What do you do when you see foreigners? Do you stare, laugh, point, say “Hello”, or run away screaming? Here are some tips for engaging foreigners in conversation:
1. Actions can speak louder than words. You may catch yourself staring at a foreigner just because they stand out to you, but staring often makes people feel uncomfortable. There are definitely some places where staring should be avoided, like the gym locker room. 아줌마 often pass the time chatting on the cozy wooden benches in the women’s locker room, but stop and stare when a foreigner walks in. If you are caught staring at a foreigner, it helps to smile, nod, and look away.
2. Speak to people, not at them. I love when my students stop me in the hall to say “Hello!” However, sometimes my encounters with people speaking to me in English feel less friendly. At the university the other day, a young man said “Hello” to me, looked me in the eyes, and asked me questions about myself.
Our conversation was going along fine until his friend broke in and said in a loud voice without looking at me, “Hello how are you I’m fine and you what’s your name goodbye!” and walked away. A conversation is a two-way street.
Speaking to someone should mean that you are interested in getting to know them and will treat them like a person, not an object.
3. Be prepared for a counter-response, or no response at all. What would you do if someone you didn’t know said or shouted, “안녕!” to you? Imagine if this happened to you almost every day. I love friendly people who are interested in getting to know me, but too many people shouting at me for no reason can be tiring. I sometimes find myself ignoring the other person, or responding in a negative way. Young and old people sometimes point out the 외국인. I often ignore it because I know they are usually just curious about me, but I have occasionally pointed back at children and said, “한국인!” Learning more about communication will help us understand each other better.
Margaret Zeddies firstname.lastname@example.org