Icha Irdhanie

Making new friends and talking about random stuff is fun. One moment, you're discussing American politics, and the next thing you know, you're debating how Rick and Morty resemble Marty McFly and Doc Brown. It's tons of fun getting to know another person and being exposed to their culture. Just talking to new people, I've come to realize there are good people from all over the world, and well, there are some not-so-pleasant-people from all over the world, too.

Being an ESL teacher and working in different countries where it can change every year, I have sometimes found it hard to mingle and immerse myself in the surroundings. This nomadic lifestyle and industry can make finding new friends difficult at times. People just might not be on the same frequency as you, or it could be that your joke simply doesn't fit their sense of humor. After a few years of hopping around countries for a living, I want to share some tips on how to socialize with an international crowd.

First: Truly Listen

You have to totally pay attention to everything someone says otherwise you might miss the whole story. I consider myself a good listener because when someone tells me a story, I give them 100% of my attention. Like, when my close friend tells me a story, I can imagine the whole thing in my head, because I know them, their background, and what they're like. But when listening to someone totally new, I have to pay close attention to the smallest of details, so I can imagine their story in my head without getting lost. For example:

Him: Yeah, so I spent my winter vacation last year with my family, near the village I grew up in, in the Alps. It was fun, but the skiing was hard.

Me: Uuh cool. Yeah, it must be exhausting to actually travel to a particular country only to ski.

Him: Well, I don't have to go that far.

Me: Really; how so?

Him: Because I'm from Switzerland.

Me: Ooooh, yeah, right.

Honestly, it's hard for me to relive this conversation without feeling like a complete buffoon!

Second: Respond Appropriately

Goes without saying, but when you're talking with someone, you have to have an appropriate response and hopefully not sound like a complete fool in the process. Here is an example of what NOT to do:

Him: Yeah, learning new languages is fun, but I still struggle. Even learning a new dialect is hard.

Me: Yeah, I agree.

Him: Yeah, as a German, when I go to Switzerland I can speak the language just fine, but then there are some words ...... (Truth be told, right here I sort of blanked out for the rest of the conversation).

Me: Oh, you can speak the language there? So, you speak Swedish?

Him: Well, no, but one of their national languages is Swiss-German, so it's a bit different from the German I speak.

I call this the ‘Swiss-Swedish Catastrophe of 2014'! Needless to say, there wasn't a second date or even a first one for that matter.

Third: Have something interesting to say

No one wants to be caught with nothing to say and absolutely no one wants to talk to a knob. Figure out what you're passionate about or at least find something that you're interested in and learn about it. I find often conversations with new people, turn to life and what we make of it. I've got a keen interest in philosophy, ever since that university class "Philosophy, Science and Logic". Now, I enjoy reading anything on philosophy. When the conversation turns to philosophy or just life, I can share my thoughts, explain a bit about different philosophers, their points of view, and how we can learn from them. The point is, the ‘it' can be anything. It's knowing about something and sharing it and learning from others as well.

Fourth and Finally: Have an opinion about something, anything, please

This brings us to the obvious fourth and final recommendation - have opinions about things. This is really important, to be an interesting person you ought to have thoughts and opinions on things. When you're discussing a certain topic and those differences in opinion that are bound to happen do happen, you'll be ready and able to debate or argue it. The objective is to be well informed. Read. Learn about something. Master it. Then form your opinion. Should someone prove you wrong, it's cool to admit it (then get over it). You'll have enjoyed a rousing conversation and learned something new! We are only human and can be wrong, but if you're right, don't shove it in their face, unless you're holding a cake of course.

I've messed up plenty with this socializing thing. Mostly, I've had a good time, learned a thing or two, and maybe made a new friend. Most important: have a sense of humor and have fun! Being a teacher with EF, traveling, and seeing the world, you will definitely meet new and different people. We're in the best time of our lives to live and learn about anything and everything. So, read, learn, and take a chance to make some new friends while you're at it!


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