FFE Magazine

How to make friends in a foreign Land

Filipinos are generally carefree, happy-go-lucky people whose smiles and laughter come easily. But when placed in settings that are unfamiliar to them, the ever-smiling Filipinos can turn into shy, quiet beings that and keep things to themselves.


This situation is common among those who have moved semi permanently or permanently in another country. Filipino society is very open, community-oriented and talkative. But Western countries like those in Europe value other attributes that the Filipino cannot easily adapt to, things like independence and solitude. This sense of self gives Europeans calm confidence that can render Filipinos unsure about themselves.


We draw strength from others — family, loved ones, friends. Without a support group, we feel weak.


This is why, for Filipinos who embark on a life abroad, making friends is one of the most important things to do. Finding people we can rely on makes us feel more confident, secure and valued in a foreign land. But how do we exactly do this?


How do we make friends in a foreign land, especially with some non-Filipinos who are more difficult to warm up to?


Here are just some tips we can follow to make friends we can lean on comfortably during our stay abroad:




1. Learn the language. To reach out to locals, first we have to speak their language. Not only will learning a language help us in our social life, it will also make us more competitive in our career choice. In addition, joining classes can help you be in contact with a number of people who are on the same boat as you, be they fellow Filipinos or non-Filipinos. Learning a new language can also keep our minds busy and prevent thoughts of homesickness and loneliness.


2. Join activities. There are plenty of events to attend while in Europe, and every event is an opportunity to meet, talk to, and build a relationship with a fellow expat or a local. Joining activities and events can expand our circle of acquaintances, allowing us to get to know more people during our stay.


3. Say yes to invites. If someone invites you to an event or an activity, always say yes. Get into the habit of getting out there to meet new people and build new experiences with acquaintances. Take every opportunity to meet and greet locals and expats alike to increase the possibility of forging new friendships later on.




4. Couchsurf. Couchsurfing is an international group composed of people who are into travelling and learning from other cultures. Joining the community is an opportunity to meet people who are in the same situation as you are. Having a common experience can boost camaraderie and move relationships forward.


5. Be friendly. It doesn’t pay to keep a grouchy face in public. A smiling face, however, can attract more people to your side and keep them wondering. Chance encounters in the community can turn into lasting friendships if started with a smile and a warm hello. When the conversation slows down, save the moment by introducing a new topic or keeping the environment light and comfortable. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a listening ear to earn friends.


6. Take the initiative. When meeting someone new, don’t hesitate to extend the connection a bit longer by inviting the person out some other time. This will open up a second opportunity to chat with and converse with a person. This getting-to-know-you stage is a crucial step to take when looking at long-term friendship. Ask questions and concentrate on common interests to increase our bond with potential friends.




7. Target new experiences. Friendship cannot happen overnight. Like a flowering plant, it needs constant care and TLC (tender loving care) for it to bloom. When it comes to people, our water is new experiences and this can be increased by spending more time with the potential friend. Go out on an event, fix up a simple meal in the house or just go out together. All the seconds spent with an acquaintance can become fuel to keep the friendship going.




8. Blend in. Stop focusing on the differences and pay more attention to similarities. Once these similarities have been pinpointed — may they be hobbies, interests, careers, experiences or others — use them as a way connect more with the potential friend, meaning talk about them, schedule activities related to them and others.


9. Follow the tradition. Review what’s in in the community and try to stick to them. This not only shows knowhow about the local community. It’s also a sign of respect for the community’s beliefs and customs and shows a willingness to adapt these customs as our own.


10. Use connections. That perfect friend is somewhere out there in the city of your choice. All you need to do is to find them. As connections are expanded by joining events and groups, the chances of finding that perfect friend also increases. Don’t focus too much on making connections but on using connections to filter out potential friends from those who aren’t.


Finally, don’t be afraid to express your mind when trying to make friends in a foreign land. Being insincere about intentions can be a huge disaster to our social life. Not only will this affect the relationships we have with a potential friend. This could even dash our chances of meeting others.


‘No man is an island’ as the saying goes, and Filipinos stay true to the saying. Friends are the bedrocks that keep us steady when we are in our most confused times, and moving abroad is not only confusing but scary. Once you have accumulated a number of friends, don’t forget to give back by being friendly to those who are seeking friends in the community too.


Have you ever felt friendless in a foreign land before? What did you do to defeat this feeling? When did you start having dependable friends in your local community? What other activities can you recommend that can help boost our relationship with others? Leave a comments or thoughts below!





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