3 Great Ways to Make New Friends in the U.S. –
Moving to the U.S. can be both an exciting and a lonely experience. “At home in Japan I had a strong group of friends,” said one woman who recently moved to Seattle, Washington. “We all met in college, and we supported each other through different life changes. Now that I am here In Seattle we still take time to connect by text and sometimes video, but it’s not the same as it was.”
Research shows that one of the keys to long-term success and happiness when moving to a new place is finding ways to build meaningful new relationships. If you are struggling to connect with others in your new home in the U.S., here are a few suggestions for discovering new friends in the U.S.:
1. Express Needs
For grown adults, it can feel uncomfortable to be in a position of needing help from others—especially from people you don’t know. When moving to a new country, the fact that you lack a local support system is a huge challenge, but it is also an opportunity.
In his book The Art of Neighboring, author Jay Pathak points out that meaningful friendships often begin when one person has a need. Questions like “Which day is the trash pickup?” or “Where is the school bus stop?” could be answered by searching the internet on your own, but these daily-life questions are also great ways to start a conversation with someone new. People love to feel needed, and by asking for help you are actually giving your neighbors a great gift. They will feel better about themselves and the neighborhood, while you will feel a little more equipped and a little less alone.
Tools and house projects are another perfect area for building meaningful friendships. For example, rather than buying your own cordless drill so you can secure your new bookcase to the wall, try knocking on your neighbor’s door and asking to borrow theirs. You might be surprised how willing people are to help when someone has a need. But don’t forget to return the drill when you’re finished!
2. Join a Group
For many years I was involved in a Talk Time conversational English group. International adults of all ages, from college age to retired people, would gather every Thursday night to participate in small-group conversations hosted by English-speaking volunteers. We had dinner together, played games, and learned about each other’s cultures. Over time, people formed strong friendships that lasted for years.
Community activity groups are a great way to make new friends in the U.S. through shared interests. Well-organized groups will have a plan to help new people to feel welcome and to learn how to participate. Your local library may have a Talk Time conversational group, or weekly story time events for the whole family. Some faith communities will also organize activities that allow people to get to know others while doing something fun together, such as painting, hiking, or playing a sport.
If you aren’t sure where to start, try an internet search for ‘group activities in my area.’ You can also search on Facebook or other social media for local activity groups. Some companies also organize social groups and teams for employees and their families. Make it a goal to add at least one group event to your weekly schedule. And if you try something and it turns out to not be a good fit, tell yourself not to get discouraged, but to look for another opportunity that you might enjoy more.
3. Take a Language Class
When you move to the U.S., there is a good chance you will feel a need to increase your language skills. Even those who are considered somewhat proficient in English in their home countries can find themselves overwhelmed by the amount and the speed of conversation happening around them on a daily basis. Once again, rather than withdrawing or trying to build language skill alone, you could see this as an opportunity to build meaningful friendships while also meeting a practical need.
Many community colleges and technical schools offer language classes for the community at discounted prices. Local non-profit organizations may also provide classes, either for free or at a reasonable cost. Try an internet search for ‘ESL classes in my area’ or ‘ESOL courses near me.’ Private or small-group tutoring can be a great option as well, as you can choose your own course schedule and topics while having time for more personal connection with your teacher than you often get in a large classroom.
In my years of teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), I have seen again and again the strong friendships that students form while studying together—and with me as their teacher as well. Often my students go out together for lunch or for coffee after class, or offer suggestions to one another for weekend activities, or celebrate holidays from their home countries together. These strong, caring bonds can continue long after the English lessons have ended.
Moving to a new country brings a lot of changes. What never changes is our human need for friendship and meaningful connection with others. Give these suggestions a try and they will go a long way towards helping you build a successful and happy new life in the U.S.
Thanks for spending time with these 3 Great Ways to Make New Friends in the U.S.
For a helpful list of conversation starters, take a look at Let’s Talk by Baye Hunter (Available on Amazon)
You might also enjoy The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak (Available on Amazon)
Also, be sure to see my article sharing 5 ways to feel confident in your spoken English
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