After living in many places over the past few years, there are a few things I try to remind myself when trying to make friends in a new place:
1. Just do it! I might not feel like it, but I push myself out of my house. The longer you wait the harder it is. It is necessary to meet people and make friends if you ever want to feel at home! I never regret going out and meeting people, sometimes the hardest part is simply getting past the front door.
2. Smile. A smile communicates in any language. No matter what else you do or don’t do, smiling is so important (especially here in southeast Asia)
3. Be bold. Just go for it. If someone seems friendly and receptive, I stop and try to talk to them. I use as much of the local language as I can, which brings me to…
4. Do what you can. You might not know much of the language, but I’ve found that if I use the few words I know, people are generally very happy for my attempt and are excited that I’m even trying. If you run out of things to say, or can’t understand them anymore, that’s okay! Just smile, use sign language and come back later.
5. Prepare the kids for what we’ll do and say. Have them practice saying the greeting, smiling, etc..
6. Give back. If someone gives us something, like fruit for the kids, we like to try and go back a few days later with something for them. Reciprocal giving is a big thing here in southeast Asia, and almost guarantees that you’ll have a friend if you join in.
7. Don’t give up. There are times I go out and can’t seem to talk to anyone, or I make mistakes and feel stupid. It’s ok. Just try again another day.8. It takes time. This is the most important thing for me to remember. In the past, I’ve gotten discouraged when, after a couple of months I don’t have any close friends yet, or not enough friends, or I’m not happy with how much I can say or do. I have to remind myself that even making friends in my own language and country takes time, but making friends in a different language and country and culture takes WAY more time. Just be patient and do what you can.
Thankfully, everyone we’ve met here has been super friendly and welcoming! The pictures above are all of our new neighbors right down the path from our house.
What do you feel is key for meeting people? Have you made any new friends lately?