If you, dear reader, are a typical extravert who never lets a day go by without meeting at least a couple of new people, you probably won't need this article.
If, however, you are one of the many individuals who aren't quite so straightforward, and who nonetheless wish to be able to meet new people, even when you are travelling in a country whose language you haven't yet mastered, then read on: you might pick up a few very useful ideas!
When I first travelled to Europe, only 18 years old, I couldn't speak any language besides English. On my second trip, about a year later, I had learned a bit of German, but not nearly enough to have a conversation. A few years after that, having taken many more German classes in college, I moved to Germany and attended a language school, yet still could not speak German very well (I only learned to really converse after living with a German family for six weeks, but that came a bit later).
During all of these trips, I was determined to meet people, since I knew absolutely no-one in the places I visited. The big question, of course, was, how was I going to make new acquaintances if I had no friends to introduce me to others?
As they say: "Where there's a will, there's a way."
Now, I'll be honest: I was mainly interested in meeting girls. Sure, it was great to meet guys, too, since it's always nice to make new friends. But girls were my main focus.
Naturally, I could have just hung around in bars, approached an object of interest, and tried to use some corny pick-up line pieced together using a dictionary. But as many of you know, such tactics often fail miserably, even if you speak the language fluently. The reason for the inefficiency of this method is that most girls have heard it all before, and are wary of strange guys trying to hit on them.
No - I was determined to do it differently. No run-of-the-mill methods for me. After all, if you have the ability to think, why not use it to come up with better ways of achieving your goals?
In this article, I will give you some of the methods I actually used, and that have a very good chance of getting you the same results. Of course, if you are a girl, you may wish to modify them, but then, girls often have it easier where meeting people is concerned, so it's up to you to judge how much you need these suggestions in the first place.
When you go to another country, especially if you are there to learn the language, and wish to meet people, you must first of all make sure that you have the correct attitude. And THAT attitude, friends, is this:
"Now that I am in X (replace the "X" with France, Germany, Spain, Japan, or whatever country you happen to have chosen), I have an incredible opportunity to make new friends, or even find a lover, and this is essential for me if I truly wish to master the language. Therefore, I will meet new people no matter what, for that is my top priority."
Memorize this sentence. Repeat it to yourself for five minutes every day. Internalize it.
Note that the sentence does not contain thoughts such as "I would surely like to get some friends, but I'm shy..." or "I hope I'm lucky enough to make new friends".
NO. There is no room for timidity, nor for relying on blind luck, in your life now. You MUST build up a circle of friends. Naturally, though, you want to do it in a way that has a good chance of success, and that doesn't make you look like a complete fool!
But do understand the truth of the maxim: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained": you must, and will, TAKE ACTION to achieve results.
And now, after a rather lengthy (though perhaps necessary) introduction, here are some methods that I myself used, and that have an excellent chance of working for you, too.
I used this one a number of times. Simple, low-risk (meaning that there is practically no chance at all that it will make you look foolish), yet often effective.
Find out where the main post office (for example) in the city/town is. Walk to a crowded area of the city that is down the street from it, about 400 to 500 metres away. Check out the people passing by, those who are walking in the direction of the post office.
When you spot someone you would like to meet, approach that person, and ask them where the post office is. Because they are walking towards it, there is a very good chance that they will not only point out the direction, but will invite you to walk along with them. If they don't, but seem friendly, simply keep walking next to them, saying something or another to try to start a conversation.
Of course, if you know some of the local language already, you should definitely ask them about the post office in that language. If not, you can always try your English, but then, do keep in mind that friendships that begin in a certain language have a tendency to remain in that language, so an acquaintance you strike up using English may never help you progress in your new tongue.
Oh, and make sure you are carrying a letter with you when you try this one out. It'll make your line seem more believable, and in addition, the letter can serve to add more content to the conversation: you can ask the person how much postage is necessary for a letter of that size, whether it's OK to write "United States" in English in the address, or if it must be in the language of that country, or any other stupid little detail you can think of.
