If you find yourself Googling ‘How to Make Friends in A Foreign Country’, you and I have something very much in common. Before embarking on this journey to a land so far away, I wondered if I would be able to make friends in this city. I come from Singapore, a rather conservative country where starting a conversation with a random stranger does not come naturally. But before you take pity on me, let me first say that I am no introvert. I have no problems socializing and I would like to believe that I am an extrovert. Someone like that couldn’t possibly have troubles meeting new people right? Wrong!
The language barrier made it so much more difficult to converse with the Argentinian locals. In the month that I’ve been here, I’ve learnt a few tips and tricks that helped me work my way around the crowd. Of course learning the language is a great starter. Knocking back a drink or two helped at first but I realized all I needed was a big ol’ smile on my face!
1. Make an Effort
If you are new to the Spanish language, striking a conversation could be a daunting activity. Buying groceries from the supermarket and having a conversation with the cashier could be as nerve-wracking as speaking politics. You will come to realize that if you make the slightest effort and show that you are trying to learn their language, they will be more than happy to speak to you, even if it is just to find out how your day is going. Try being the first to say hola! It could be pretty intimidating looking a stranger in the eye and saying hello but hey, with a smile on your face, you’d find that it really isn’t as scary.
2. Embrace the Difference
Having differences is not always a bad thing. I come from a completely different cultural and racial background from anyone in Argentina and I had the impression that I wouldn’t be able to connect with anyone I met here. Little did I know that the difference is a brilliant conversation starter! I believe the second you start embracing the difference, you will realize that people are really open to a mix of cultures and they’re just as willing to learn about the differences as you are.
3. Put Yourself Out There
There are countless of ways to meet people in this city. It could be a bar, the park, the theatre, the possibilities are endless! If you’re new to the city and want to know the best places to go, Facebook is perhaps your best friend. With the endless events to go for, you’re bound to meet really great people and even forge friendships. One of my personal favorites’ is Mundo Lingo, a place where you meet people from all over the world who are in this city for various reasons. They meet three times a week, at different locations with good beer and free popcorn or pizza (depending on the day). Or, you could even try the famous pubcrawl for a great night of drinks, music and fun! If you are willing to put yourself out there and try new things, you will be meeting people and making friends in no time!
4. Take a Positive Approach
If you have a positive mindset, your outlook changes for the better. I’m pretty sure not everyone you meet will be someone you can get along with. But like the saying goes, ‘People come into your life either to teach you something or to learn from you’. So be open-minded and remember that there is always something you can learn from every new person you meet. And who knows? The most unlikely person could turn out to be your newfound friend.
5. Let Your Guard Down
If you come from a more conservative background like I do, the sense of intimacy here might just take you by surprise. People here are generally affectionate with each other and they greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. It took me about a week to get used to that but I grew into it and I’m definitely taking this custom home with me! It is a beautiful way to greet someone and it really shows your appreciation towards them. You will notice that Argentinians have very close personal spaces and are not afraid to show their affection. My advice? Let your guard down and be open to these cultural differences. Perhaps you could share some of your customs from back home too!