I haven’t had to think much about making friends before I moved to Thailand. I love talking and I love people so it was always a natural, quick, and seamless process. When I went to college there were the people in my dorm and then my sorority. When I entered the “real world” there were my new coworkers, my new church members, and other “yopros” also new to the city.
I had friends who struggled to make friends when they graduated college and I would always ask them HOW they were putting themselves out there. Have they gone to a happy hour with coworkers? Have they joined any professional networks? Have they joined a kickball league? It seemed so simple go to where people are with similar interests as you and just be yourself. In the States, generally, we are too worried about how it looks to be somewhere alone, to not have someone to go to an event with, or asking someone for their number to hang out later in a platonic fashion.
Thailand has been a humbling experience in practicing what I preach. I am in a city with very few foreigners, very few people my age, and very few people new to the city. While people in Khon Kaen are incredibly friendly and helpful they aren’t really actively looking for the social relationships I am used to having.
To make friends I have to put myself out there. If I am in my city and see someone who speaks English I will approach them and strike up a conversation about what they’re doing here, how their experience is, and if they want to check something out in our city together.
Planning and invitation aren’t a part of Thai culture. If someone is sitting at home and wants to go visit their neighbor or family member they will just get on their motorbike and go to them without giving the person they’re visiting a heads up, and it’s totally acceptable and welcomed! So, I have learned it is very ok, and expected, for me to do the same. Some of my best memories in Thailand have started with me approaching one of my students, boss, coworkers, or someone who attends my church and asking ‘when can I come over for dinner?’.
Traveling is another amazing way to make friends. I always choose to stay in hostels or hotels where the reviews mention it being a social environment. It is so fun to hang out and explore new places with people also traveling. It seems, at breakfast people are always asking each other what they have planned for that day or where they are going next and if they can tag along. Be talkative and say yes! I truly believe UNO might be the key to world peace, it seems to be a universal language that brings people from all over the world together over a hostel/ hotel lounge area table.
Being in Thailand has taught me how to be brave, be bold, and be more open. You need to put yourself out there and be willing to spend time with people very different from you. Experiencing new things with others is an incredibly bonding experience. You are in Thailand to grow and building new relationships is part of that and is the best way to understand a culture. Plus, it never hurts to have places to stay all over the world.