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Why Cross-Cultural Friendships Are Invaluable

Our InterNations members across the globe are constantly establishing new friendships with expats and locals from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. We asked our members to share their experiences and tell us what makes these cross-cultural friendships special.

Every expat will be familiar with leaving behind friends at home for a brand-new start in another country. The friends you find in your new destination will often make or break your experience.

Getting By with a Little Help

Moving to a new city can be a lonely affair at times. Even after many years of expat life, loneliness can still strike you in unexpected ways, with no warning. In such moments, expats tend to turn to their friends for comfort: most of them will have felt similarly, regardless of where they come from.

Cross-cultural friendships teach us that everyone has a different way of coping with similar challenges they are facing. Friends can impart useful advice, based on their personal experience of loneliness as an expat. Even a small gesture like inviting you to a trendy book store opening can improve a dragging Sunday afternoon.

Many of us who move abroad find that we have to make friends in a short space of time — for how long, who knows? Expats can connect quickly because feelings of loneliness, fear, and homesickness are both universal and common among expats in particular.

It is a huge comfort that, despite having different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, the people around you understand how you are feeling and will support you. The unique thing about being an expat is the people you connect with while abroad. You’ll soon realize that humans are not so different from one another.

A Cultural Adventure: Food and Traditions

Making friends with like-minded expats often leads to a sharing of their culture with you. These friendships can allow you to discover new cultural practices — exotic food and completely unheard-of traditions. Instead of a classic Halloween party, a friend may insist on showing you their favorite Mexican holiday: Día de Muertos. You may soon find yourself with a different event to go to each week — be it a religious holiday like Diwali or the historically significant Day of German Unity — which is never a bad thing.

You might be invited to a dinner party devoted to a culture and its ethnic cuisine, where you can taste brand-new dishes and maybe even pick up a few tips for yourself. Trying your hand at making your own Moroccan lamb tagine to bring along to a North African dinner would no doubt be appreciated by your host. Perhaps try your Turkish friend’s practice of boiling ground coffee beans rather than your standard shop-bought soy latte — it might just become your new morning staple!

Discovering the World through Friendship

By connecting with your friends’ cultures and experiences, you see the world through different lenses. Having a French best friend, for example, would show you the importance of long and relaxed family meals in French culture. What may seem strange to you could be just daily life to others!

Particularly in expat circles, everyone has a different story; what brought them to where they are right now. Sharing yours and listening to others’ can bring friends from other cultures closer together. Imagine yourself, for instance, in your new friend’s shoes and think how you might have coped with leaving the comfort of your home for the first time ever.

Endless Travel Options

Expats are no strangers to traveling around the world and don’t need an excuse to do so. Nevertheless, if you’re planning a vacation with friends or a reunion with someone from a previous expat adventure, having friends across borders can give you the perfect opportunity to travel to places you might not visit on your own. A quick trip to swim with stingrays in the Cayman Islands doesn’t seem so far-fetched when you know someone living there.

Aside from reconnecting you with old friends, your global network can help you cross a few destinations off your travel bucket list. While visiting your friends, you might also receive an exclusive guided tour around their hometown, and they may let you into some secrets only a local would know, like where to find the best pizza slice in NYC.

A Step Closer to Becoming Multilingual

Having cross-cultural friendships will provide you with a group of people who are able to speak a wealth of languages. If you have always wanted to learn Spanish and a fellow expat just happens to be a native speaker, you’re in luck! You need not enroll in a language course or pay money for a private tutor — simply pick up a few words or key phrases from listening to your friends talking.

It could also be worth arranging a tandem partnership with one of your friends from another culture and exchanging your language skills. The best part of having cross-cultural friendships is the chance to learn and discover more every day!

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