One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when you move to a new country is meeting people and go from strangers to friends. When you’re moving to a new country you’re starting from scratch and I’m sure you’re wondering how do I break into social circles where people have already known each other for a long time? It can be tough to break the ice and start conversations with people you don’t know. However, with a little effort, you can make some great connections with the people around you! In this blog post, I will give you some tips on how to go from strangers to friends when you move to a new country!
A move to a new country can be both an exciting and daunting experience. When you move to a new country, there are a lot of things that are different. The food is different. The language is different. Even the air feels different (in Beijing the air was so polluted that I was diagnosed with bronchitis and I had to receive breathing treatments regularly). One of the biggest differences, though, is the people.
In my home country of America, I had a group of friends that I knew and loved. But when I moved to a new country, (first China) I had to start all over again finding new friends. I’ve recently moved to Colombia after three years in China and I’ve had to start all over again making new friends. And that can be really hard. Even though I’m an extrovert, it’s not an easy thing to make a friend, a real friend.
But it’s also really rewarding to find new friends. Because when you find friends in a new country, they are usually friends for life. They are the kind of friends who will help you learn the language, introduce you to the food, and show you around the city. They become your family away from home. So even though it’s hard to move to a new country and start all over again, it’s definitely worth it in the end.
Living in China
As a black woman living in China, I often got asked about my experiences. People were and still are curious about what it’s like to be a minority living in China, a country that is majority Han Chinese. There were some challenges that came along with being a minority, like racism, being told by recruiters that a school only wanted white candidates, people acting afraid of me or bothered by my presence on the metro and moving to a completely different car.
At times women clutching their purse, looking suspiciously up and down at me, being stared at endlessly, refusing to be seated next to me in a restaurant, pointing and laughing at me, taking unsolicited photos and videos of me. I was aware of the experiences that I would have when I chose to go abroad to pursue a new profession, teaching English as a second language (ESL). Despite knowing what I would experience living in China, due to research I had done before I arrived, there were many times that I was sad about what I was experiencing, while I there gaining teaching experience abroad.
What helped me to make some good memories and enjoy my time living in China, was the close friends that I made.
Living in China I enjoyed going to eat hot pot with Grace, experiencing a museum of light with Keesha, and hanging out at my home with Eliliar and Yangyang, having fun out on the town with Dionne and Isabel, talking tea and culture with Ziyo and Elif, these friends immediately come to mind and I remain in touch with after having left China, among several others. But how did I go from being strangers to friends with these people you ask?
Living in China, I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, due to living in two international cities like Beijing (for 1 year) and Shanghai (for 2 years). At first, everyone is a stranger, but as you get to know them, they quickly become friends. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone when you take the time to talk to them. You learn about their culture, their families, and their likes and dislikes.
It’s also amazing how much you have in common with someone who is from a different country. We may speak different languages and come from different cultures, but we are all human beings with the same fears and desires. When you take the time to get to know someone, you quickly realize that we are more alike than we are different.
Now I live in Colombia and the same way that I made friends living in China is how I will make friends here as well.
Here’s a list of places that I went to meet new people :
- joined local language exchange/foodie/games groups
- joined expat groups on facebook
- joined a gym
- went to events at bookstores
- joined internations.com, an online group with events for expats
- attended cooking/dance classes
- went on food/history/educational walking tours
- took art/crafts/hobby classes in my spare time
But how does anyone really go from strangers become friends?
It’s a question that has baffled philosophers and scientists for centuries, but the answer may be simpler than we think. This is going to sound technical, but we all know this stuff actually. According to a recent study, there are four key stages in the development of friendship: proximity, repeated exposure, similarity, and self-disclosure.
Proximity is the first and most important factor in determining whether two strangers will become friends. People who live close to each other are more likely to interact regularly, providing opportunities for repeated exposure. As they continue to see each other, they may begin to notice similarities in their interests or values. This can lead to self-disclosure, or the sharing of personal information, which is a key ingredient in the recipe for friendship.
So the next time you meet a stranger, remember that they could one day be your friend. Just take it one step at a time for people to go from strangers to friends.
Each time I attended an event or went anywhere really and found a friendly face, who enjoyed smiling and talking with me at length, I would ask them if they would like to keep in touch. And, here’s the important part, afterward, keep in touch, ask the person to meet with coffee/tea/smoothie/ice cream/a walk/dinner/lunch, you get the point. If they say don’t have the time at the moment after some time has passed try again later down the line. When you show interest, others are interested and may come around, thus going from strangers to friends.
In our ever-changing and fast-paced world, it’s easy to feel like we’re constantly meeting new people and never really getting to know them. Whether you start a new job, move to a new country, or just go out with your friends, you’re always meeting strangers. But what if we took the time to get to know these strangers? What if we reached out and tried to connect with them? Over time, we might just find that these people go from strangers to friends.
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