My daughter lived in Paris, France, for a couple of years. She said it took a while for the French to “open up,” but when they did, they formed strong long-lasting bonds with each other and also foreigners.
I guess you could say it’s the opposite with Americans, at least on the East Coast. Foreigners say that Americans seem to open up right away and share events from their lives with you, but won’t really befriend you for a long time.
Location, Location, Location
The thing to remember is that the US is like four or five separate countries by the way the different regions act socially. So far I’ve lived on the East Coast, now in the Southwest (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and I’m familiar with the West Coast (San Francisco).
There’s a big debate as to how unfriendly people in New York City are. If you saw the movie Borat when Borat lets a chicken loose in the New York subway, I’d say the natural reactions of those subway riders were right on. This would be true even if you didn’t drop a chicken out of your luggage but just asked a question. To me, New Yorkers are very suspicious of any kind of approach, especially on public transportation or the street.
Now if the same thing happened here in New Mexico, I think people would laugh and think the guy with the chicken was crazy, but they wouldn’t turn away and keep staring into their newspapers, pretending nothing was happening. Neither, do I think, South-westerners would start cursing and threatening to kill him.
OK–so California? I don’t know but it would friendlier than New York. People might invite the guy over for chicken and offer to make dinner with it (at least those who are not vegans).
I personally like the friendly style of Albuquerque on an everyday basis. People say good morning and smile. You can talk for a while, build up a little trust and they might ask you to go to an event–the movies or out for lunch. But here’s where things take a difficult turn.
As a returning expat to Albuquerque, I found that unless people were in the same situation as you are ( a new transplant), I had to take the initiative and call people to see if they wanted to get together after the initial time.
And this is not easy to do.
So generally, the West, the Southwest, the South and Central America are friendlier than the East Coast in my opinion.
Practically throughout the US, people in shops or acquaintances on the street will ask, “How are you?” as a greeting. It’s not meant to be fully answered. Basically, just say good, OK, fine and leave it at that. In other places in Europe and the Mediterranean, people actually want to know (a little) how you are if they have time to listen. But in most of the US, unless it’s a good friend or family member you see on the street, the greeting is meant as just that–something to say in recognition and then get on your way.
How to Make American Friends
- Do your research before on the region in America you’re visiting or settling in so you have a general idea of how friendly the people are there.
- Bring food or wine when you’re asked to come to someone’s house for the first time.
- Don’t overdo greetings when you encounter acquaintances on the street.
- Don’t ask personal questions, especially about finances.
- Don’t tell someone he or she doesn’t look well-even if you’re slightly concerned.
- Don’t appear too “needy.” Generally, Americans like people who are independent.
- Turn down an invitation once in a while just so you don’t appear too eager.
- Give friendship time. Just give it time. Continue to meet people at public events, interest groups or wherever you first met, and give it time.
- Get used to making phone or text appointments to make appointments to make plans.
But never give up. Even Americans treasure friendship–just maybe a little differently than in other places