How to Win Friends and Influence People While TravelingBjorn | Thursday, September 13th, 2012 | 3 Comments »
You are crapping your pants. You’ve just landed in a foreign country. You’re going to be there a while.
You don’t know anyone. You don’t have a clue where anything is. Strange sights, sounds and smells fuse for an unpredictable cocktail that can intoxicate or leave you a trembling mess. You start thinking that you should have stayed at home.
You wish you could find a friend to hang out with. Someone to show you around, help you find things and meet people. Here’s the post to help you with just that.
The tips that follow will help you to not just find a friend but to engage a whole tribe of vibrant, fun people.
The Deep End
I am a serial networker and am convinced that you’ve got to throw yourself in the deep end when you are new in a foreign country. Whether you are a member or not, hit high population density settings like churches, bars and rotary clubs that are bursting at the seams with people that are eager to get to know more people. It will feel awkward at first so just expect that. It gets better quick if you force feed yourself with social interaction for the first few weeks. DO NOT turn down social invites. Trust me, you want to go. You want to see others and be seen. This is the opposite of hiding in an Internet cafe and taking refuge with chat friends. I force myself to do this everywhere I live and it always works: within days my network of friends is growing and in a few weeks I feel like I have my posse.
Wonderful until proven otherwise.
Very basic things work when you are getting to know people for the first time. A good rule to go by is to assume people are wonderful specimens of humanity until proven otherwise. You don’t want to limit yourself by being narrow-minded and judgmental about things and people that are different from what you are used to. If you want to find friends, give your new contacts and their culture ample wiggle room and absolute benefit of the doubt.
Connect over similarities.
Think you have nothing in common with the locals? Don’t be ridiculous. There are tons of ways to connect: Sports, religion, social causes, food. Whatever your passion, you can find locals that share it. At first, find areas like sports that maximize interaction but don’t require a sophisticated grasp of the language. It’s OK to sound like Tarzan on the soccer field. You can beat the language barrier AND have fun.
One of the best ways to win friends and influence people is to provide a really useful service off the bat. English teaching is often the golden standard. Everyone wants to learn English so a good way to make lots of friends is to start teaching on a part-time basis. You will be gold to people. And they will treat you like royalty. However, don’t make the mistake of framing yourself as someone who communicates exclusively in English. Teach for connections and money but make sure you have lots of downtime and learn to speak the local tongue.
Be more focused on being interested than on being interesting. Don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone is interested in you. There will be a window of opportunity when you, as the newbie, will be the center of attention. But this will definitely pass. After this it will be much more important to be interested in others than to try to appear interesting yourself.
You can do this! If you can master the art of making friends and influencing people abroad you will virtually guarantee yourself an amazing experience. And the positive effect of being social will snowball. You will be that intensely popular foreigner that everyone wants a piece of. Make the effort. People will recognize it and reward you.
In a future post, I’ll deal with how to use dating sites to prepare the way before you land in a foreign country. It can be done and done well. For now, wait on trying to find a date and just concentrate on growing your network….