Living in the US is a unique experience. At least once in your life, you should try moving to the US, a world leader in culture, economics, technology, policy and politics. Having moved to the US a few years back, I’d like to share some insights regarding my experience making friends in the US. My advice is subjective and personal, however, my perspective could prove useful for those of you who will likely go through similar situations as you move to America.
Making friends is an especially important aspect of life in the US. It can make or break your experience. Indeed, with good company, you are able to enjoy memorable moments going on road trips, discovering cultural attractions, strolling around the city, or getting wasted at house parties..
What is the best approach to meet people and build friendships as a foreigner in the US?
It’s understandable that many foreigners think that many Americans tend to isolate themselves in their own cliques rather than meet new people. Indeed, cliquishness is a thing in the US. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to meet you, or meet new people generally. It’s just that it’s easier to form a group and stick to it. However, you need to start somewhere. There’s plenty of people who have moved from another state, or are beginning a new job and are ready to make new friends in their new environment. If you’re going to the US for college or grad school, then things are even easier, with lots of people being exactly in the same spot as yourself, and hoping to make lasting friendships over the course of the academic program and beyond.
Having an open mind and simply going out will present ample opportunities to interact with other people. Whether it’s the local bakery, the café down the block, the supermarket.. Whatever you do, do not confine yourself to your apartment. Being alone will do nothing but reinforce the status quo. Go out, talk to people, and eventually, you’ll get there.
These things take time. You can’t push it, so just let it be. We’re talking about human connections here; things have to click naturally you know. One day, you’ll make a cool acquaintance. You’ll meet up once or twice a month over coffee or a beer. In the meanwhile you’ll get the chance to meet new acquaintances. And by the way, acquaintances beget more new acquaintances. Eventually, maybe you can call a person or two your “friends”. But it takes time.
So be patient. In my case, it took me over a year to have “friends”. But in the beginning, we were just people in the same place at the same time, friends of convenience let’s say. We used to hang out at the bar, or go for coffee mornings at the local coffee shop. Over time, each one of us went through unique circumstances, through which we forged solid bonds. Good days, bad days and parties. Our homes were open to hosting various meetups and exchanges- mostly on cold, wintery evenings. And yeah, without being conscious of it, we’d become a solid bunch. Drama happens from time to time, which I’m not used to back home, but I guess European youth can be a bit more “mature” at a younger age in my humble opinion/experience.
Don’t fake it. Nor pretend to be something that you are not. It won’t serve your cause, nor will it last. Just be yourself. America is a melting pot in the true sense of the word. There’s people of all types and personalities. You’ll talk to individuals from various walks of life, so be true to yourself and let experiences happen.
Don’t Keep Emphasizing Your “Outsider-ness” Everyday
While it’s indeed true that your “uniqueness” factor may make you more exotic to the average Joe, don’t overdo it. If you make it a goal to flaunt your “I’m from Germany”, or “I’m from China” status at the first chance, people will more likely unconsciously see you as “different”, and thus you’ll be distancing yourself from others rather than getting closer to establishing human-to-human bonds. We’re primitive beings after all, we move in groups that we identify with. So yeah, think twice before you use the following statements- “But in France, we don’t do this”, or “We in Singapore have a different way of doing that”..
From my experience, American culture is practical enough to fit everybody, so enjoy the flexibility and embrace it as you fit into the local culture. People will realize how similar you are, and will want to learn more about you. Before you know it, with every new meetup, people will be attracted to ask you more about your home, culture and traditions.
Organize a Meeting or Party at your place
If your space is good enough, you should definitely arrange some meetups at your place. Plan a tea tasting meetup around brunch time on Sunday. Or maybe an early evening wine tasting meet-up. Or maybe a gathering to celebrate beer with the guys at your place. Depending on where you are in the US, winters can be long. Such meetups create a nice atmosphere and raise the winter morale for everyone. Maybe you would find article about working from interesting? Check it out here.