and despite her mild irritation; she had to cancel the class. Post a failed yoga session and a visit to a doctor at a local medical centre — Isabelle decided she wanted to visit another doctor at Gangnam.

“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”
― William Shakespeare

I decided to stay back with Jebi and Yeunsu. In November, the colours of the leaves were slowly changing and walking down the quaint streets of Samcheong-dong — was a stark contrast — to the grey tones of the district we lived in. Samcheongdong is surrounded by Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces on two sides and Cheong Wa Dae (the President’s Office) and Insa-dong on the other two. As we walked deeper into the neighbourhood; I learned that Samcheongdong is also quite popular for its art galleries. It’s the perfect blend of Korean heritage and arts.

We visited one of the galleries and heard of a showcase exhibition by Japanese lacquer artist, Kumano Kiyotaka.  We were extremely lucky to listen to a soulful performance by Ha Myong Su — a Korean musician living in Japan.

After the performance we looked around and admired the artist’s craftsmanship. I’ve always loved small galleries and crafts that carry tradition forward.

We continued our little exploration. We bonded over the arts, literature, film, and music. And the more we spoke, the more I realised how similar we were. Yeunsu studied architecture and was trying to make her mark as an illustration artist; Jebi studied French Literature, worked in a publishing house and was dabbling in translation. And I, studied physics, worked in advertising, and was a struggling writer. We were all misfits and strangely fit together because of it.

Jebi and Yeunsu knew the narrow roads and graffiti lined streets like their own backyard. Each nook was as alluring as the previous. Often, the local vendors would come out and greet them.

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.

“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
― A.A. Milne

Jebi had to go for a prior engagement and I accompanied Yeunsu to an early dinner. We exchanged numbers and they invited me to their book reading sessions. It was the start of a new friendship and the first of our many little explorations in and around Seoul.

Maybe, there isn’t a foolproof manual to making friends. It’s just about finding the right people, at the right time, and keeping an open mind.

28 responses to “The Art of Making Friends

  1. Thoughtful post Cheryl and I loved all the quotes. Must admit that making friends was never easy for me either growing up. As usual great pics. Hugs

  2. Cheryl, I find that making friends is dependent on situations. Happy to know that you made some great friends which opened many more opportunities for you. There’s nothing like company of a local, who knows the city, inside out!

    Keep exploring and making new friends, Cheryl!

    • Thanks, Arvind. 🙂 Making local friends, in Seoul, is more difficult than making foreign/expat friends. I guess it is the same everywhere. Locals are perfect to show you another side to the same city and also give you much needed perspective about topics you’d never know about. 🙂 Have a good week ahead.

      • Some societies and cultures are difficult to befriend and getting chances to interact with the locals, at times is not easy. On the other hand some are quite outgoing. You are right there are things that only local would know.
        You too have a good week ahead Cheryl.

  3. I absolutely relate to need for a manual! Not surprising at all we would have that in common 🙂 but you’re right I think, sometimes it just happens naturally, given the situation to make a connection. Great post, Cheryl.

  4. Pingback: Heritage: That ‘s Cricket | What's (in) the picture?·

    • Hahah! Really? Do you remember that ‘awkward’ first meeting (with Bora), last year? I thought you’d never want to meet me again! lol! I think, I’ve changed a lot over the past year. From Christian zealots, entitled ajusshis, to random people I’ve met at the coffee shop — I’ve learned so much from each encounter. Honestly, when I came here I didn’t really know anyone. Starting from scratch can be intimidating in a new city. Btw, I think you’re a social introvert, even if you try to hide behind Agri and adorable (sigh she’s so cute) Naia!

  5. I would call you an “open introvert!” Every post paints a clearer and clearer picture of you, and I see someone who has fears – social and otherwise – that she overcomes more regularly than almost anyone I know! Making friends in adulthood is super hard for many people, even more naturally outgoing ones. Being open to life and all its possibilities is more important than a natural tendency to be gregarious, in my opinion!

    • I really like the way you interpreted this post, Lex! I’m so glad you get me. I’m not always sure of how a post would be read. The primary reason for being open about my fears is to give a balanced view about travel and expat life. I think, many times, we focus on the highs and never talk about the lows and that can be misleading. Thanks so much for your comment. Never fails to make my day and makes the effort to write about what I fear all the more worth it! 🙂

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