How to make American friends

  • Make an effort to get out and meet new people and make new friends. That's the best way to improve your English and experience American culture. You may have to push yourself beyond the easy and comfortable temptation to just spend your time with others who speak your language or come from your home country.  But remember that this time in your life represents a real opportunity. Make the most of it!

  • Many Americans watch or participate in various levels of sports. Whether going to local games, cheering on their children’s teams or watching a televised game for a favorite college or professional team, you will see a great deal of passion expressed and exhibited by fans around the country. This provides an excellent opportunity to interact with Americans and learn about sports in a different environment.

  • Although American society and people are generally friendly and open, keep in mind that most do value their privacy and independence. Do not get too personal too quickly. For example, many people might say, “Come over any time,” but they do not mean it literally.

  • While difficult to gauge, the best estimates for comfortable personal physical space for an average westerner is about 24.5 inches (60 centimeters) on either side, 27.5 inches (70 centimeters) in front and 15.75 inches (40 centimeters). Americans usually have larger personal space boundaries than people from other cultures. If you notice people backing up a little while talking to you, don’t step toward them as they most likely feel uncomfortable with the lack of distance between you.

  • If you receive an invitation, they will expect you to arrive very close to the time they gave you, either a few minutes early or a few minutes late. If you arrive too early, they will likely not feel prepared, but if you arrive too late, you communicate disrespect for their time. If you find that you are running late, call and explain that you still plan to come and give them an estimate of when you will arrive.

  • The most common form of greeting between acquaintances and colleagues in the U.S. is a hand shake. Men shake other men’s hands, men shake women’s hands and women shake other women’s hands.

  • If you get to know someone well enough, a hand shake can sometimes turn into a hug or brief pat on the back or shoulder. Women-to-women turn their greetings into warm embraces much more often and sooner than men-to-men, or men-to-women. While in many countries men kiss the cheek(s) of women when they meet, in the U.S. that action is reserved for very close friends.

  • If you feel unsure how to greet someone, a handshake is probably your best option. Observe the greetings of those around you for clues to what might be expected in each situation.

  • Do not ask adults their age, or how much money they make, or why they don’t have children, if they do not.

  • In the U.S. staring at someone intensely is considered rude.

  • Get involved with ISI. You will be introduced to a lot of different people, activities, events and opportunities. To find the nearest staff member in your area.

  • Join community groups or events to get involved in your area. Get involved with community sports teams just for fun and to meet people.

  • Ask questions, interact. Don’t sit quietly off to yourself because you don’t feel your English measures up. People enjoy interesting people, so get out there and get involved.