“Sabia… Pensei agora, esse cara deve ser brazuca também.”
“É mesmo… Tá aqui de férias?”
“Não, intercâmbio… E você?”
There’s nothing easier than making friends with people from our own country when we’re traveling. You have an instant bond with them. In fact, just hearing our language abroad usually gets our attention right away.
However, chances are at least *one* of the reasons for your trip was to practice your English, right? Or maybe your French, Japanese or even Swahili. And that’s just not going to happen by hanging out with other Brazilians!
In fact, there’s a very common myth going around in our language community: “A year abroad will make you fluent.” Not so… not if you don’t actually immerse yourself in country and culture, not if you don’t actually spend the majority of your time with the locals!
One of the tragedies I see time and again is people going abroad for a few weeks or even for a whole year, only to come back without having attained that much-desired fluency. And the reason is simple – you will miss your home sometimes, and the easiest way to “matar a saudade” is hanging out with other Brazilians.
“Okay, easier said than done, Frank”, you might say… “It’s not so easy to make friends with people from other countries. They often aren’t as open as Brazilians, and they usually have friends already, so it can be hard to break into their circles!”
And that is certainly true. As a rule of thumb, it’s always easier to make friends with people from warmer countries… South Americans tend to be some of the most open people you’ll meet on your travels, whereas people from colder climates can be a bit more reserved.
So, here are a couple of tips on meeting non-Brazilians… so that you can really experience the culture of the country you’re visiting, and of course, practice your English (and your Swahili).
1. Travel alone, if you can
I know a lot of people are reluctant to try this one on for size, but the fact is – you won’t stay alone for more than a couple of minutes unless you choose to. The fact that you have nobody to talk to will practically *force* you to reach out to other people you meet (don’t distract yourself with your iPhone now!)… and you will meet ten times more people than if you stick with your travel buddy. Besides, you already know each other’s stories anyway, right? Time to hear (and experience!) some new stories.
2. Stay at hostels instead of hotels
You will be surprised how many other people you’ll meet in a hostel dorm (or even in the common area, if you prefer to have your private room) that are in the same boat as you are… They’re traveling alone, and they’re eager to make new friends. There’s nothing easier than greeting the guy in the bunk bed next to yours with a casual question… even a plain “Where are you from” will serve as an excellent ice breaker, because a hostel is an environment where just about everybody is looking to connect.
3. Approach people that are alone
People who are on their own are often more open to making new friends… that goes both ways. Not only will you find yourself naturally behaving in a more extroverted way if you’re on the road without your buddies… you’ll also find that other people that don’t have a companion are often eager to exchange experiences, swap travel tips, or just make a new friend.
4. Don’t be shy to meet people online
This may have been a little bit scary a couple of years ago, but these days literally everybody is on the internet, and there’s nothing easier than finding like minded people on the web. The best site to meet other travelers is probably couch surfing… you don’t need to host anyone or stay at their place if you don’t want to, the site also offers casual meetups for coffee and even group outings… check it out! Meetup.com is a great place to have a look as well.
5. Finally, be proactive about meeting people everywhere
Ask people for directions when you’re in a new place, but pick people that don’t seem very busy… chances are you’ll get into a conversation. Join clubs and sports teams if you’re staying in a place for a while, take up a new hobby and reach out to people in any way you can think of, and NEVER turn down an invitation to go do something interesting (Watch the movie “Yes Man” with Jim Carey for more on that mindset!)
And here’s another hint… you really just need to meet one person in the country you’re visiting. They will then be able to introduce you to five more people, who can introduce you to five more people each, and before you know it, there’s no stopping it!
The bottom line is this… making new friends on the road is a lot easier than it seems, and one of the most worthwhile things you can do on your trip. In the end of the day, it’s the friendships and the people you meet that will make for the best memories. Remember – A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet!
Maybe I’ll share a story about some unexpected ways I’ve met people in the next post… but I’m really curious to hear about some of your experiences as well. Please post a comment and tell us – what was the most unusual way you’ve ever met a stranger and made a new friend? I can’t wait to read the stories!
Hit the reply button now and post a comment. So long and my best to you all,
~ Frank Florida ~