Was talking at the beach with a hagwon teacher from town. Airplanes bank over Hallim as they come into Jeju city and of every one he said “There’s another plane I wish I was on.” Korean people, he finds, are cold, and while I have to disagree, I can see why he thinks so.
They never smile first. They almost always smile back, but you’re the one who has to make the first move.
They’re not going to hold the door open for you, but that doens’t mean you can’t get in. It helps to try and speak a little Korean, if only a little, because what I speak is not much. It helps to be able to bow automatically and unselfconsciously. It helps to eat and praise the food. It helps to be in places –like a homestay or a teacher’s office or a gym– where such habits will be noticed.
It helps a lot to smile. This is a generalization, but I think it is generally true.
Although I could add an anecdote as a caveat. Which I may have already mentioned here. A young guy –Korean guy, mind– on a mountain asked what I thought of Korean people. I said that I liked them.
He was puzzled, “But they are not kind.”
I said, “They are kind to me.”
To which he replied, “Yes, but you are pretty.”