“I always kept away from Germans when I was in US”. This is what a German friend on mine told me about her experience in the US. The reason was that having a German friend/room-mate prevents her from integrating well with international community or the natives. Language wise or culinary wise, same country men makes it difficult for us to try out things which are necessary to blend in with other cultures.
Now, talking about Indians, is a German in US equivalent to Indian in Netherlands/US? That is going to be a difficult comparison. First of all there are lot of similarities between western cultures. For eg: The cuisines they are used to are somewhat similar. A social conversation at a bar comes easily to both as they are used to that from childhood. Hence it will be easier for a German/European to integrate in US/Australia compared to an Indian in US/Europe. Still my German friend is trying her best to integrate.
Provide these options to an Indian student and ask which one they prefer:
- Social conversation
- Watch a one-day
- Prepare for exam
Most Indians I know of, would prefer 2 and 3. So it is natural that there is a bit of a difficulty when going abroad and making lot of friends from other cultures. Of course we are such sociable people. But the question is how much of those skills can be adapted to international audience. We are expats. And expats are smart! 🙂 Aren’t we? And I know many Indians who relishes in meeting people. In most of the expat events happening in Netherlands there are always some Indians. What it all means is that if there is a will there is a way! Do you like to build an India in Netherlands(read as the country you are from) or you like to live the Netherlands as it is. It will be easy for us to create an Indian atmosphere around us. And we may not read articles for that. So let us assume you are here for the second option.
Here are some tips to make international/native friends:
- Be bold to do it alone (or with your partner).
- Try joining a sports club such as badminton or a dance class. And do not join with an Indian friend/s. And stay back for the drinks. If it is a cricket club never miss the drinks after a match or practice. Lot of soft drink varieties are there so not a problem if you are non-alcoholic.
- Join a language class. Most of the close friends I have in Netherlands are from my first Dutch class.
- If possible, try to have an international/native flat mate.
- Do volunteer work(seva). You will meet people with golden hearts!
- Keep in mind that it is easy to make a friend from the international community than a native Swedish(if you live in Sweden). For the simple reason that the initiative is less from a native as he/she already has a social life.
- Prepare yourself to enter uncomfortable zones. Adapt from first experience and enter the uncomfortable zone again. The return from this for your career and social life is enormous.
- Work out. You do not go to gym to socialize. But it gives you a 26 hour day! Work-out helps us achieve other goals mentioned here. If you have to choose between sports/dance club vs gym, then I would say if the sports/dance makes you sweat a lot then you can avoid gym else gym is highly recommended.
- In summer there will be more events and will be easier for us to travel. Hence start planning for summer events from spring onwards. Strengthen the friendships in winter(when we are likely to look for reasons not to go out 🙂 ).
There could be some ‘tension’ with your Indian friends if you live with them and go out with out them. Sometimes it can be dangerous if you live with colleagues as politics might come into play. They might attack you by calling ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) saying you do not belong here or there. Well….”Good luck to you!” :). There is no immediate remedy. You need to manage yourself with all your communication skills. Both parties are important to us. Also it would be a good idea to have a set of Indian friends on one side and the international friends on the other side. It will only enrich our social life. There could be some warmth and genuineness in the friendship with Indians. But on the other hand, with the internationals, sometimes we might need to put up with shallow friendships. For eg: Meeting someone at a bar does not mean that we get their phone numbers and they get invited to our home, some other time, for a coffee. It can happen of course. But what I mean is that be ready to leave space and let the space disappear gradually or naturally.
I know some Indians who register for social events, pulling out at the last moment. If I am being honest some of them are simply nervous like I was. Many do not like the idea of going alone and making new friends. But the good thing is that they had the willingness to register in the first place. What we are forgetting is the fact that the people who come to such events will take care of each other. They will understand you and help you out. Yes, those strangers will do that! Just trust them and join the fun. It is also very likely that no one knows you are scared. It is a win-win anyways and you won’t be alone for the second event. You can take my word for it!