Some people, when they first arrive in the United States, say that Americans are very friendly, but after living in the United States for a while, they change their minds. One international student explained that when he first came, people were very friendly. They helped him to get settled, took him shopping, invited him for dinner, and called to see how he was. After two or three weeks, however, they stopped doing these things, and he was confused and disappointed.
Americans tend to do what is necessary to help people when they first arrive. They "go all out" doing many things to help the others get settled and often make the new arrivals feel like a part of the family. The newcomers expect this warm hospitality to continue in the form of a solid friendship. However, Americans expect that once people are settled and have been here a few weeks, they will begin to do things for themselves and become independent.
Like other aspects of culture, friendship is perceived differently in various parts of the world. In this section, we will discuss friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. As we discuss friendship in the United States, compare it with friendship as it is practiced in your culture. Share this information with your classmates.
Friendships Across Cultures
Idioms and Expressions
Here is a list of common idioms and expressions used in the United States to describe friends and friendship. Can you explain what each means? Do you have similar expressions in your language?
Now list idioms and expressions associated with friendships in your language. Translate them into English and then share them with the class.
The word friend in the United States has a broad meaning, including everyone from a casual acquaintance to a long-time best friend. The following chart describes some of these levels of friendship.
Exercise #1: Describe the type of relationship people in your country have with:
Exercise #2: Are there other categories of friendship in your culture? Please explain. Share this information with fellow class members.
Exercise #3: Now that we have discussed friends and the different levels of friendship, take a few minutes to think about your friends at home in your country. Working in pairs, find out from your partner the answers to the following questions:
Material taken from Culturally Speaking by Rhona Genzal and Martha Cummings, Harper & Row, 1986