How to make friends and not alienate people (on your year abroad)
1. Don’t wear any local souvenir memorabilia when you’re swanning about town. No ‘I love Paris’ t-shirts or suchlike. Thing is, they’re only cool when you bring them home (and to be honest, they make you stick out like a sore thumb).
2. Be a ‘glass half full’ person; try to see a positive in most situations. Optimism attracts (and keeps) new friends. NB: don’t take your optimism too far – that can alienate people in itself, you see…people who are sickeningly optimistic can be sickening.
3. Swap numbers if you meet someone nice. Don’t just play it cool and wait for them to ask you – try to compile a collection of as many friends as possible, because then you keep all your doors open, and do/see all sorts of exciting new things. New people introduce you to new people who introduce you to new people, and that’s when the year abroad wheel really gets rolling.
4. Be open to new things. Play ‘yes man’; go to that local festival you’ve been told about, jump on the back of that motorbike (preferably not with a complete stranger), and be someone people want to hang out with.
5. If you don’t want to alienate people, don’t be an alien. Be as local as you can, try to blur in, and let yourself adopt those local mannerisms (the ones which everyone will tease you about still doing when you get home!)!
6. Play cards with new people; weirdly enough, it seems to be one of the best ways to make friends. And then you can learn foreign card games to take home with you (and win, because you’ll be well-practiced…and no one will know if you’re bending the rules anyway).
7. Smile a lot. Do not underestimate the power of a smile; it will sort out any situation, and it is a language which transcends language barriers. Your smile muscles may begin to ache after the first few weeks, but just continue to grin and bear it (literally).
8. If you’re trying to make/keep friends, it’s probably best not to keep singing the praises of your homeland, or pointing out the negatives of this new, foreign place. It’ll only end in gritted teeth and clenched fists, you see.
9. Offer interesting new takes on things. Give your side of the story, and your (foreign) take on the town/city. Bring your culture to the locals! Just be captivating. Aka, sometimes you just need to embrace being ‘alien’, and make it into a positive rather than a negative.
10. And finally, if you ignore all of the above advice (and subsequently begin to lose friends and alienate people) then all you need to do is play the ‘I’m foreign and I don’t understand’ card. It’ll work a treat. (If you’re a girl, that is. If you’re a boy, you may need to think up an alternative plan to avoid losing street cred).