When you move somewhere new, you’re basically starting out with a clean slate. You go out to meet new people, make new friends, and create a new community of people you surround yourself with. This can take time and when you’re out in the real world as I’ve realized, it takes a lot more effort and pushing out of your comfort zone to find that group of people you click with.
It’s been about two years since I moved back to Taiwan and quite honestly, I am still having a difficult time connecting with locals and making friends. I was actually talking about this with a friend the other day. She imagined herself in my shoes and noted how lonely it must feel to move around a lot without a concrete place to call home. For her, she still has friends from elementary school through high school that she’s very close with and see regularly so when they meet up, it’s nice to be able to reminisce about old times. I can’t do that with my friends because they’re all spread out across the globe. I agreed with her that it does get lonely sometimes since I don’t get to see my friends on a daily basis anymore. But I wouldn’t change my experiences for anything else.
Recently I’ve been thinking about this topic more and trying to figure out why I am struggling with it and what I can do to change things. I used to believe that I had a hard time connecting with people in Taiwan because I didn’t grow up here so there wouldn’t be much we had in common. Maybe it was because there was a language barrier or maybe Taiwanese people just had drastically different interests than me due to culture differences.
But then I thought, how did I make friends in the US where I didn’t know anyone either? I didn’t grow up in the States but somehow I found my people. I came up with a few ideas that have helped me in the past to connect with others.
Shared Experiences. It could be being in the same school, same class, same club/organization, living under the same roof, etc. Being put in the same environment forces you to interact with the people around you and it makes it a little easier to connect because you are sharing an experience. When I studied abroad in London, I became really good friends with my roommates. We saw each other all the time so we had a lot of time to get to know each other. Another way I bonded with people was over our shared past experiences – maybe we both grew up overseas or we both travelled to the same countries but it was something we could share and be like “Me too! Me too!”.
Have Similar Interests. This is an easy way to connect with someone. Discover similar interests with someone can turn into long conversations and maybe even lead to experiencing those interests together. I met someone through my sorority in college and we found out we both loved playing soccer. We ended up becoming friends and playing on the same intramural soccer team for 3 years!
Understand and keep up with Pop Culture. Listening to American music, watching American TV shows and movies, immersing myself in the American culture really helped me connect with people in the US because I could contribute to the conversation and understand what was going on. It wasn’t that hard for me to do because I was already interested in those things before arriving in the States. I guess you could say I was pretty “Americanized”.
Have Mutual Friends. When your friends introduce you to their friends, it’s normal to assume that if your friends like them, you’ll like them. Similarly when you first meet someone and you both find out you have mutual friends, then it’s like, “Oh hey, since we both know this person, you must also be chill.”
I realized I let my focus on the fact that I didn’t grow up in Taiwan overshadow all the other ways I made friends in the past. It’s also partly my own fault for not putting in that much effort into making friends because it’s so easy for me to just do things on my own. Sometimes I have to remind myself to go out and socialize with people because I’m so comfortable and enjoy doing things alone. But building and maintaining relationships is important to me so I just have to keep reminding myself to go out and do it!
Have you moved somewhere new where you didn’t know anybody? What were your strategies for meeting people and making friends? I’d love to know!