Being in a foreign country by yourself makes for a unique social experience. The type of friendship that takes weeks or months to develop back home in the States takes about two hours when you’re abroad. What is this phenomenon? Is it the shared experience? Is it gravitating towards other expats? Is it a different mindset? Is it fear or loss of inhibitions?
I think it could be a little bit of all of the above. Before arriving in London, I read somewhere to say yes to everything (within reason). I heard I should be aggressively friendly in order to make friends abroad.
I guess I took that to heart, because I went from being by myself to suddenly having a facebook group of friends overnight. In one week, I’ve been on a pub crawl, to dinner, shopping in markets, exploring public transportation, and even to Abbey Road, with girls that feel like long-time friends.
Somehow, getting almost run over while trying to get a fantastic picture of your Beatles-moment is funny instead of traumatizing when there are friends nearby. I even jumped into a weekend trip to Brussles during the last-minute planning stages.
There is no awkwardness, no wondering if I’m annoying others with my constant requests to go find something to do, and a degree of comfort I usually don’t feel with people I have known for less than a week.
I have made a conscious effort to say yes to everything I think I can reasonably afford, and so far everything has paid off! We all know that we’re in the same boat, I guess. The same things brought us all to London, and we’re all looking to have an unforgettable experience. Regardless of the reason, I’m thankful for this phenomenon because I know some of the memories I’m about to make couldn’t happen without these friends and the others I’ve yet to meet.
So, if you ever find yourself alone in a foreign country, remember: the key is aggressive friendliness. Become a stage 5 clinger, even. Because others secretly want to be aggressively friendly, too.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Tim Cahill.