Dress to Impress
Everyone knows first impressions are important, so be sure to brush your teeth, comb your hair, and generally look together. If you look like you’re trying to hide in your clothes, no one is going to try and approach that bubble. Wear bright colors, smile, put on some lipgloss, whatever makes you feel your best. Look like you have a delicious secret, and everyone will want to know what it is, and more importantly, who this secret-holder is. People are predisposed to different colors, and depending on where you are, they might mean different things, but if you stand out a little from the crowd, and look like you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll be a step ahead.
While you can probably find something in common with almost anyone, to make fast friends, stick with people who have similar interests as you. So, if you’re a wine freak, it’s probably not advisable to go sit by the kids drinking Three Buck Chuck. Instead, mosey over to the group of people huddled around the specialty wine list. This is not to say if people look interesting even without a common denominator you shouldn’t talk to them, just that you’ll have an easier time with those who you know you already have a common interest with.
Practice Makes Perfect
I’m more an off-the-cuff person, so I usually just talk until I find something with others, but if you’re shy or a little nervous about your foreign language skills, study up! Learn some neighborhoods, or at least about the one you’re staying in, and do a little research on what the region or city is known for. Don’t be a guidebook, but showing that you have genuine an interest in the people and city is always appreciated.
Location, location, location
Okay, so you look hot, you’ve done your homework and now you just need friends. Where do you go? I like to stay in hostels when I travel because it’s cheap, you’re already surrounded by like-minded travelers, and there’s usually a bar or pub either in the hostel or close. Especially when traveling alone, this is a great way to meet people to take day tours or split a taxi with. Your bunkmate might be a rollerskating champion an avid fire dancer or studying to be a epidopterologist. A word of warning though, bring earplugs if you like to go to bed and get up early. Most hostels are awake until about three or four in the morning, and not so bustling at even of eight am.
If you’re moving to a new city, you still have lots of options. You can by all means go to the hostel bar and meet people who are new. A walk around your new digs will hopefully reveal some local restaurants and shops. Look for the crowd you want and where they go. Follow that girl with the banana yellow handbag to see where she eats. Coffee shops, used bookstores and thrift stores are my first haunts in a new place. Even if you don’t drink, don’t rule out a laid-back bar to meet new people. A lot of people, especially travelers, visit pubs for socializing as much as drinking.
Flattery will get you Everywhere
People love being told they are awesome, so don’t be afraid to start a conversation by walking over to someone and mentioning how much you love their coke bottle glasses. Just be genuine about it and follow up with a comment or related question. Commiserating over terrible service at a bar can also work, just be careful because the bartender could be your potential friend’s cousin. If the first person you approach just doesn’t take the bait, don’t take it personally, just move on to a different section of the pub and try again. Read the people who look like they’re looking for a friend as well, and you should do pretty well. Once you start chatting, insert a “oh, by the way, my name is . . .” and they’ll reciprocate. Remember their name the first time they say it.
Let’s get together, Yeah yeah yeah
After you’ve chatted for a bit and feel like the conversation is going well, initiate a meeting. Especially if you’re staying for a while in a city, it helps to have a few consistent friends around. Ask them where their favorite place for dessert is and make a date for next Friday. Tell them to bring a friend or significant other if they like, which will hopefully net you one more friend without as much work as the first one.
Keep in Touch
Be responsible with your fledgling relationship. Call and initiate plans, don’t wait for them to do all the work. Be on time when you say you’re going to meet or call if you’ll be late. Listen carefully and remember the details about their life. With Facebook, Myspace, blogs and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch after you’ve left your destination. Even if you only spent a week or a few days with your new friends, keep a line of dialog open. You never know when you’ll be in their home city again, or when they’ll be traveling through yours. And who doesn’t want to have friends the world over?
How do you make friends in a new place?