I read a book review about “10 Things You Need to Know” this week from a reader in Germany, and I was very pleased to hear the positive feedback. However, one of the things that the reader noted was that I did not write about making friends in the United States, and I had an “Aha!” moment. The fact is that I really hadn’t noticed missing that subject! I was so intent on giving specific details about must-do items and everyday tasks, that developing friends wasn’t even on my radar. So thank you, dear reader, for bringing this lapse to my attention. I’m sure it’s not the only one that I’ve made, but I’m glad to at least partially rectify this one.
Although I think making American friends isn’t that much different from making friends with people from other countries, specific tips can definitely speed the process. For instance, living in an area where Americans live is essential. If you only live, shop, and work among people like you, you’ll only make friends with people like you. (This is true for Americans too, of course.)
It’s also important to know that it is uncommon for many Americans to visit each other at home. Instead, Americans meet their friends at coffee shops or restaurants; they go to the movies, shopping malls, and other places together. I highlight this point because it’s so different from other countries. If an American fails to invite you to their house, don’t take it personally; visiting outside the home has become a cultural norm for many people.
Additionally, you may need to take the initiative if you want to make American friends. Although some Americans deliberately reach out to people from other cultures, many live by family and have long-standing friendships so it may not cross their mind to reach out to you. Thankfully, Americans appreciate directness and initiative so if you can overcome the awkwardness of taking the first step you are more likely to be invited into their circle of friends.
One good way to meet Americans with whom you have things in common is through volunteering with a local nonprofit organization. Volunteering is a big part of American life so determine what you like to do then find a place where others do the same thing! This volunteering might occur through your place of worship, local charities, or a host of other nonprofits. Although I cover this in greater detail in my book, numerous websites can help you locate a volunteer opportunity, including www.volunteermatch.org.
Most large American cities also have meetups and networking clubs. These are groups that come together based on common interests. You can find lists of these on the Meetup website (www.meetup.com) as well as through LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). These groups are extremely diverse so it’s likely that you’ll find at least one that your family and you will like.
If you are truly serious about making friends with Americans and people outside of your own culture, you will have to put deliberate effort into it. Most people in the U.S. stay so busy with work and family commitments that they rarely see the friends they already have, much less put effort into making new friends. I don’t say this to discourage you but to let you know that you’ll need determination and a plan. If you have both of those, I’m confident that you CAN make new friends, particularly American friends, wherever you live! I say this based on experience; I have lived in 8 different cities in the U.S. and have been fortunate to make friends from a wide variety of cultures in almost all of them. It CAN be done, and the rewards you’ll receive with these new friendships will greatly outnumber the effort it took to make them!