Guys, it’s lonely out here. And I will tell you one thing….no one actually cares. In some cases people will even make it harder for you so that you can go back to your country.
That’s why I have to fore warn you. So please take notes…..
1. Cultural differences make forming new friendships abroad extra challenging.
We all know that immigrants leave old friends and make new ones, but sometimes we don’t appreciate how how challenging making friends cross-culturally can be. In the book Foreign to Familiar, cultures are categorized into two types: hot and cold. Generally speaking, people from “hot” cultures are relationship-oriented and “cold” are task-oriented. When someone from a culture that prioritizes people (such as an African or Indian) tries to integrate into a culture that prioritizes efficiency (such as Germany or Canada) or vice versa, often there is difficulty in forming relationships. The cold culture’s task-orientedness can come across as unfriendliness; the hot culture’s long unexpected visits can make a task-oriented person feel stressed. Cultural differences make newcomers miss the unspoken relational cues that locals would understand. Understanding cultural differences can help you reach out to internationals in a way that makes them feel loved and welcomed in a foreign country. (Foreign to Familiar could be useful if you’d like a quick introduction to cultural differences).
2. Long-distance relationships can’t replace local, in-person relationships.
Perhaps we think that because of free international texting and video calling somehow loneliness is not so prevalent. Long distance friends Hare important, but it’s still true that “better a neighbour nearby than a relative far away.” A neighbour can offer the warm meal, the freshly made bed or the in-person companionship that no long-distance friend can offer. Modern technology has made communicating across the world easier, but even due to time zone differences your international friend might have no one to call in a moment of happiness or distress. Don’t underestimate the importance of being someone who offers real “face time” to an international or immigrant.
3. Family and old friends cannot fully relate to them.
Anyone who has lived abroad and experienced new things knows that this comes at a cost—that of being less understood by the people who knew you before. Internationals need new friends who will share their experiences in this new phase of their lives.
4. Can’t disclose the details of their lives abroad.
When living abroad, it is easy for internationals to selectively share their lives with the people back home—often because they feel they must. Whether it is discussing financial success…or academic failure….many immigrants feel awkward telling their families the reality of their situation. Others are dating someone but can’t tell their conservative parents who plan to arrange a marriage for them. Your friendship can provide a safe place for them to be real.