One of my expat friends recently moved back to the U.S. to an area she has never lived in before.
When we spoke recently she shared how hard it is to develop friendships with people in the area.
When she is out walking and greets her neighbors, they look at her like she is from another planet.
When she meets people at her children’s schools and they learn that she was recently living overseas the conversation ends quickly.
Her interpretation is that they almost seem intimidated by the life she has lived.
- …While she sees herself as very average, and she knows her experiences in those other countries were significantly less-than glamorous.
- …And I know her to be gifted with the ability to tell great stories that would make them double-over in laughter, broaden their world and take the impression of glam away in an instant!
I also wondered if she is struggling to connect with others, simply because they have their friends and their routines established.
- They aren’t trying to be rude – they simply don’t feel the need to grow their circles, and don’t understand what it is like to be new to the area.
A few days after that conversation I was visiting with friends from three different countries…
One of them commented how much harder it can be to get to know someone from the U.S. than from other countries.
She gave us some excuses for our behavior too:
- Our country is so big.
- We vacation primarily in the U.S.
- And we primarily think and talk about the U.S. almost as if it is the center of the universe.
She wasn’t being critical she was just sharing her experience. And I wasn’t offended but it made me very curious.
This is the first time I’ve ever lived outside of the U.S. And it has only been in the past few years that I’ve taken vacations in countries across the pond.
So I quickly admitted to:
- Not yet, being able to see the world without my U.S. filter
- Being terrible at geography and how embarrassing that is
- Struggling to know how to engage with someone about any topic that I know absolutely nothing about
- Frequently going home after I’ve met someone, looking at the globe and reading about their country on the internet
My friend laughed and said that when she meets someone that has lived somewhere she knows nothing about she just says, “That sounds interesting… what was that like?” The friend sitting next to her quickly agreed that is what they do in their country as well.
What a simply powerful way to move past the ice-breaker and into a great story, a new learning and maybe even a new friendship!
Personally or Professionally:
- Have you ever felt intimidated by what you don’t know or haven’t experienced?
- Have you ever struggled to find common ground before you asked questions?
- Would you like to learn about something you’ve never heard of or learn more about something you know very little about?
- Would you like to be more welcoming to a new face in your office or your neighborhood?
Please tell me…
What you do… Do you have a favorite question that you ask when you are connecting with someone new or about a topic you know nothing about?
What more about navigating outside of your comfort zone? Check out this post.