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Making Friends with Americans

Many international students come to the U.S. not only with the goal of learning or improving their English, but also to make friends with Americans. Unfortunately, getting to know your American peers can be quite frustrating.

While Americans are generally known to be friendly, they often say and do things that seem to keep others from getting too close.


Americans will often refer to someone as their “friend” whether they have known that person for a long time or they are just an acquaintance. You may be introduced to someone as, “This is my friend from India,” when you have only just met that person. You may be thinking to yourself that you have just made a good friend, but then you don’t see him or her again anytime soon.


“How are you?” is simply a form of greeting in the U.S. It’s like saying, “Good morning (or afternoon),” as many other cultures do. Americans say it in passing. They won’t stop and wait to hear how you are truly feeling. This can be really confusing to foreigners, but the proper response would be, “Good thanks and how about you?”


Another common misunderstanding is when an American says, “We should get together sometime.” You may be thinking, “This is great! He has just invited me to go out.” But then you never get a call from that person about when or where you will meet up. Unless you have an actual date, place and time to meet up, it is not an invitation. It means they are interested in getting to know you better but not right now.

So while Americans may be easy to meet, it takes time to get to know them on a personal level. Be patient and proactive. You can invite them to get together with a specific date, place, and time!


Tina Quick, often referred to as the “Transitions Expert,” is the author of Survive and Thrive: The International Student’s Guide to Succeeding in the U.S. and The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition.

Tina is a cross-cultural trainer and international speaker who works closely with international schools, colleges and universities around the world. She is the founder of International Family Transitions, a consultancy that aims to, among other things, recognize and bring to the forefront issues facing students in global transition.

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