Making The Most of your Exchange Program - Making Friends Pt 2

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This hub is the second part to the hub Making The Most of your Exchange Program - Making Friends Pt 1.

3. Be discerning, and open to the local culture

If you come from a different culture, sometimes the local culture might seem really different to you. What you were brought up to disdain might be a way of self-expression in another culture, like tattoos, piercings....coloring of hair.... it is wise to learn about the local culture, so that you will know when an unfamiliar behavior is harmless, or when it is a red flag that you have to stay away from.

Even their method of greeting might be different from yours. A handshake? A kiss on the cheek? a wave? I remember drawing back when my friend's mother greeted me with a kiss. It was quite funny, although i think I embarrassed her. But after that I experienced I learned how to prepare and react to different ways of greeting, and she asked me at the end 'so can i give you a hug?'. Of course I said yes.

4. Know your boundaries, and stick to them

In many places, the drug culture is much more visible than what you may be used to. Be very careful learn quickly the type of culture this community might have if you do not want to mix with them. Drugs can be illegal too, and you need to know which kind of friendly advances you should be weary of. Trust me, the last thing you want is to come home with an addiction.

If you come from a more conservative culture, dating rules can be different. Know your limits before you indulge or engage in these activities, as it is harder to get out of a sticky situation when you are in it. Things like sexual promiscuity is also an issue that you will have to face. Have a clear stand. And don't be afraid to stand up in what you believe in. Surprisingly, although you might be afraid of being a prude, nerd, _______ (other derogatory names), people will come to respect you for your views. If you can express your stand without offending others, that will earn respect. I remember very respectfully asking some friends not to use explicit language in my presence, and after they realized that I was genuine uncomfortable with that although I still valued their friendship, they automatically stopped swearing in front of me.

When I was on exchange, I learned that people there had no qualms about drinking alcoholic beverages -it kept them warm during winter, and drinking was part of their culture. Where I came from, not many people in my circle drank, as we didn't want to be associated with alcoholism. Thus when I was on exchange, very naturally I was offered drinks (even from people who knew that I was underage). Being someone who did not know what my tolerance level was, I declined all offers. I waited till my birthday was over, and that i was legal, and I only drank in the presence of those whom I trusted completely - don't laugh, but we actually had a conversation before I turned legal about letting me try a little drink when I was legal just so I'd know how it tasted.

Being on exchange, time is short and each day precious. You choose who you hang out with. In my case, I was really blessed to find myself in a circle of wonderful people who I could enjoy, grow and love. If there was a secret to finding such lovely people, I'd say that it is to pray for a group of friends even before you reach your exchange destination, so that you can be intentional about finding them.

I'd love to hear from you, and I welcome comments!

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