I know that many young people like to go to discotheques to meet others, but I never liked that sort of atmosphere, mainly because it is much too loud for comfortable conversation, and verbal exchange is my forte. One of my favorite quotes of Voltaire: ."Donnez-moi une minute pour faire oublier mon visage grâce à ma conversation, et je pourrai séduire la reine de France." Translated: "Give me a minute to use conversation to distract her from my face, and I'll be able to seduce the Queen of France." Not that I have any complexes about my face, but you should never underestimate the power of effective conversation to achieve your ends!
I therefore always preferred more intimate settings, tea shops for example (a coffee shop would be just as good, of course; I just don't happen to like coffee).
Go to the shop, order a coffee or whatever, take a seat, pull out a book in the local language and start to read. Make sure you have a dictionary, BUT it should be a dictionary that does NOT have a great selection of words. Why? Well, before you go to the shop, you're going to find - in a better dictionary - some word that you've run across in the book you're reading that does NOT appear in the smaller dictionary. As a matter of fact, it should preferably be a word that you suspect not many people would know at all. (I used this trick in Spain; the word I chose was "ineluctable". This word is written the same in Spanish and English. The truth is, I did know what it meant, but I suspected that most people would not, and I was right.)
When you see someone - or even better, a small group of people - in the shop that you'd like to meet, approach them with this line:
"Excuse me, but I thought maybe you could help me out. I was reading this book, and found a word that isn't in my dictionary. Could you tell me what it means?" Point out the word to them.
Now, you may ask why you should choose a word that they probably do not know. After all, how can they explain it to you if they themselves don't know it? Well, if none of them know it, they will probably get into a conversation about it, each one speculating about its possible meaning (that's exactly what happened when I used this method on a group of three girls and one guy). This is just what you want, for now, their entire conversation is focused on a topic that you started, and in which you will of course be naturally included!
This trick made me several very good friendships; although they didn't lead to any romantic involvements, they lasted for years.
It was a snowy month of December, in Passau, Germany, way back in 1976. I had been there for a little over a month, studying at the local Goethe Institut. I got on a bus to go to class, and saw three girls talking; one of them was really hot! Yet my German conversational level still wasn't very good, and I didn't have the nerve to just go up to them and start talking, right there in the bus...
I saw that the object of my interest was wearing a coat with a hood that she had pulled off, leaving it hanging at the back. This gave me an idea...
I took out a pen and a scrap of paper, and wrote this on it: "Schreib mir mal! (Write to me!)", then my address at the school. When my stop came, I walked past her, and discreetly dropped the paper into her hood; as I passed her, I looked at her and smiled, then got off the bus.
Two days later I received a letter from her...
Was this merely a lucky break, or could such a trick work for you, too?
Well, let's look at her situation from a psychological perspective.
What did she perceive? A young guy walking past her, and smiling at her before getting off the bus. Nothing so terribly unusual. But then, when she got off the bus and put her hood on, that paper fell out (or perhaps she didn't find it till she got home - no matter). Then she no doubt started thinking:
"Who put that in there? Could it have been that guy who smiled at me, or was it somebody else?"
Ah, I had awoken her curiosity! And stuck in that situation, not knowing who put that note in her hood, how could she NOT be curious, and want to find out if it had indeed been I? She couldn't resist writing to me, and we were soon friends. (Well, there was a bit of romance involved, also, but since I left Passau less than two weeks later, things didn't get a chance to develop much).
Find a Jehovah's Witness handing out free copies of their "Watch Tower" magazine in the local language. Kindly accept a copy, with a word of thanks. Walk to another area, start to look through the magazine, then approach someone, look perplexed, and ask her (or him) what this magazine is that someone handed you on the street.
If the person you ask is not a Jehovah's witness (and they are in the minority, so it isn't likely), she will probably smile, or even laugh, and begin to explain... the conversation has begun! It is important here that you do look a little confused/perplexed, for if not, your asking them will not seem very natural.
