Making new friends as an adult is hard. Making new friends as an adult in a new country can be even more challenging. Not only are you trying to form a connection with others that competes with routines, schedules, and other established friendships; there are additional factors like language and cultural differences to consider. But the benefits of making friends in your new country far outweigh any challenges that you encounter.
Push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone and you will be rewarded with a new social confidence, a deeper understanding of American culture and traditions, and a greater sense of happiness. If you never venture out, you will struggle to fit in and isolate yourself from new and rewarding experiences. By making new friendships with locals and creating new memories, you will have a much more positive experience in your new country. Here are ten tips to help you create a new circle of lifelong American friends.
1. Get out of your comfort zone
It’s tough to start all over again in a new country and in unfamiliar surroundings. By staying attached to the comforts of your home and the way your life once was, you may struggle with feeling at home in the United States. One of the benefits of living in this country is that you can always find people here who are also from your homeland, which can make your transition easier. However, if you only spend time with other expatriates, you eventually may feel isolated from American people and find it challenging to fit in.
Get out of your comfort zone and make an effort to meet Americans. If you feel held back by a language barrier, be patient with yourself and others will follow. If you feel at a loss for words, use pictures to help communicate. Friendships won’t be made overnight, but if you’re persistent, your efforts will be rewarded. It’s understandable to need some time when you first move to the United States to settle in, get used to your surroundings, and to spend time with people who feel familiar to you. However, set yourself up for success by setting a time limit on when you will start meeting the locals and integrating into your new country.
2. Make small talk an opportunity to find common interests
You may be surprised to find that you have more in common with US citizens than you think, but it may take a little digging. The first step is to put your phone down and be available for a conversation. Offer a friendly smile to a neighbor, a co-worker, or the person who shares the same bus route. Just by saying hello, you can open the door for small talk. Small talk is defined as “polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions.” This polite conversation presents an excellent opportunity for you to find a common interest with those around you.
The next time someone asks how your weekend was, instead of saying, “fine,” use this as an opportunity to give a little more detail about light and friendly topics such as the places you went, the food you ate, or TV shows you watched. Keep it casual, as small talk is meant to be a quick and informal conversation, but follow up your response with questions about their favorite restaurant, movies they’ve seen, or their plans for the upcoming weekend. If you are open to sharing a little more detail about your life, others will respond in kind, and that’s where you can find your shared interests.
3. Say yes more often
Making new friends is a bit like dating. You have to take chances, put yourself out there, and not be afraid to say yes, as you never know where the experience will take you or who you will meet.
If you get an invitation to join a new group of people at a restaurant, happy hour, local event, or anything that sounds completely foreign to you, your first reaction may be hesitation or the urge to turn down the invite. But give every opportunity a chance as you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome and glad that you went.
4. Learn more about your new country’s culture and language
Once you learn how to navigate through American culture, language, history, and politics, it will give you a better understanding of its people, friendships, and social customs. Learn as much as you can about your new home and keep an open mind.
Here are a few articles to help you get started on learning more about what makes Americans unique:
- American table manners that help you fit in while dining out
- Why do Americans smile so much and other strange “Americanisms”
- How to navigate your way through American workplace culture
- Ten TV shows that represent American culture
- Six tips to help you successfully integrate into American society
- Say what? Phrases that often get lost in translation
Volunteering is a great way to help you become part of your new community, create a sense of pride, make a difference in the lives of others, and meet great people who share a passion for doing good in the world. Whether you have a flexible schedule or are only available a couple hours a week, there are many volunteering opportunities in Oklahoma City that can fit your interests.
Metro Family magazine has put together a list of great opportunities for you and your family to spend time together, get to know Oklahoma City, and meet new people. VolunteerMatch is an excellent source for volunteer opportunities for local sporting events, animal shelters, and other organizations that could use your help. The City of OKC is always looking for a few good people to help make Oklahoma City and their parks beautiful and welcoming.
When you volunteer, you get to meet other people like yourself that have a big heart and want to help others. These qualities are what great friendships are made of. Another added bonus to volunteering: learning job skills that look great on a resume. Volunteering also allows you an opportunity to see Oklahoma City and the US through the eyes of a local and understand where the need for help lies and what their lives are like on a daily basis. Your efforts help to solve a problem that makes the lives of Oklahomans better.
6. Find your favorite hang-out spot
Oklahoma City is home to many great local coffee shops, libraries, cafes, and bookstores that are waiting for you to discover. Once you find your favorite place, it’s fun to keep coming back and engaging with the employees and other regulars, and eventually, it’ll feel like your second home. Oklahomans are notorious for being friendly to locals and new arrivals alike so you’ll find no problem striking up a conversation and getting to know those around you. The location will provide something that you will have in common, and the more you get to know each other, the better the possibility to form a friendship that goes beyond your favorite cafe or coffee shop.
7. Get to know other parents
If you are a parent, there are many opportunities to get to know other parents. To help initiate a friendship, try introducing yourself to your child’s friend’s parents, volunteer at your child’s school, or coach your child’s sports team. Invite a family over to share a meal or for a day at the park. Families with children tend to get busy, so if you feel your first gathering went well, plan successive get-togethers afterward to help cement the new friendship.
8. Go online
There are many platforms, and apps available online that can provide you with more opportunities to meet new people. You can join groups on Facebook that are filled with people who share similar interests and may live in the same area. Meetup is a platform that plays host to many groups and social networking opportunities that are location-based. Twitter provides suggestions of people you should follow to help expand your social network. You can also check out this list of friendship apps that help to pair you with other people in your area who are also looking to make new friends. New friends can also be found through a book club, board game club, running club, a club for entrepreneurs, or any other interest group think of. If you can’t find one to fit your interest, create a group of your own!
9. Learn about the local professional sports teams or join a group sport
Americans are sports fans, and Oklahomans are very proud of their local teams. If you live in Oklahoma City, you’ll become quickly acquainted with the Oklahoma City Thunder, University of Oklahoma Sooners, and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. Oklahomans share a friendly rivalry between the state’s two college football teams: the Sooners and the Cowboys, but the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team unites them all. If you learn more about the teams, you’ll find plenty of things to talk about with your new friends in Oklahoma. Watching sports is usually a social activity and you’ll find that there are many social and game-watching events that provide you with an easy way to meet new people.
If joining a sports league interests you, Oklahoma City has many opportunities. The City of Oklahoma City provides a list of adult baseball and basketball leagues. Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation is a resource for soccer leagues, swimming, and volunteer opportunities. Check out Midwest City’s offerings for an adult softball or flag football league. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, OKC Riversport offers rowing lessons with an opportunity to join their Masters Coached Rowing Team.
10. Learn a new skill or advance what you know
Taking a class, whether an English language class, cooking class, exercise, or even a job training class are all great ways to meet new people in a fun and engaging learning environment. English language classes can help you excel in small talk and may even help you better understand the local vernacular. You can learn more about American or other cultural cuisines with a cooking class, and it could open the door for you to make new friends and invite them over for a meal. As the saying goes, “food is the universal language.”
If you’re interested in learning a new job skill, Metro Technology Centers or Francis Tuttle Technology Center are great places to start. Not only can you receive training that can help you enter into a new field of employment or enhance the skills you already have, but you also get the added bonus of meeting new people and sharing common experiences together.
Making new friends may seem overwhelming, but you’ve already shown your grit and determination by moving to a new country. Meeting new people should be the easy part! Building new friendships in the United States will prove to be rewarding and fulfilling. Although it may require time and effort, the outcome will have a long-lasting positive impact on your health and overall happiness. Start by saying hello and enjoy the journey!
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