I previously posted quite a lot on how to create virtual bonds for expats moving to a new place during the preparation phase. Now I am going to share how to meet real people, how to introduce yourself everywhere you can possibly make new friends and get good tips and recommendations for great services in your new town.
Since I just moved one month ago from Belgium to USA, New Jersey, I am going to focus on the American way of meeting new people and some basic communication “faux pas”. There is also one thing that is very typical American: If you live in the U.S. you are American, no excuse for expats who don’t know the rules!
!- DONT SAY YOU ARE SORRY if you have not offended anyone! I have a bad habit I got from working almost 10 years in Japan to say sorry as an introduction or when asking something at a store. Americans will consider you as weak. I some cases some people will eventually think they can take advantage of you and will give you a real reason to be sorry, especially service providers.
2-BE DIRECT AND COMPLIMENT: Although there are quite few unspoken rules like tipping for example, people in America are usually very straight forward. So introduce yourself first with your name and a “Nice Meeting You”, a firm handshake and a compliment. Say for example, “your hair style is amazing” or “your shoes look really great on you” or whatever is appropriate. Be sincere though avoid excessive flattering, usually the person will spontaneously give you their best kept secrets about their beauty salon or shops in your neighborhood. In general in conversation, people use a lot of superlatives: “Awesome”, “Great”, “Fantastic” are the three words I heard the most here. So use them without moderation.
3-TIPPING BEFORE AND AFTER for best service especially if it is your intention to ask something extra or become a regular customer. I put that tip in the networking section as I think this is quite specific and not real usual for some expats like Europeans or Asians. For example, the first day the movers came to my house 2 weeks ago, I was alone with 6 men and they were quick to say that it was impossible to move the sofa that was already in the house because it was not their responsibility in case of damages blah blah blah. So the first day, the sofa was not moved. Then at lunch they asked if I knew a restaurant that will deliver food at my house. I search on the internet a couple of options including the classic Pizzas and Chinese. Then they chose a place for take-out. I drove the boss to the restaurant and he told me he forgot his wallet and if I could lend him 50 bucks, I gave them to him and back at home he gave my money back. So far I did not know that I was guilty of major “faux pas” : #1: if you ask extras, give some money with your request, cash is king! #2: I should have paid the food, I thought providing plenty of fresh drinks was a nice thing to do but I did not get that they did not care about the food as long as I paid for it. As a result, with my “I am sorry”, my first day unpacking was quite tough. I only got those clues on the evening after discussing with my husband. So next day my husband gave the money to the boss and told him I will pay for the food and the movers became zealous! I went to the Burger King for the first time but there the guy who served us refused my tip saying he was the boss ! Quite complicated ! Tipping is mandatory in restaurants, taxis etc. as service is not included in the bill as it is in most European countries. As a rule give 15% to 20% if you found the service was good, 25% if excellent. Get a free tip calculator App for your iPhones, iPads or Androids.
4-BE A MEMBER OF YOUR LOCAL YMCA. YMCAs are not only providing sports facilities, fitness classes or swimming pools for adults and children at affordable prices, you will also find a lot of activities supporting the local community. For example our Somerset Hills YMCA is offering career forum and a Toastmaters Club I believe is a great place to build confidence in your networking skills. YMCAs are rooted in Christian values but people from all faiths and social status are members. If your children are going to the local public schools, this is a great place for them to meet friends and for you to meet their parents. I already met two women there very nice with kids same age and same grade than my son.
5- JOIN LOCAL SUPPORT GROUPS. If you want to meet in person other expats or people who share your interests search Meetup by key words and by distance from your home. Meetups are well developed in the USA and you will find everything and anything. Check also your local newspapers, register to the library and search for more on Linkedin groups or Facebook pages.
In America people are very casual and easy to talk to even perfect strangers in the street. So don’t be shy, I guess America is the easiest place to learn how to network effectively both for personal and professional reasons.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS ?