• Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 07, 2010 9:41 AM GMT
    I've always been a decently social guy, but lately I'm having some real trouble developing a social circle. I spent most of my adult life happily living in Seattle and then uprooted and moved to Belgium last year because I wanted a change, but when I imagined change I was thinking more like a kind of background-scenery-romantic change and not so much the alien-landed-on-new-planet kind of change I got.

    A few problems:

    -the general European look of disdain: I didn't realize before I moved here how many Europeans think we smile too much. I also didn't realize how much they really don't seem to. A guy in my class says that Americans do smile too much and that here guys are more reserved. That reservedness makes it especially difficult to be outgoing. I'm naturally shy but decently friendly to strangers, so something here has got to give.

    - I defy anybody, no matter how long you have ever taken a language class, to ever be able to parry nuance of phrase in a foreign tongue or understand any more than about half of what is going on in any moderately loud gay bar in this country.

    - Nobody at my job is gay, so far as I can tell, but the straight guys here are kind of fence-sitting on the gaydar, so it's real tough to tell.

    -I've got my 'anglo friends,' who I speak English with, but that is cheating and I want to assimilate better. I want to mingle with the local wildlife more.

    Any creative, useful ideas to get me out there more? I'm battling my shyness here, but I've got to assimilate!
  • jlly_rnchr

    Posts: 1759

    Apr 07, 2010 11:18 AM GMT
    That's such a huge change of scenery, kudos to you for having the balls for something like that. I wish you luck and hope you start enjoying yourself more, though I have no advice.

  • DanOmatic

    Posts: 1155

    Apr 07, 2010 11:56 AM GMT
    The social code in that part of Europe puts the burden on the newcomer to make the first move in introducing himself. I lived for extended periods in Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and in all cases it was made very clear that I was expected to take the initiative to make acquaintances--which isn't easy, even if one is fluent in the local language(s) (which I am). In the US it's typically the other way around: we expect that others will make the effort to introduce themselves to the newcomer. In other words, don't expect the Welcome Wagon to roll up anytime soon. On the upside: friendships, once established, tend to be deeper and more genuine in European cultures than in the US, where we tend to consider loose associations as "friendships".
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 07, 2010 1:10 PM GMT
    Learn to be gregarious (that doesn't mean flamer). Think campaign trail.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 07, 2010 2:00 PM GMT
    Not to say it's hard to get jokes in foreign langage, either you don't understand them, or react too late, so people assume your lack humor ;-)

    But you should know that beglians have the reputation to be the some of the nicest and most friendly europeans.

    Yes, you have to adjust to different social interaction (shaking hands, no hug etc...), but it's something you will get fast.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 07, 2010 5:11 PM GMT
    Since I moved to Honolulu, I've experienced a similar dynamic, shyshortguy. I too am outgoing, friendly, and generally do not have challenges meeting new friends.

    I have found that getting involved with local gay activity groups (i.e. sports, card games, hiking) is a great way to get to meet people who share a similar interest. It gets a bunch of people together who at least have one thing in common, then you can take it from there.

    Also, I've found that doing volunteer work with organizations that bring members of the gay community together also provide the same benefit.

    Finally, there are certainly culture differences that need to be understood so that you can bridge the gaps between local culture and the cultural lens which we bring to the new place. "Kiss Bow or Shake Hands" by Morrison/ConwayBorden, is a great book that addresses various dimensions of the cultures of over 60 countries. It's a great entre into understanding your host country's culture.

    Keep reaching out! Somebody will eventually reach back!

    Aloha and Be Well!

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 07, 2010 5:23 PM GMT

    Having lived in half a dozen or so countries over 17 years, I got some practice at making social connections in places where I was a foreigner. Forcing yourself to do everything you can in the local language is a great start. Also, making at least some effort to fit in when it comes to local social custom is ise as well. You just need to accept that you likely never drop some of things that will mark you as an American (nor should you). For most people part of what makes outsiders attractive and interesting are the subtle signs that they are foreigners.

    I usually found that seeking out groups that might be interested in things I am interested in - photography, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, etc helped a lot.

    One particularly useful group of people to seek out are locals who are married to foreigners. They are, for obvious reasons, used to dealing with outsiders, but they also have local friends and family. Another rich vein is often journalists - local or foreign. In my experience they know lots of people, are usually open-minded and, if you have any use to them at all for any kind of story, are doubly willing to spend time with you.

    Best of luck.
  • ursa_minor

    Posts: 566

    Apr 07, 2010 7:08 PM GMT
    calling all Belgian RealJockers! time for a Euro-meet-up