Making friends abroad… the non-intuitive way

How do we choose our friends? What do we take into account when we begin the process of making friendships in foreign countries?

We look for common interests, right? We search out people who have something in common with us, people who share similar passions, and people who make us feel like we have at least some degree of familiarity in a completely foreign to us place.

But what about the others?  What about those people who are very different from us and who at first glance do not look like friendship material?

Interestingly enough our ability to overcome our friendship “bias” – the bias that makes us search for that thing we want everyone to have – is the ability that allows us to overcomes loneliness and lack of connection.  Because when the bias is gone, we begin to open up to possibilities of having many different kinds of friends in our lives.

How do you know if you have a bias?  Think about what has attracted you to the friends you’ve had and write the qualities you discover on index cards.  Imagine that those index cards were pinned on people who are mingling around in a large room.  Those are the people you’d probably approach right away.

Now think of possible human qualities that you have not written on those index cards and imagine there are people in that room that have those cards pinned to them. How likely are you to approach them? How much chance would you give to the possibility of those friendships?

Then try it in real life.  Next time you end up in a room with people who don’t seem to have anything in common with you, consider the qualities they carry – and decide if you want to extend your friendship range by giving them a chance.

Thoughts?  Ideas? Experiences?  Share them!

Remember — enrollment is open during the summer for September 1 start of the Expat Women Academy. a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.

4 responses to “Making friends abroad… the non-intuitive way

  1. What a great post with some excellent ideas about making new friends in any country at any age!

    For me, friendships are far more guarded at middle age and I’m cautious not to open myself up to be used (it’s happened far too much in the past), abused (trusting too early and having someone walk all over you), or simply excused (counting on someone who is not a real friend just because you are lonely). It is not easy to find true friends at any age, but your guidelines are great for finding new acquaintances more easily, and that may lead to long term friendships.

    Never say no to an opportunity that hasn’t yet presented itself comes to mind – don’t reject strangers as possible friends just because they appear to be strange(rs) – be open that differences may not be that different at all.

    Always enjoy reading your posts!

    • Thanks, Carol, for reading and for your nice words! I think you are right on as far as making friends later in life is concerned. Someone once said to me that as you get older you don’t make “best friends” — you make good friends. 🙂

  2. I do not know how, but one day I realized that the people I would never approach at first glance, not even at third, have the greatest gift for me: Some insight, a talent, a knowlegde, a caring word, a tip… In the meantime I made it a habbit to make sure to go over the one I resent with an open heart and an open mind. Most of the times we do not become close friends, but still we are valuable for each other.

  3. I think the most important thing is to empty your bag of expectations (how a friend has to be or what does a friend have to do) and open your mind towards diversity. If we step out with a curious and open mind, we are able to connect with people easier since we don’t focus on our expectations and ideal ‘people’ or ‘friendships’ and we don’t carry on our bag of former experiences that could weigh us down or prevent us from truly seeing the other person. I have experienced that friendship grows with time and only if we stay open towards the story and uniqueness of the person. If we are interested to learn from the other person about their life, their experience, their story and their values, we are able to build something that could grow into a friendship.

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