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Articles > Life September, 24, 2012

Korean housemates DOs and DON’Ts

Matthew Scholar
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Admittedly the title makes this blog seem like it’s aimed at a fairly niche audience. But I’m sure my ideas will apply to any foreign student you may be sharing a flat/house with. First of all and most importantly, don’t assume that your South Korean flat mates are lying about coming from the south just because of the red stars they put on their milk. After not mistaking them for communists, make sure you don’t start seeing the shared living area as land that they may be invading. And definitely don’t devise a counter attack after they invite a few of their Korean friends around one night.

South Korean Flag

Those initial points may only be relevant if you are sharing with South Korean people (and even then I don’t know if they’re as relevant as I thought they were). But sharing a flat/house with anyone who speaks minimal English can be quite difficult, especially when you set off on the wrong foot.

After finding it hard to hold a conversation with my South Korean flatmates, I didn’t really speak to them much after I first met them. This was a wrong move and was most probably the reason why ‘Patrick’ hated me for a short while. It became apparent after one night when me and the two English people I shared with had some friends over and got quite merry. At around five in the morning I was in particularly high spirits and thought it would be a good idea to turn up the music. Shortly after this an angry shirtless Patrick came in and turned off the music, at which point we remembered that they lived there too. This made us feel a bit guilty. When I next saw him a couple of days later I did apologise, but he didn’t really acknowledge me and for the following week, on the rare occasions I did see him, he glared at me. This is mostly due to me making no attempt at conversation with him. If you don’t speak to your flat/house mates and they are in the minority, they hide in their rooms and you have no idea whether they are in or not. Not talking to them also means you don’t know what days they have early starts, whether or not they are planning on having friends around and pretty much everything else about them. So despite it being awkward when you have to ask them to repeat what they said and vice versa, I advise talking to your foreign flat/house mates more often.

Think of it like this – the more you talk to them, the better their English will get. Then you might become friends and stay up getting merry and playing loud music with them. It is easy to forget but some foreign students have travelled thousands of miles to come and study in a completely alien environment. Unsurprisingly, they can often feel very isolated and alone. So even though sometimes you may find it difficult, try and make them feel at home in the flat with you.

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  1. This article can be applied to any flatmates. If you don’t talk to one another and ignore each other, how could you ever contemplate being friends? You should always try and respect each other too. I often find foreign people/student more friendly than English ones, though I see their English barrier as me not knowing their language either!

    I’ve found talking about food is often a great starting point, though it depends on whether each of you enjoy cooking or just sticking to boring ready meals. As Matthew said, they are usually here to learn English and talking to them will usually improve their language skills and also improve your social skills, which perhaps, later in life you’ll relish.