This method, of course, is for people who can speak a little of the language, but not much, the reason being that if you can speak it well, you can obviously understand enough of the magazine to know what it's about, and wouldn't have to ask anyone in the first place.
Number 5: This one can help you meet a lot of people, yet it has one drawback (as will be pointed out).
Make and print out a sign, say a third of a DIN-A4 page in height, with a text something like this:
"American guy (or Australian girl, or whatever you happen to be), 22 years old (or whatever) wishes to have a language exchange with a Spanish person (or German, French, depending on the country you're visiting). This will be a great chance for both of us to improve our language skills! Contact me here: phone number, email (or whatever)"
If possible, include the URL of your webpage, or Facebook profile, if you want.
Format your ad so that there are at least three of them on a single page, leaving enough space between them to separate the three ads by cutting. This saves money, since you can make 3-4 signs for the price of a single copied page. Go to a copy shop and have, say, 100 pages printed up, and ask if they can cut the pages so that in the end, you have 300 or 400 copies (assuming you have 3 or 4 signs on each page).
Now, you may think that making five or ten copies will be enough, but do not limit yourself to such a small number,. After all, depending on where you hang it up, the cleaning ladies might rip it down within an hour or so. You should therefore hang up as many signs as you can, and in a number of buildings. Hey, if you see someone who looks friendly, simply walk up and hand her/him the ad!
Buy some adhesive tape (in one of those larger holders that make it easier to break off a piece of tape) and take a walk around the local university. Put up several of these small ads on each and every bulletin board you see in every building/department of the university.
I guarantee you that you will have people contacting you within a day or two. The only disadvantage is that for every hour you speak their language with them, you will have to invest an hour speaking your language as well. But is that really so bad?
Instead of trying to make 10 or 20 language-exchange contacts this way, I would recommend that as soon as you meet 2 or 3 people that you get along with quite well, you should not accept any more for the time being. Instead, cultivate your relationships with the 2 or 3 people you get along with, and try to meet THEIR friends: surely they will have some friends who do not know your language, and you can then concentrate on speaking only your new language only with these other people.
This method is so powerful that it may be the only one you'll ever need. Nonetheless, at least for me, it wasn't as much fun as some of the other methods I've described!
Here is one that I never tried, because when I was young, there was unfortunately no internet. But I am sure that it would work, and am therefore telling you about it. The advantage is that since you use a Facebook profile, people can see you before contacting you; it makes it more personal. Naturally, you might well want to create a new facebook profile, one that is based on another email address, and perhaps a nickname instead of your real first name, so that if any weird people contact you, you can eventually cancel the new Facebook page. You will use the new Facebook page exclusively for meeting people in the country you're visiting.
Basically, it is a variation of number 5, but will not necessarily require that you do a language exchange.
You will make up a sign, just as described, but the text will be different, and should, if possible, be in the local language, not your own. The following is an example (substitute nationality, sex, etc., depending on who you are.)
"French guy, 21 years old, student of chemistry, will be spending the next month here in Germany, and would love to meet people studying chemistry, or any other of the sciences, for some great conversation and socializing. See my Facebook page at ....,
email me at: , or simply give me a call. Phone number......").
Have them printed, and cut into individual signs, then hang up as many as you can in the school of science at the local university. The advantage of this method if twofold:
1) You will not have an obligation to do a language exchange
2) You will attract people who are interested in the same things you are.
I have reserved this method for last place, since it does require some courage. But there are times when it is worth taking chances in life! Girls might not want to use this one, and perhaps they shouldn't. But for you guys, though it may seem daring, believe me, it can work (at least it did for me when I tried it, though, truthfully, it was only once).
