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Making new friends in the new year

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ARE you moving to a new home, a new job or a new city in the new year? Does the prospect of this change feel daunting?

Relax, it is entirely normal to feel a range of emotions, from apprehension and stress to excitement and impatience.

The most important part of moving, according to people who have done it, is preparation. If you’ve covered the groundwork — registered your new services, located the local school, clinic, supermarket and vet – you’re on the right track.

But once you’ve got the logistics tackled, you also need to integrate into your new community and make new friends. And that’s where it gets tricky for the more introverted among us.

Godfrey Madanhire, a motivational speaker and life coach who himself relocated 10 years ago from Zimbabwe to South Africa, says making new friends is about being willing to network and kick-start conversations yourself.

“Don’t wait for people to talk to you. Greet people. Step out of your comfort zone. It shows you are keen to interact with the new strangers in your life,” he says.

That doesn’t mean you do all the talking, though. The rule of thumb is ask questions.

“I made the assumption when I first came to South Africa that people wanted to know everything about Zimbabwe. Some people were interested, but at times people were put off because they rather wanted to talk about things relevant to them,” he says.

First-year university students have a natural advantage here: “You can talk about challenges and opportunities you share.”

But whatever the situation, be respectful and not confrontational, advises Madanhire. “You might think that playing devil’s advocate will get people talking, but it is not a sustainable strategy if you are new in town. Rather, steer the conversation to what you have in common,” he says.

Joining a club, society or association that interests you is a good idea, of course, but Madanhire cautions that it needs to fit in with what you want to do or achieve.

“Join a reading club if reading interests you, or a choir if you like singing. Don’t join a club for the sole purpose of meeting new people,” he advises.

Tips for breaking the ice
Godfrey Madanhire advises:  Put your phone away. Show respect by not texting or talking on your phone.

Crack a joke, but be careful you don’t offend the local culture.

Wear something extraordinary . . . like a flower, it attracts people to you. I wear a pink jacket sometimes.

Watch your body language. The way you carry yourself tells a lot about you.

Behave as though you are comfortable even if you’re a bit nervous.

Avoid using standard ice breakers like “what is your name?’ or “where do you come from?” Be creative and come up with a conversation opener. Introductions can come later.

Ask people to dinner if you feel comfortable. But if you suggest a restaurant, make sure you understand the local payment convention.

Some people expect you to pay if you asked them out to a meal. Or if they ask you to a meal, you may be expected to pay.

Don’t just mix with expats. This will isolate you and prevent you from getting to know the locals.

– IOL

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