Back in January, we traveled with NSLI-Y to Busan, South Korea, for a cultural exchange camp between us and teenagers from Busan. Each Korean class (there were three) had to prepare a presentation that focused on one aspect of American culture, as a way to share our culture with the Korean kids. (The Korean teenagers prepared stuff as well.) My class focused on the different accents in America (Southern, Valley Girl, Boston, Long Island, etc) and American/Internet slang.
On the day that we arrived, we hung out in the lobby, practicing our presentations, since we would be meeting the Korean kids and doing our presentations the following day. But like most teens, after going through our presentation once or twice, we quickly got distracted. We started taking selfies.
As we got more and more deeply engrossed in the shenanigans, we began copying each other’s facial expressions just for fun and realized that we hit a gold mine in taking photos. The peace sign, the duckface, just standing and smiling…these were simply too exhausted, and what we had here was a constantly evolving way to take fun pictures.
The rules to what we eventually called #sameface are simple:
1. You gather a group of friends, strangers, teachers, whomever you want. Five is a golden number, but any number works really, as long as you’re not alone.
2. Decide who’s the leader first. The leader is the person who makes the face that everyone else in the #sameface group has to follow.
3. For best results, especially in a larger group, the leader should first turn around and show everyone the face he or she plans on making. For smaller groups, you can usually see the face clearly on the screen.
4. Take the picture.
5. Change leaders. To make it simple, just go clockwise until everyone has a chance.
6. Look and laugh at the results. (Don’t look until at least one cycle is completed.)
But why do I claim that such an easy game is more than just a game?
Well…while participating in NSLI-Y, I got the chance to meet new people almost everyday. The NSLI-Yans themselves, host families, host teachers, classmates, supporters, people at camps like Busan and AYLP…the list goes on! At the beginning of the program, my Korean wasn’t good at all, so I worried a lot about making friends with Koreans. On the very first day at my Korean high school, however, my worries were laid to rest. My seatmate took my phone and started taking selfies with me. I was a bit surprised, so I just started making really strange faces at the camera. She thought it was hilarious and through this method of just not caring about appearances, I made a lot of friends at school. (It did, however, backfire when I would be completely normal and smile in pictures, and my classmates still thought I was making weird expressions lol. “ㅋㅋㅋ야 일레인!ㅋㅋ 이상한 얼굴을 하지마라고!!ㅋㅋㅋㅋ”)
So that’s the first part: many of Koreans whom I met were shy, but once I started doing funny things, and they realized that I’m just a teenager who likes to have fun just as they do, they started becoming more comfortable around me. Making friends with Koreans, even though I wasn’t fluent in Korean, just became that much easier.
And the second part: Koreans loooove taking selfies. They’ll even take selfies with people they just met! I have 10 long finger flicks worth of selfies on my phone from AYLP and the Busan Hanmi camp to prove my point. I would say it’s a big part of the culture, especially since selcabongs (selfie sticks) are sold on every street corner.
So combine these two elements, and you find that #sameface is basically that! It brings together a cultural element of Korea with an ability to break ice and make new friends, even those from different countries. So much more than just a simple game, eh?
The small group that created #sameface (Emily, Brady, Mailiis, Serena, Johnny, and me) was mostly comprised of people in my Korean class, so once we figured out what to call this sensation, we quickly added it to our American Dialects/Slang presentation. We saved it for last, and everyone in the room, including our program coordinators loved it.
#sameface became more than just a game. First, it represented NSLI-Y Korea Year 6. It was one of our legacies to the future NSLI-Yans. By understanding the love Koreans have for selfies and combining that with the penchant Americans have to take weird photos, you get the truly multicultural #sameface. Our program coordinators and supporters would send us #sameface photos they took together, and we would do it with classmates and with other Korean kids we met. Looking at the #sameface pictures and laughing along with the new friend you just made by doing #sameface is such a great feeling.
And second, while it is called #sameface, it’s interesting to note that not everyone makes exactly the same face. The general feeling 느낌 is the same, but there are always differences, and sometimes a follower will make the leader’s expression even funnier! These differences give you those great unflattering shots of your friends to zoom in on and screenshot. And you can find this same principle in the larger scheme of things; while there are certain human characteristics such as laughter, love, and friendship that are evident in all cultures, there are also differences that make each culture special and worth celebrating. By promoting the understanding of other cultures, we can learn to embrace the different, make connections with new people, and learn more about the world we live in.
#sameface is not just a game or a conversation starter, it’s a friendship starter. It brings together people from various backgrounds and identities to have fun and a good laugh. And we, cultural ambassadors, could not be any prouder.
Here’s a video of us brainstorming about what to call #sameface. (so close to being called mimipic!)