Beware, though, that this one isn't just about making a friend, or finding a girlfriend. It's about picking up a girl as soon as possible. I'm sorry if this type of thing offends the sensitivities of some of my readers (females in particular), but hey, I'm an honest guy, and let's face it: men want to chase after, and catch, girls. That's the way it's always been, and is almost surely the way it always will be, so let's forget all that "politically correct" nonsense for the moment: may the hunt commence!
You are at a pub, or a bar, perhaps where there is a party going on. Everyone is pretty happy, no doubt because they've all been drinking. You yourself might want to take more than a few swigs of your favorite alcoholic beverage, just enough to feel daring, but not so much as to seem obviously drunk.
Visually pick out a girl you like. This should be one who has smiled at you at least once. Of course, if she has already smiled at you, you could easily get into a conversation, plan to meet her another day, and gradually build up a romance. But let's assume your situation is like mine was when I tried this: you will be leaving that city the next day, and don't want to waste any time. If you can't get this girl, you will settle for another one, but you definitely would like to have a memory of a night of passion to take along with you when you leave town.
You simply walk over to the girl, and when you are facing her, you say, with just the hint of a smile on your face:
"I've never approached anyone like this before, but with you, I'd never forgive myself if I didn't make an exception. I simply must have you. Where can we go?"
Okay, I know what you're thinking: "This one's way over the top! It'll never work!"
But as I mentioned earlier, the one time I tried it, it did work.
Consider the situation from her perspective: she's probably had a lot of guys using stupid pick-up lines, or trying to get into some meaningless conversation, while she knew all along that what they really wanted was sex. But you are different, my friend. Sure, you want sex, too, but you don't fool around with kid's stuff. You know what you want, and have the honesty and courage to come right out and say it. You have mentioned that you've never said this to anyone before, and she will want to believe that (what girl doesn't want to feel special?).
It is quite possible that she will be swept off her feet by such a daring attitude on your part, and if you say it with a tone of total self-confidence (by all means use a confident tone, even if you're not so sure of yourself; this is essential!), you will seem like a man among men. And best of all for her, this adventurous, confident, brave guy has chosen HER from among all the girls present to spend the night with!
Now, of course it's possible that she won't go along with it. Here are some possible reactions you may get:
1) She laughs, though most likely not at you: she is laughing because she is embarrassed, because she doesnt know how to react to such directness. Don't weaken here: smile slightly, but keep looking at her with interested intensity. Say something like: "I understand if you don't want to accept, but I'm not joking. You are somebody special, I could see that when I first saw you, and life is too short to waste time!"
Even if she doesn't accept, she will most probably keep talking to you. Don't talk a lot about yourself. Ask her about HERSELF, and keep her talking. She might not have accepted your proposition yet, but may well do so before the evening is over.
2) She gives you a look that says "You creep! Get lost!" This is not very likely, but if it does happen, take it in stride. To save face, smile and say something like: "Hey, you can't blame a guy for trying! Have a nice evening! " and walk away. DO NOT insult her. Why not? Well, because even if she disdainfully rejected your request, she might just tell some of her shapely friends at the bar about what you did, and one of THEM might find that fascinating, which means you may meet that friend before the night is over.
3) She merely smiles, and asks you why you would say such a thing. Now is the time to heap on the compliments: say that you could tell she was a special person, that she has that certain something, blah blah blah. Get a conversation going. Hey, she might not go to bed with you that night, but could turn into a friend that you can email, and maybe meet when you get back to that town...
4) She looks at you wide-eyed, and actually suggests where you can both go to get "better acquainted" with each other. This is NOT as unlikely as you think it is, so don't be surprised if it does happen! Do not, at this point, converse. Simply take her by the hand and leave the place, heading for her place, your place, a hotel, or wherever she suggested. The last thing you want to do now is ruin everything by talking! Enjoy the night, and in the months and years ahead, whenever you wax nostalgic and reminisce about that unforgettable, fantastic night of passion you had in a far-away country, remember that it was all thanks to the advice you received from
Yours Truly, David Bolton
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