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Apr 1, 2009

Make Friends in Your New Neighborhood

Making new friends in a new neighborhood can be intimidating. Others have established their social structure without you, and you're the outsider. With time, patience, and a little care you'll meet people and fit in.

1. Introduce yourself. "Hi, I'm ___. What's your name?" is simple enough. Pay attention and repeat back the name of the person you are meeting, and try to remember his or her name.
2. Acknowledge that you're new and say where you're from. Sometimes, that's all it takes to get people's attention or perhaps catch their interest, especially if you're from someplace distance or interesting.
3. Show who you are. Remember, you are just as strange to your new community as they are strange to you. A little self-expression and outward good humor can go a long way toward breaking down that barrier.
4. Bring something to share. Have a story or joke handy, or learn to make some simple gifts to hand around. Learn to make a cool paper airplane, a yarn doll, a friendship bracelet, or a friendship pin, or an interesting piece of origami. Bring in a favorite thing to share, such as a comic book. Food is also a good choice. Regardless of what you decide to share, it will help to open people up if you are willing to give something first.
5. Ask questions. If you're in a new neighborhood, you probably have every reason to ask people to help you find your way. Where are the restrooms? The parks? The good shops? What restaurants, schools, teachers, clubs, or programs should you check out? You'll not only get good, inside information, you'll start conversations. People love to share their opinions.
6. Listen. Listening to others is a good way to learn the community and start to understand the people in it. You may hear others talking about people who interest you. Ask if you can be introduced.
* Jump in to the conversation if you have something to add. Say, "Hey, I notice you were talking about ___." Then say what you have to say.
7. Go out. Probably people in your neighborhood are outdoors at some time during the day, perhaps in the afternoons when school is out. You won't meet new friends if you're just watching TV or at home in front of the computer, so get out there.
8. Look for common interests. As soon as you start talking to somebody, be on the lookout for similar interests to yours. Does he like to listen to music? Who? Who's her favorite author? Do you play sports? It doesn't have to be an exact match, just common ground you can use to start a conversation.
9. Join groups. Ask around about sports teams, book clubs, volunteer organizations, and anything else that interests you. Having a common cause tends to unite people, and many organizations welcome new members.
10. Invite people over. Meet with one or two people at a time, or have a housewarming party or larger get-together.
11. Take the initiative. If you see someone who seems bored, lonely, or unhappy, ask what's up and whether you can help.
12. Offer a compliment. Anything from, "Cool shirt, where'd you get it?" to "I've really enjoyed talking to you" can be just the amount of encouragement someone needs to remember to talk to you again. Be casual, and don't go overboard. Just drop in a sincere compliment whenever it seems fitting.
13. Be approachable. Others might just come to you.
14. Be positive. Even if you're not completely at home yet, try to be confident, outgoing, and reasonably cheerful. Nobody wants to befriend a grouch.
15. Have some fun. If people see you having fun, they might be inclined to join you.

* Be yourself! A friendship should be about honesty.
* Have fun! Play tag, or truth or dare! Maybe even go swimming or skateboarding, skiing or hiking. Do whatever interests you and you will naturally attract others with similar interests.
* Be patient. Friendships don't necessarily form overnight. It may take your new community a bit of time to warm up to you.
* Make friends with newcomers. Once you've established, take the time to welcome others who join your neighborhood or community. Introduce them to others, show them around, and help them find their own places. Even if you don't end up good friends, you'll feel good knowing that somebody else's transition was a little easier.
* Don't force it, and don't force anybody. Friendship is something that happens naturally, over time. There may be some trial and error before you find the right people.
* Be open to differences and different people. This is a new neighborhood and a blank slate, so this is a good time to try new things. Who knows? You might just hit it off with somebody you don't expect.
* Keep in touch with old friends, too. Is there somebody back home who would love to get a phone call or email? They'll keep your spirit up while you're still getting a feel for your new place.

If they're doing something wrong, don't hang around. That's not the sort of friend you want, anyway.

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