Making Friends as an Expat

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I’ve been thinking today about how much happier I am since making some really wonderful friends! I touched on this on my last post, but some days I can’t believe the change. Of course, I’m still homesick quite often, but I’m starting to finally get my bearings, feel at home, and actually LIKE living here! Making friends in a new culture isn’t always easy, so I’ve thought of some good tips and I realized I should have been better in the past on doing these things as well.

My mother told me that even as a little girl, I was super social. I was the little girl on the playground walking up to other little girls saying, “Hi! I’m Sarah. Would you like to be my friend for the day?!?!”, and then I would play my heart out, no doubt being as bossy as possible! 🙂 I still think I am the same, as I love to be around others, but I’ve often held friends to a standard that was unrealistic, finding myself frustrated and disappointed. I’ve been friends with people of similar views and backgrounds too, and in NYC, when friends with people who were different, I think I was often guarded or even argumentative. I love nothing more than a good debate after all! So, now my best friends here are all from different countries, and I wanted to share what I’m learning.

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1. Be Yourself at All Costs.
I’ve really had to try at this, because I’m an adaptive person. If I with someone serious, I often adjust myself to being serious, that sort of thing. Here, I’m learning to embrace myself even more.

2. Listen and Be Transparent
This is the key to all relationships, right? But, now, I’ve really been humbled to stop saying how everything should be, based on where I’m from, because all my friends had completely different backgrounds and I”m learning ALOT! One of my best friends here grew up in South Africa and her stories are CRAZY!! I love that immediately here, I’m open with my friends about what I’ve been through and am going through, and they are too! We are all struggling to adapt, and there is no pretense that we are not!

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3. Don’t be Afraid.
By this, I mean, reach out. I’ve had to learn to just reach out and not be afraid of rejection. Here, we are all far from home and needing support so it’s great when a girl I am newly friends with messages me with a sweet message or asks if I just want to go for a walk. Also, don’t be afraid in the sense that fear often leads to judgement and jealousy. Here, most of my new friends speak several languages and have wonderful life experiences or are trying to build something successful here on their own, and it would be easy for me to feel insecure around them or build up my own defensive ego, but instead, I want to be happy for all and to feel empowered around other women who try hard to make their lives meaningful! And, it’s nice to recognize that while you may feel insecure around someone who is impressive…..chances are plenty feel that way about you too!

4. Accept New Friends for Who They Are….Not Their Political Views or Religious Beliefs
While I think it’s great to surround oneself with people of similar opinions, and I often feel the need to defend my own, I’ve had to realize that here, if someone grew up in a completely different country with completely different views and backgrounds, it would be silly for them to agree with all of mine! I love discussing these things here, and I used to find it threatening, and now I find it enlightening. Plus, it is freeing to still love eachother and know that you just see things a bit differently. I wish I had done this better all my life, as I’ve not always been the best in this department. It’s fun to say, “ok……I don’t agree with you at all on the Palestine/Israel conflict, but honestly, what do you think of my hair today”. 🙂 Let’s put it into perspective.

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5. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL!!! Don’t be afraid to ask for those digits!!!
If you meet a girl at Starbucks or walking down the street and hit it off and she speaks your language and is also an expat…..ask for her number! Chances are she wants to meet friends just as much as you. 🙂 Although I did get rejected once by a nice American in Geneva who informed me she has plenty of friends already through her husbands company, to which I did a nonchalant, “Oh yeah, of course, me too. I’ve got SO many friends….uh hum…well, ok….bye!”. Oh well. Her loss. Because I like to dance and encourage all my friends to do so……HAHA!

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This list is just me putting down a little of what I’m learning. I’m sure it’s not exhaustive but I wanted to share, as, honestly, I’m so grateful for the ladies I’ve met, who inspire me and make me think, but who also enjoy blasting Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift in the car and singing at the top of their lungs with me. 🙂

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