Special hints for international students
and travellers in Canada and the USA.
Image by Nick Runkle.
Here you learn techniques for
meeting people and expanding your circle of friends.
These suggestions are from the prospective of people new to Canada and the United States, but can be
easily used by anyone who needs help making friends.
Follow these, and you won't be lonely.
Also see "How to Make Friends (According to Science)" below. Simply wonderful advice.
Pick the right venue
When making new friends, do not be
afraid to approach others
However, choose appropriate venues where strangers are most likely
to be responsive. Surely, you will be rejected at times, but some
situations maximize your chances for success.
For example, on most days, a person commuting
to work or school on a bus in a large city like New York or Toronto
will not welcome interaction with strangers.
Is the person talking
to her deranged? Is there going to be a negative scene? Is she
going to be asked for money? When among so many people, she
just wants to be left alone.
On the other hand, if an erratic vehicle
nearly hits the bus and the passengers almost fall out of their
seats when the driver slams on the brakes, you have a situation
that promotes conversation.
"Wow, that was close! How do
you feel?" "I am okay, thank God! Do you ride this bus
often?" "I am afraid that I will have to. I just enrolled
at the graduate film school at NYU and need to
take this bus to classes." "Oh, I graduated from NYU
last year. How do you like it?"
Instead of waiting for near accidents to
happen, seek venues where people may welcome conversation.
A classic locale of this type is the art
gallery, especially when not too crowded. Here people are more
"This is so much more moving when seen
in person, don't you think? I am just amazed." "Yes,
you are so right. Have you seen her exhibit over at the National Gallery?"
Be informal and not threatening
Video above: Wonderful advice.
After more conversation (if the other person
continues to be receptive) and more bonding, it is time to move
to the next step.
In most cases, this should be informal and thus
not threatening to the other person.
"Saturday afternoon I am going to see the
visiting Monet exhibit at the Getty Museum. Would you like to
meet and enjoy it together? . . . Great.
Here's my mobile number in case you cannot make it."
By not asking for her contact number, this approach preserves the privacy of the
other person—who does not know you—and gives that
person a way to contact you, in case he or she cannot make your
date but still would like to see you at another time. The afternoon
time permits an invitation to be extended on Saturday to an early evening
meal—a more formal date—after you meet at the museum.
On the other hand, if someone you meet says
something such as "You will have to come for coffee
sometime," you have not received a genuine invitation.
he or she really means it, you will be given a specific date and
time or a choice of these. If so, arrive on time or nearly
Remembering a person's name can really help you gain friends. The next time you see them after an initial meeting, you can greet them with their name just as an old friend of theirs would.
Enjoy group dates
More and more in North America, people go
on group dates. A group of friends decides it wants to see a film
and perhaps meets at a pizza parlour prior to attending.
you make a new friend, you will be invited along with this person's
friends and your network of friends expands. Your new friends
from this group introduce you to their friends in other groups
and on and on.
At some point you may become closer to one
person in a group of friends and pair off for some activity involving
just the two of you.
As you can tell, asking for this more formal
date is much easier because you already know each other from your "informal" group activities.
Know when to stop
The standard convention is not to
ask someone for a date more than two times, unless that person says something like "Would love to, but can't this week. Could you call next week?"
the other person declines completely several times, give it up and go on
to someone else, unless the other person finally takes the initiative
and asks you at another time.
Otherwise, you become a bit of a
stalker and demean yourself.
Step outside of your group
Don't let your group work against
If you want to meet people outside of your circle, you may
have to step outside of your current friends.
For example, a group of Japanese students
travelling on a train in Canada or the United States talking among
themselves in Japanese creates a barrier to intrusion, whereas
one or two Japanese speaking in English (or French
in parts of Canada) invites friendly comments and questions from
Having just friends from your home country
or culture while studying or travelling in Canada or the U.S.
is a wasted opportunity to grow as a person.
Focus on the other person
This is really important.
When getting to know someone, focus first
on the other person's interests.
Does your new friend enjoy reggaeton music? Then talk about reggaeton music. Lacrosse? Then
talk about lacrosse.
You get the idea.
You know nearly nothing about lacrosse? Well, this is your chance to learn.
For example, "Say, is it true that lacrosse was
adopted from a game played by native Canadians? Is it played the
same way today? . . . The way you explain it, lacrosse seems
like a really awesome and rugged game. I'd like to see it played sometime.
. . . Yes, I'd love to join you and your friends next
Saturday—if you don't mind that I've never played before! Back home in South Africa, my favourite sport was rugby,
which seems as rough and intense as you describe lacrosse,
but no one plays it at this school. . . . Oh, you have several friends who have been trying to get you to drive with them to UBC
for informal Sunday afternoon games? Awesome! I can give you some pointers
before rugby on Sunday and you can teach me a few lacrosse moves
You remain very lonely by being
interested solely in yourself.
A great way to make new friends—perhaps
the best way of all—is to join an organization, club, or a place of worship.
Are you concerned about the environment?
Become involved in a student chapter of the Sierra Club or similar organization in Canada or the U.S. Have you a love of chamber music?
Mix with a group of like minded people. Clubs and associations
abound on campus and in surrounding communities. You'll have
no trouble finding a group that you will enjoy.
Once a member, join in group activities
and volunteer to help.
Does the Sierra Club need several people
to contact members about an upcoming city council meeting regarding
a proposed new forest preserve at the edge of the city? Volunteer.
You will become known to others while doing good.
Club activities easily spill over into purely
social activities. "After the meeting, we're going to a new Thai restaurant. Would you like to join us?"
People who serve others gain far more than
they give, and nothing illustrates this better than volunteering
for a good cause. And, with so many good causes available, you'll no excuse to be lonely.
Avoid projecting the negative
This is important: People are turned off by negative people. Most don't want to be around them.
If you refuse to project a cheerful demeanour and you complain all the time, then resign yourself
to having few real friends.
Overwhelmingly, people dislike a constant
barrage of problems and complaints.
Real friends will console
you and attempt to help you when you have an occasional setback,
but they may not wish to continue a close relationship if you
cannot make the best of situations, especially if they perceive
that you are making these situations worse with a negative outlook.
In other words, if you become gravely ill,
friends will stand by you. However, If you are reasonably physically healthy, yet you do not project happiness
and concern for others, what few friends you have may drift away.
We all face difficulties at times, but except in the most serious
situations we should not burden our friends with our problems.
There is an old saying, "What you put
your attention on grows in your mind." If you wear rose-coloured
glasses, you see a rose-coloured world. If you look at the world
through a shroud of negativity, you'll see a negative world.
If you focus on what is going right in your
life, you will have a happier life.
Know basic cultural differences
If from another culture, you need to know
and to avoid behaviours that easily irritate or make people uneasy in Canada
and the States.
To help in this area, Dr. Voyageur offers
two free on-line lessons:
Please remember that the people you want
to meet are likely to be just as desirous of making new
friends as you. They may be just as sly as you.
The constant flux of American and Canadian society
cuts people off from childhood friends and family and means entire
neighbourhoods and universities may be composed of relative strangers,
who seek interaction with other people.
They may find
it hard to initiate conversations with people they do not know
and welcome your attempt to create a dialogue.
Go for it and good luck! And, please don't mind the occasional
For more discussion about interacting with Americans