Making American friends

two men dancing
Photo courtesy of Tom Blackwell

This story is a real one and shows what is like meeting people from different cultures.

I hope it will help people who are wondering about making American friends.

Back in my country (Kurdistan), there were many stereotypes on Americans. For example, people think that Americans are not friendly and do not like strangers (internationals and refugees). Most people believe that all Americans are carrying guns everywhere (I call this the Hollywood effect).

As an instance, I remember before coming to the United States of America, my mom said to me, “Please do not take your son with you.” When I asked her why she replied Americans will take him from you. I remember I laughed a lot since I did not believe that. Let’s see what happened to me and my family in America.

I remember arriving in the USA and my first impression of making American friends.

My first encounter was with a policewoman at the airport. I asked her about finding a hotel. She showed me a big screen and how to find a hotel. That was my first impression of American friendship. After reaching to southern Illinois, we went to SIUC University. People were very friendly. Help was everywhere. Wherever we go, people were helping me and the family. For the first few months, I did not see any animosity towards strangers like me.

My first American friend was an English partner from the community. He was a young guy from Chicago. We used to meet once a week. He was very helpful and friendly. He was helping me to get ready for university life.

Shortly after that, a person from a local church contacted us. They found another English partner for me. He was Sam, a local pastor. Sam was important in my life. He was trying to explain to me any questions that were asked. Issues related to the American culture: family, church, daily life, beliefs and values and so. Sam was my first “real” American friend. We used to go to Starbucks, to restaurants, and to the lake.

Here I realized that American friends are very different from my country’s friends. For example, in my culture when someone asked you a question, the answer is short and sometimes they neglect you.

For me Sam was different. He was trying to answer my question with a lot of detail. He usually went back to historical backgrounds to provide an answer to my questions. Sam and his wife Pam were becoming like our family. Whenever we had questions we were contacting them. What a wonderful time it was with that kind family.

Making Americans friends is usually easy in churches.

I with my family decided to go to church frequently. In the local church, we meet also a family called Cruise Family. Lisa and Greg cruise. This family were living In Marion, Illinois around 20 minutes from the town of Carbondale. Lisa’s personality and the effect were huge on us. She became a very close friend to us. We started to hang out outside, going to family picnics together, family invitations, church activities and services and so. Our friendship reached a point that we were regarding them our American dad and Mom.

During all these experience, I realized that all stereotypes and generalizations about American were not true. I did not see guns. I did not see arrogance among people in the community. Al what we learned was kindness and love. American friends helped us like members of their families. During financial difficulties or during legal issues, they were supporting us a lot. They actually opened our heart to things that I might talk about that later in a special story.

I think making American friends is challenging but not impossible for newcomers. This is true especially if we understand the values and beliefs of Americans. Some people say it is difficult to make an American friend. This is not true especially if you get familiar with this culture. For my experience, I found most of my American friends in churches. Other might have different views or be able to meet American friends in other places.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.