5 ways to build friendships with people from different cultures

If there’s one big challenge for international students, most would say it is building relationships.

As you may have seen on this blog, many international students tend to be friends with people from the same culture. It’s beautiful when you see people from so many different cultures hanging out at the school’s cafeteria, or going out to social activities.

This happens mainly because it’s so uncomfortable living in another culture. Speaking English makes newcomers physically and mentally tired, loneliness makes them sad, and adaptation to a new school environment takes a long time. Long story short, it is not fun.

When a person is planning to move, they don’t always think about the struggles they will face. And it’s not their fault. The excitement of meeting new people, speaking another language, and experience another culture is such that there’s no space for negative and discouraging thoughts.

The same happens to locals. It’s quite a shock when you stumble to someone who doesn’t understand your jokes, or who has a different religious background.

However, when you learn or living another culture, you become more aware of your culture. It’s when you get comfortable sharing your beliefs and values with others that you open up to learn from other cultures as well.

Why do international students get homesick? It’s not only because they’re struggling with the language, or because they miss their parents. Culture is part of your DNA, and when you have to deal with differences, it starts to with to go back to where it belongs.

Coming to Winnipeg, or anywhere in Canada, you have to be prepared not only to adjust to the Canadian culture but also to the many other cultures living here. Be aware that there are about 40 different groups here.

Therefore, you don’t need to belong somewhere or to a group. You just need to learn how to control your cultural background and adapt to a new one. And there’s a way.

Try this and if you do not feel better after that, then maybe you should consider evaluating what is it that you want.

  1. Go out. Engage in as many social activities as you can. Say yes to (almost) everything. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about other cultures.
  2. Be open minded and prepared to listen to different points of view. Learn to respect other people’s values the same way they’ll respect yours.
  3. Forget your biases and stereotypes you’ve put in your head over the past. People are different even if they were born in the same country and shared a particular culture. This is a cliche, but by the end of the day, we are all people.
  4. Be curious. Ask people why they behave the way they do. In a respectful way of course. Encourage people to share their stories and experiences.
  5. People communicate differently. One of the biggest challenges for international students is communicating. There’re not only verbal communication barriers due to the new language but also non-verbal communication barriers. That means, one might interpret what the other one says in many ways, and this may cause conflict. Find a way to communicate in a respectful way with everyone.

When moving to another country, we become more aware of our culture. Merging our culture with the new one helps us build a new cultural identity. Cultural identity is crucial for settlement.

What are some of the things that helped you adapt to a new culture? We’d love to see your comments!

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