Carol here: If you ever met Irene you’d think you’d been friends with her all your life. She’s a walking party and a blast to be around. You can’t be unhappy around her, it’s literally impossible! Irene was gracious enough to write a blog about making friends in a new country, quite a challenge. I think her suggestions will work for anyone trying to fit into a community … but I’ll let her tell you.
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Carol asked me to write a little something for her blog. But since I never really changed zip codes I thought I better talk about changing countries
This is how I made friends….in a lot of countries.
I moved to Ireland at age 21. For those of you in the U.S, you are probably thinking :”I moved to California from Michigan to go to college at a young age, what’s the big deal?”. Well, I will tell you, it was a BIG deal! In the U.S you have somewhat the same culture and the same language, between Ireland and Norway it was all very different.
My reason for moving countries was to emerge myself in a new culture and to integrate well, and that is how my journey began.
My English was more or less fluent from the day I got there, due to impeccable teaching back in Norway, and the only thing I had to do was pick up the mannerisms and slang of the Irish. In saying that, it became quite natural for me. So I became a perfectionist at the Irish accent, made sure I knew some Gaelic, always asking questions when someone said a word I didn’t know. Even being well spoken I still managed to be misunderstood at times.
Being a Christian, it was easy to meet people thru church. What was difficult was getting a friend that would call for a chat or simply to hang out. It took about 6 months before I got there. It took a lot of initiative from me to make an effort to meet people and ask for numbers when I met girls (don’t think I ever asked a guy for his number unless I felt certain it was only platonic).
If you get invited to a party, even if you don’t feel like going, because you don’t really know anyone there, you need to get that dress on and GO! You will meet new people, and more people that eventually will introduce you to more people and/or will be your best friend down the road. And remember to use your sense of humour, it is a universal thing that crosses cultural boundaries and brings people together!
Another way I found for meeting people, was thru the workplace. And being stopped on the street and asked for directions. Actually, it is why I know Carol. Her daughter is a vital part of my journey. And it all started by asking for directions to a coffee place. Talking about coffee being a life saver! Carol’s daughter and a couple of her friends were studying in Ireland when I first arrived and it just so happened that I ended up working where they were residing. They only stayed in Ireland for 4 months but by being open and honest they are now my best friends and confidantes.
After 7 years in Ireland, most people thought I was Irish. I had integrated well and met people from countries all over the world, so I thought; It’s time to move on to another island…and found myself on the way to the end of the world, which is New Zealand!
And so, my adventure has started all over again, making new friends, from other places, with my Irish accent intact!
So, get out there and meet some new people, wherever you are in the world!