I’m not sure if you realize how hard it is to make friends in a foreign country. The first time I studied abroad, I was nervous about this, but my mother assured me that I would make friends in no time. And she was right– there was an awesome community of intercambios (exchange students) at Adolfo Ibañez, and making friends was a breeze. I even made friends with a few Chileans, granted, only the Chileans I met that could speak with me in English since at the time I was a Spanish illiterate.
This time, I was barely worried. Things have a way of working themselves out, friends would find me, right? Besides, my Spanish was so much better now…
When I arrived in Chile in June, I was lucky enough to have a helpful German introduce me to a few people and hang out with me from time to time, a friend of a Chilean friend that I am happy to have met. I was positive that when I started work I would make even more friends, and that by the time I left I would have more friends than I could count.
My first day at Principal, my boss let me know he could speak English, which I thought at the time was a blessing and a curse. I’m realizing now it is much more of a blessing than I had realized, as it is so much easier sometimes to explain and be explained things in English. At lunch my first day, however, not a word of English was spoken, and I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to start conversations with my coworkers who could not understand what I was saying. The next couple of days, lunch went a lot like that, although I stopped trying to talk because honestly how embarrassing to have everyone stare at you while you stutter out a poorly phrased question only to half understand the answer you’re given. After the first week, most of my coworkers stopped asking me to lunch, which I don’t blame them for because no one wants a ghost sitting at their lunch table. And no not because I’m getting seriously so pale here in this frigid winter, but because I never speak! If you know me (or you read my blogs) you probably know I’m a talker. So you can imagine how frustrating it is to not be able to contribute to the conversation.
So that’s how I didn’t make friends at work. Everyone here is friendly, but my boss and another guy from Des Moines are the only people I’ve actually made a connection with. I love forming relationships. People person is an understatement for me I think. So this is so out of the ordinary and I don’t particularly like it.
Think about it though… if you don’t make friends at work, and you aren’t going to school, where are you supposed to meet people!?
My obvious next move was trying to make friends of friends. A Drake buddy of mine is down here for the semester (although leaving soon) and had a couple of friends that I have been able to borrow and that has really been my saving grace. It’s so much easier to make friends when you can communicate freely. They were gracious enough to adopt me in like one of their own. Then I have my two Chilean girl friends, whose friends I have been able to meet but not really connect that much with because again, it’s frustrating to not be understood.
Then, mi amiga Barbara suggested I look at Tinder. Which isn’t exactly a tool to find long-lasting friendships, but I figured I would give it a try. That has resulted in 0 friendships so far because I’m too freaked out to actually meet any of them in person. It’s like buying a car on craiglist, only it’s free and it’s a human person which is scarier. Boys have way more issues than cars.
So with one of my borrowed friends (thank you Sam), after a Chilean futbol win one night, we went out to crazy plaza italia to see if we could spot any other gringos. We did, because we are pros, and met a couple of people how exciting! Ok now spoiler alert here comes the part where I stop trying to make friends period. Sunday, after spending the morning getting some work done at Starbucks, a guy we met at plaza italia (from the states) messages me asking if I want to explore a little bit. Since that was already my plan, I thought how perfect it was that I could have a friend come with me! I wanted to go to Los Dominicos, he agreed, and we met at 4. It was hands down the most awkward day of my life. He didn’t really laugh at my jokes (and I’m pretty funny….), he acted weird when I pet all the animals (can’t stop won’t stop), and he kept planning future trips which confused me because we hadn’t even bonded at all on this excursion yet. After grabbing a drink, and connecting on no levels at all (we talked about types of trees at one point), we went to part ways and I gave him a hug and when we pulled apart, he lingered and started to go in for the kiss to which I responded to by pushing away, blurting out something along the lines of talk to you later (or never omg), and ran the opposite direction. Until this point I had not been aware that we had been on a date, but at that moment it became very clear. I don’t want dates though I want friends, how hard is that to grasp.
So I’m giving up on making friends. I have a total of 8 friends here (yes I just counted them all and it didn’t take me long at all. and I included my roommates who basically have to be my friends because I live with them (hey guys <3)) and that’s enough for me. I go home in a month to friends and family who get me and love me and that will be awesome. Until then, obviously I’m not like bumming too hard about the solo life. It’s frustrating, yes, but the friends I do have are super cool and being alone sometimes is fun too. If anyone gets me, it’s me, so that works out pretty well.
If you’re thinking about travelling alone, it’s probably best to have some kind of game plan beforehand on how you’re going to create a network. It’s actually a great lesson to learn, because I know I will be doing something like this again in my future and I will DEFINITELY be more prepared then.