Personal Space and Boundaries; making friends in USA
Most of the foreign students who come to the United States to study find out that the concept of friendship is not what they know, or not what they have been brought up to believe. They believe that Americans seem very friendly at in the beginning stage of friendship and then they sort o disappear. In my culture, people who don’t know each other don’t say “Hello, how are you etc.” to people they don’t know or they don’t get into conversation about the weather, or any other general topic with complete strangers. People only do these things with people that they know. That is why it is very surprising to foreign students when everybody on the streets smiles at him/her and try to make conversations with him/her. They often feel like saying “Do I know you?” or “ Have we met before?” , but they cannot do this as the American approaching them seem very friendly and so they answer in the same way, thinking that they will have lots of friends in this country. They misinterpret American friendliness as an offer for the friendship. However, when they are so happy that they have made a friend, all of a sudden a great disappointment sets in when they see him/her no more. They act like they are best friends, and the next time they run into each other sometimes the American does not even say “hello”, because she/he does not feel like it. While a foreign student might think of Americans as “superficial”, Americans in return may think of them as being cold, emotionally distant, and difficult to make friends with. We must accept that all of these difference rise from the nature of our country, what we understand from the term “friend”, how we are brought up, what we understand from personal space or personal boundaries, and our expectations from our friends. Firstly, let’s take the nature of our country: I mean in the Middle East or Europe people usually stay in the same place where they were born, find jobs, get married and have children all in the same place. Therefore, their ties with their families or friends are long lasting. A family may live in the same place, in the same town for several centuries; everyone knows everyone, and personal relationships develop gradually over time. For example in my country, even my grandmother or grandfather has friends for 50 years or more. They can still see their school friends. Whereas, here in America people may be forced to move many times in their lives mostly because of their careers. Maybe that is one of the reasons why they cannot have permanent friends. Look at the following paragraph. For the newcomer, America can be a lonely place at first. This is partly due to the career-driven and transitory nature of our society. One's career may force one's family to move many times to many different locales. Unlike more traditional cultures with strong extended family and long-term relationships, friendships are made and lost readily here. Some might find Americans superficial and even selfish. However, it is possible to make close friendships - it is just more difficult, depending on where you live. Social relationships in the U.S., by and large, revolve around one's career and hobbies, one's religion and one's cultural background. http://www.vidaamericana.com/english/friends.html An article at http://www.englishforums.com/English/OnFriendship/znmj/post.htm by Margaret Mead and Rhoda Metraux (1996) “On Friendship” dwell on the same issue: Few Americans stay put for a lifetime. We move from town to city to suburb, from high school to college in a different state, from a job in one region to a better job elsewhere, from the home where we raise our children to the home where we plan to live in retirement. With each move we are forever making new friends, who become part of our new life at that time. Margaret Mead and Rhoda Metraux also say that people from different countries have different expectations about friendship. For...
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