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Expat Exchange - 10 Tips For Making Friends in the United States
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Gansevoort Peninsula, New York City


10 Tips For Making Friends in the United States

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: Expats in the U.S. sometimes find it hard to make friends. While it can be challenging, the United States offers quite a few ways to make the process of making friends easier than one might think.

Expats in the United States who succeed in establishing just one or two quality relationships will find it far easier to get settled in their new life abroad.

The first and foremost rule of making friends anywhere is that you have to make an effort to get you and your family - if they are in the U.S. with you - out of the house and to events or other social situations as much as possible.

Try to Get Introductions

Expats in the U.S. will find that Americans* are more willing to open themselves up to people they meet through others. So if a co-worker, a neighbor, or even your realtor to start, can introduce you to others you should take advantage of that as much as possible.

Meet the Neighbors

Depending on where you live, it might be a good idea to introduce yourself to your neighbors. How you go about this depends upon where you live. It's probably best to wait until you cross paths with someone on a walk (in the suburbs or country) or in the hallway if you live in an apartment building or condo (in a city).

Establish Work Friends

If you are working, do take advantage of any type of office party, lunch or other type of gathering to get to know your colleagues. Some people like to keep work and private life separate, but this can be denying yourself and your family (if applicable) the best resource you will have in the U.S. Just try to strike a proper balance. If you have a spouse or significant other, do your best to get them connected with the expat spouse or significant other of a colleague.

Make Friends at Your Children's Schools

One of the best place for parents to make friends is through their children's school. International schools will be particularly helpful here give that there will families from around the globe also looking to get settled in the U.S. Even if it is not an international school, All of the extra-curricular activities, play dates and other types of events provide innumerable opportunities to meet other parents.

Shared Experiences

As an expatriate, you might feel like you don't have much in common with U.S. citizens. It's your job to get out there and explore your new home and create some of those shared experiences. It's not always obvious what experiences you'll have in common with someone, so when someone asks how your weekend was, don't just say "fine, thank you." Be specific about a few things you did and see if it resonates with them - maybe they have been to the same play, restaurant or weekend getaway. You have to share a little more about yourself than might be comfortable, but it offers up the opportunity to find people who have enjoyed the same experiences.

Shared Interests

Expats should explore opportunities to meet others that share the same interests. Do you like to play soccer? Program computers? Play guitar? Bird watch? Whatever it is that you like to do, find some way to do it in the U.S. and you will meet people along the way. If you don't have any hobbies, now is a great time to explore the ones you have always wanted to try.

Sports Are Huge In the United States

Expats in the U.S. should remember that sports fans in the U.S. are truly fanatics. The major professional sports in the U.S. are NFL football, Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, and NHL hockey. MLS Soccer has grown in popularity recently. College sports are also very popular, especially College football and College Basketball.

If these sports are unfamiliar, then find one that seems appealing and learn about it. People all over the U.S. have all kinds of social events related to them throughout the year. Being a fan of the same sport and/or team will give you something to talk about with many people regardless of where you are... it's a good as talking about the weather!

Volunteer

Find a cause you support and devote some time to it. People at offices like to recruit people into events - such as bike-a-thons or walk-a-thons - that raise money for cancer, diabetes and all kinds of other worthy causes. Not only will you be making friends, but also a positive difference at the same time!

Avoid Politics

As with other places, expats in the U.S. should be aware that discussing politics with people you do not know very well can turn into a complete disaster. People can harbor very strong feelings that might surprise you when a conversation is steered to politics. Expats might find people in the U.S. that are open to a good-natured debate about politics, but it's impossible to know who this is until it might be too late!

Put Down Your Devices

One of the worst things expats can do is to ignore the real world and retreat into the web after moving to the United States. Yes, you will see everyone around you checking his phone or her ipad, but don't fall into that trap. To make friends you will need to have conversations and go on outings with real people.

* - Many people outside the U.S. will find it offensive that citizens of the U.S. describe themselves as "Americans" - they feel people in Canada, Mexico and all other countries in North and South America have just as much claim to that title. Understand that most people in the U.S. have not given that reality much thought, and remember you are trying to settle into the U.S. In other words, just roll with it!

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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Comments

pclisa
May 18, 2015 05:22

Becoming a regular at your local coffee house and small local shops will make you a familiar face to not only the staff but those who are regulars, as well. Although this takes time, a rapport with everyone can be built naturally. It may begin with a discussion of the day's weather, but eventually, as each of you becomes more at ease, you can discuss subjects closer to you. If you wish to go no further, you can simply stop where you are with a person. This helps in both large and small communities, where you need to begin with just one friend and build from there.

Jackietrehorn
May 23, 2015 12:06

Good advice in this article, but I have to say that I think Americans are very hard to become friends with. Yes, they are friendly and courteous. I know, I'm one of them. Making superficial friendships, chatting in coffee shops, meeting people in bars and restaurants, etc is relatively easy. But in general, americans do not open up their lives to admit foreigners in. Many, not all, are insular and not as accepting as, say, latins. If you work, then that is an advantage and you are more likely to develop good friendships. Otherwise it's difficult.

pclisa
May 24, 2015 13:56

Jackietrehorn's comment points to the great differences you'll find from one region to the next and between different types of communities within the U.S. Some areas are populated by groups that have been there for generations; these will be more difficult to break into as an American from outside the region, let alone an expat. On the other hand, some communities are made up largely by people who have chosen to leave their home towns for a change, whether for better weather, more economic opportunities, education, a more open political climate, whatever. Such communities are by nature more open, as everyone came from somewhere else and they make an effort to meet others. Often these towns or cities have universities or are resorts, so if you can choose where you live, looking in places like these may help you find friendlier people.

Gansevoort Peninsula, New York City

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