As I emerge from Hansung University station, I’m greeted by a mass of people, the smell of beer, and a DJ pumping dance tunes across a square. It’s the World Beer Festival hosted in Seoul. Like an excited eighteen-year-old, I smile from ear to ear.
My Korean friend Buyeon emerges from the throng. We hug. I hear my name shouted out. It’s Harry, the Meetup host. He remembered me from my last visit with his group at the Latin American Festival. After greetings, he announces that we’ll wait for other joiners before we disappear into the crowd in search of beer and food. That evening, I meet local Koreans, expat teachers, a retired international footballer. We take photos with celebrity Bulgarian chef, Mikhal, and dance with the live DJ. If I hadn’t stumbled across Harry’s Meetup invitation the night before, I wouldn’t have known about this marvelous event.
As an expat deprived of my long standing network of friends and family, it’s very easy to feel isolated. Meetups cater to several needs, the need to belong to a group and receive support, indulging adventure and trying new experiences, as well as meeting people with similar interests.
I discovered Meetup.com through a friend. He casually mentioned ‘Meetups’ and curious, I went online to discover that this network offered. I joined particular groups that were located in or near to my current city, Seoul, and began receiving invitations to attend planned events. Over the last fourteen months, I have attended all kinds of Meetups which I’ll present shortly.
Attending meetups has been one of the best ways I have found to network, make friends, and meet people who have similar interests to me. Many Meetups are attended by international traveler-types as well as locals who like meeting international travellers. As an expat, it’s challenging always feeling like an outsider or guest in Korea, but when I’m with world travelers, these people ‘feel like’ home.
Through Meetups, I’ve met outstanding people. These include Traditional Korean medicine doctor, Yoon who I continue to visit for natural beauty treatments (see my article about Dr. Yoon’s natural fillers and acne scar treatments here). I’ve also met CC and Mr. Kim, two remarkable (and fit) Korean men who encourage hikers to push through the physical and mental challenges of hiking. I met Ernesto who reintroduced me to the Latin dance scene and reignited my passion for traveling around Korea itself. Recently, I met Marco, Andii, and many Spanish speaking friends through Hola Cafe Meetup. I attend Hola Cafe regularly, and these friends are becoming my new family.
I receive multiple invitations to events every week, but I only attend whatever I feel like doing. I hit the ‘attend’ button and show up the day of. There are many interesting Meetup groups, but here are my favourites.
All kinds of festivals regularly take place all over the country, and particularly in my current home, Seoul. I joined Harry’s The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group, and together, we attended the Latin American Festival in May 2017. Once confirmed attendees arrived and we all introduced ourselves, we roamed around the festival, trying sangria, Spanish vino and all kinds of foods, mainly from Latin America. Harry’s events often attend festivals. It’s a brilliant way to enjoy a festival and meet fun new friends too. See The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group here.
There are many language exchange groups. The events seem to be concentrated in Gangnam and Hongdae, and take place at designated cafes. These seem to entail Koreans teaching expats local Hangul, and expats teaching Koreans English language, and this is done mostly through conversation. I don’t attend these Korean/English language exchanges, but I’ve heard that these events are sometimes used to find people to date.
I regularly attend Mangwon Spanish Language & Culture Meetup, hosted by Marco on Saturday afternoons at Hola Café. Marco offers Spanish and English language classes throughout the week, but Saturday from 5pm is allocated for a large mixed group of Spanish speaking people to share their cultures together. I’ve met people from Mexico, America, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and a large number of international Koreans who have lived in Spanish speaking countries. Every week, I encounter people from previous events, and there are constantly new faces to meet. Find Marco’s Spanish Language Meetup here.
I like to hike with Climbing In Korea (CIK) Meetup Group. It’s run by Mr. Kim, and he is very organized leader. I try to attend the hikes identified as ‘easy’ because many hikers are really fit in this group, and hikes at intermediate level entail rock climbing and considerable stamina. The group also organize trips to see other locations throughout Korea. I enjoyed a CIK weekend camping trip to Pyeongchang where we were introduced to preparations for the upcoming 2018 Olympics. I reviewed the event here. To find CIK meetup group, click here.
Discover Seoul/ new experiences/ dinners
Johncito of Seoul Village organizes events including hanbok dress-up, visiting palaces, touring central Seoul, particularly Myeongdong, visiting Kwangjang market, and enjoying walks along the Cheongyecheon stream. I’ve attended several events by Johncito, including language instruction (Korean and Spanish) within a café setting, walking and talking (in Spanish) at Namdaemun market, enjoying traditional Korean lunch at Kwangjang market, and dinners at Buddhist, Thai and other restaurants. Johncito is lots of fun to hang out with, and he also mentors expats who want to start their own meetups! To find Seoul Village, click here.
Latin dance classes
I just attended my first Latin dance class with dance instructor, Mr. Kang. I simply had a blast learning Salsa, Bachata and Cha cha. I have every intention to return as soon as possible! Mr. Kang is professional and patient, and plans to teach us Tango too! To find Let’s Learn Latin Dance with Mr. Kang via Seoul Village, click here.
Photography groups are useful for people looking to meet and share skills with other photographers, and other people related to the industry. I just attended an event with Seoul Model/ Photographer/ MUA/Stylist/ Community. We were a team of approximately seven models and six photographers, hosted by Don and Izzy. We used the Seoullo overground pass, and surrounding area near Seoul station to look for ideal backdrops and places to shoot.
Izzy specializes in fashion photography (see Izzy’s site here). Don, in addition to portrait photography, creates videos and documents his photography in articles published on his website. I’ve included Don’s video below.
Izzy and Don are two very professional and fun guys to work with. See Seoul Model/ Photographer/ MUA/ Stylist/ Community page here.
Literature and writing clubs
I recently attended Christine’s Meetup, Seoul Writers’ Collective. The workshops focus on developing writing skills for writers working on prose (books, articles etc.) and poetry, and developing critical thinking skills. I attended an event at Dan & Chung Café, Itaewon, where after introductions, attendees were presented with a poem that we broke down and discussed. The process was fascinating. As a blog writer, the development of discussing chosen words and punctuation helped me consider aspects of my own writing that I had previously overlooked. I definitely intend to return and hope to bring friends with me! Find Christine’s writing group here.
There are plenty of other Meetup groups which I haven’t attended. These include weekend drinking parties in Hongdae for those interested in drinking or dating, as well as art, and many others. Additionally, if you see that no Meetups are offered for your particular interest, you can create and host your own one!
If you enjoyed reading this, subscribe to my channel!
Other articles by travelandtash:
- Preparing for photo-shoots: a guide for amateur modeling
- Introducing K-POP’s SM Town at COEX Samsung, Seoul
- Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story
Follow travelandtash on Facebook
Follow travelandtash on Instagram
Which are your favourite Meetups? Leave a comment below!