A man that hath friends must show himself friendly (Proverbs 18:24)
I don’t know any culture where friendliness isn’t expected of friends, do you?! The ancient Scriptures speak today’s truth with that proverb. Not many people tolerate friends who are always unfriendly, rude, or abusive. I tell my son all the time that he has to treat his friends well if he wants to have friends! That seems like a truth worth embracing.
But what happens when your friends (or coworkers or family members) come from different cultures? All of a sudden, friendliness becomes more complicated because it doesn’t look the same everywhere. (You do know that, right? If not, let me be the first to tell you that people show friendliness in different ways!)
I was reading a really good blog by Gayle Cotton about Saudi Arabian culture (here’s the link if you’re interested). In the blog, Gayle points out how Saudi’s feel comfortable standing very close to one another. It reminded me of times when I have been around internationals who stood close to me and it felt TOO friendly! Then again, I feel comfortable asking my international friends about their family, including their wives or mothers. This same blog notes that it is unacceptable in Saudi Arabian culture to ask after the women of the family. So, my friendly questions would actually be rude to them. This just goes to show that how we define friendliness matters, and understanding how other people define what it means to be friendly impacts how we connect with them.
With this in mind, I’ve put together some questions that are good conversation starters in American culture. They are written specifically for internationals who want to build or strengthen their American connections.
- Where did you grow up as a child?
- How long have you lived here?
- What is your best memory from growing up?
- Where do your parents live? What do they do?
- Do you have siblings? Tell me about them.
- What do you do for a living? What all is involved in that type of work?
- What did you study in school? (If in school, “What are you studying in school?”)
- What do you like the most about your work or school?
- What foods do you enjoy?
- What are your hobbies?
- What one new hobby would you enjoy learning?
- Do you enjoy traveling? If so, where have you been?
- If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?
If you’d like more tips on developing American friendships, check out my blog, How Do I Make American Friends? Otherwise, go forth and “show yourself friendly,” but make sure the other person defines friendliness in the way that you are showing it!
Photo by Don LaVange