Things I Have Learned About Making Friends In A New Place   3 comments

From Rand, West Virginia (shout out!) to Pittsburgh (the burgh), Poughkeepsie, Washington, D.C. (so nice I did it twice), Philadelphia (love Philly), Baltimore, Vancouver (WA – that was an adventure), Kansas City and now Barranquilla, Colombia, I have been blessed to make and have good friends. There are some things I have learned along the way that I would like to share.

Some people will want something from you. Make it OK.
Living in a new place means recreating one’s life. Whether it is getting a haircut or finding a doctor we all need to learn again how to get what we want and need. I add about 20% to my first year’s budget and call it a learning tax. It took me weeks to find a grocery store that has the stuff I like at reasonable prices. Add to that the cost of going from store to store and it all adds up. A long-time friend, who is building houses in Costa Rica, talks about the lessons he learned from his first projects. From finding a trustworthy attorney (no jokes here) to a supplier that will not steal back the materials they sold, the challenges can be plentiful. What is true in many parts of the world is also true here; how much you pay can depend on the relationships you have. Some people want more because I am North American and they think that I can afford it. No malice, just fact. The goal, of course, is to not get ripped off. Just as importantly, I do not want to be so guarded that I am turning people off. The people who want to do business with me are also potential contacts and the start of a network that I can leverage in the future. They are also potential social connections that may make my living here more enjoyable.

Some people will want to know YOU
Not everyone is looking to take advantage of the new guy/girl. I keep running into the belief that the streets, clubs and marriage agencies are full of young poor Latin women looking for older men with money to live the good life in the United States. This is a self-serving crock! Are there some? Yes, I know some. Many though, from my experience, are seeking what most of us want: respect, love, fidelity, commitment and friendship. Some would leave their family, not for the green card, but because they would go where their man wanted to live. Others have no desire to leave friends and family; bedrock to people in this culture. Some would leave if they thought it would better the opportunities for their child or children. Given my experiences of bias and racism in the United States, there is no way I am going to perpetuate a belief that this is a culture of people out to take advantage of foreigners. So yes, I am cautious. Just like I am in anyplace I do not know well. The truth is though most people here want the same things in their lives as I want in mine; to know people that care about and respect them.

People have lives. They were not waiting for me to show up
I hate to say it but I have discovered that I am not as wonderful or interesting as I thought. There were no marching bands waiting, or dancing girls, or opportunities waiting for me when I arrived here. People were already living their lives before I arrived. The Friday night poker game has had the same number of chairs for years. The “hottie” at the beach has family responsibilities. The people I want to meet have other priorities. My lonely Wednesday or Saturday nights will not cause people to call me, not even my new friends, with stuff to do. Developing friendships and business relationships is a slow process, requiring time and repetition. Going to the same gym; having a favorite restaurant; going to same market or mall; all give people a chance to become familiar with me, leading to more and more frequent conversations. I also tend to use the same taxi drivers when I need to get around. One day as we were passing the futbol stadium, Barranquilla had just beaten Bogota; the driver asked if I liked futbol. I said yes. And he invited me to join him for an upcoming match. Because we are getting to know each other, I have an opportunity to expand my circle of friends and enjoy good futbol at the same time.

Finally, be who you are
Have you ever been tempted to recreate yourself when you move or visit another place? I don’t mean like DiCaprio’s real life character in Catch Me If You Can. No, I mean stuff like telling people that you have more money than you really have. Or saying that you played high school baseball when you really only tried out! Or saying that you dated Brad Pitt when he was in high school! Little stuff just to make yourself more interesting! In a word: Don’t. Not because you can’t pull it off. I can easily say I am 50 instead of 60 (no brag just fact). And honestly, there is plenty of incentive in Colombia and Costa Rica to say I am younger than I really am. But why go there? For ego, sex, money or something else! Our souls know who we are. Saying we are something we are not puts our egos in control. Sooner or later our egos, the lie, always undermine the possibility of real friendships. Above all, have fun and enjoy your life. I have found that people will naturally gravitate to me when they feel I am enjoying myself, even if it is just having a cup of coffee. From there, all things are possible.

Posted May 23, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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3 responses to “Things I Have Learned About Making Friends In A New Place

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  1. What great advice. Thank you. 🙂

    Delinda Frazier
  2. Wayne, you got it short and to the point. It is always better to just accept friends as they are. Have a good day. Dalal

  3. Great advice and information.

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