My ticket for lunch at a common dining hall in Pukyong National University.
Does anyone else think that making new friends in a foreign city need not be as methodical a task as parts of our culture make it out to be? Relationships start from a common interest, and that commonality can be as simple as each other. If you want to make a friend, show a sincere interest in learning about them. Share about yourself too, and hopefully you will find enough common ground for further hang-outs.
Is downloading an app the answer?
I have generally not used digital applications to form connections. They feel too contrived. The more choice we are given, the less likely we are to be satisfied with an outcome. If you visit a clothing store to buy a pair of jeans and see 15 varieties, you will likely spend more time choosing the right one. You will analyse your preferences (is this material right for me? Should I get a slightly tighter fit?). Potentially, your hesitations will linger even after you’ve made your purchase.
Doesn’t the same paradox of choice apply to friendship-making (or on an extended plane, dating) apps? Users will literally swipe away personality features that they don’t find appealing. There are so many people who might be a better personality match for them, so they might as well keep swiping. Even after a conversation has been started, hesitation produces the possibility of someone “ghosting” the other.
Connections are started and relationships are built from sharing a common ground. That ground could be on which you are playing doubles with a new badminton partner, travelling on a bus with a person sitting beside you, or typing away at a cafe with another person who is coincidentally also rushing to finish their assignment. Once both of you have stopped typing, why not go over and ice-breakingly say, “Did you make that deadline?😁”
Regarding friendship apps, it’s worth thinking about why many of us don’t feel comfortable enough to build common ground on the ground we physically stand on. Or the metaphorical ground that we advance the journey of our life on. I feel that we should appreciate it more and adventure on it more, instead of escaping to a digital ground where things feel more ready-made.
It takes just a bit of thinking outside of the box. Disregard what standard behaviour is (I’m not suggesting you to be purposefully contrary or destructive) and adopt behaviour that creates value both for yourself and the other person. If you’ve enjoyed a nice conversation with your Uber driver, why not share your contact with them? The conversation can continue over a coffee, where you can teach them more English phrases in exchange for phrases in their language. Friendly body language does a lot of talking.
Body language speaks the loudest
Rather than being daunted by the challenge, isn’t it enthralling to be in a city where you don’t speak the language? You’re learning to rely more on your other abilities: how to use your facial expressions, your tone, and trusting more in your intuition. In South Korea, upon my hands and speech expressing that I don’t speak Korean, people often continue to speak to me in Korean. Since they also don’t know the language I’m speaking (English), the interaction makes for an amusing sight. In any case, language is a tool and back in the days of the cavemen, it hadn’t even existed.
My thought goes to humankind throughout history. The merchants on the Silk Road wouldn’t have known how to speak the languages of the customers who eventually bought spices and tea from them. The establishment of international economic trade wouldn’t have happened without two people from foreign lands first meeting each other and using their intuition to trust good faith.
The underlying message is the same. Connections are started from a desire to learn more about one another and a desire to create mutual value. Express both with sincerity, lead with body language, and common ground will be established.