Cross-cultural awareness can help you make local friends

Having local friends in your host country will greatly enhance your expat life in myriad ways, but how you go about developing those friendships might not always be clear.

An American in Dublin

On his first weekend as a resident of the Irish capital, a US expat went to a pub. There he quickly got chatting with a host of friendly locals who were all open and friendly with the ‘newbie’. After sharing many laughs (over many beers) with some of the other customers, the American felt like he’d made a bunch of fast friends. But, when he suggested exchanging numbers, each of the locals dodged giving him their contact details.

In the moment

The American was left confused. However, later when he better understood the local culture, he realised that the camaraderie he experienced in the pub had been spontaneous. None of the locals – no matter how well they clicked with someone they just met – would ask each other for a number. Why would they give theirs to him? Typically, pubs in Dublin are where people just randomly converge to have fun. Locals are often very friendly but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be friends.

Tip of the iceberg

The above anecdote illustrates that we – as expats / outsiders – can easily identify where locals like to socialise and also see ‘how’ they like to socialise. But that’s just ‘spotting the tip of an iceberg’. To make a genuine connection and build a quality friendship with a local, in many countries, you will often need to dive a little deeper.

The inside word

Making use of social integration coaching is one way to gain useful insights into local people’s worldviews as well as cultural beliefs and social behaviours. Your coach can get you acquainted with how locals like to socialise with friends but also how they might interact with people they have just met (and what they would say if they wish to meet again). Hey, do you want to meet for coffee this weekend? Shall we have lunch or an after-work drink next week? Come over to our house for dinner. They might all sound like casual suggestions but, as the American in Dublin discovered, what’s entirely normal in one culture can seem strange to others.

This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

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