Students in big cities, especially international ones, often congregate together. This doubly applies if you’re from the same country—your fellow friends can be your “home away from home”. However, to make these gaggle of friends your sole friendship group may not be a good idea; here’s why.
On a fine August afternoon, my friend and I relaxed at a park and watched our fellow students mingle with each other. She suddenly remarked that a lot of them preferred to socialize with students of the same nationality; I agreed with her as we chatted away, thinking that it won’t happen to me or my social circle. Looking back, her quip would be incredibly relevant, almost prophetic, even. It quickly became what I like to call “old world blues”; a determined attempt to survive culture shock by sticking to what you know best, including friendships.
To move to another country asks many things from us, especially if you’re a student. You would be away from your support system and you’d be forced to face unfamiliar situations, often in socializing. Understandably, there is a need for a new support system of your own in this new, strange country! It’s all part of the adaptation process. These people understand your cultural quirks and inside jokes; you’d often feel as if you never left home at all. Bonds between people can grow from their shared home country and cultures, and often a friendship would form because of a cultural ‘click’ between one another. Interpersonal communication is much easier when you don’t have many cultural differences between all parties.
Welcome to the comfort zone
The problem appears when the new environment forces us to step outside our comfort zone. Defensive attitudes often arise, and the reluctance to socialize and get to know others increase. To keep the status quo, one would have to keep friends who are similar in worldview and culture. This further isolates us from making connections with others; we stagnate. As a result, one would feel reluctant to ‘compromise’ their beliefs and mindsets with a new, different friendship. And while a person can feel comfortable having the same perspective and attitudes they had before they moved here, it will soon be counterproductive.
Being surrounded by people who often hold the same principles and values as you do results in a status quo where people are supposed to understand you. While a person may be perfectly happy with what friendships they have, they will never grow unless they step outside their comfort zone.
It’s a brave new world
In the end, the first step toward better connections and more meaningful relationships lies in overcoming obstacles. A city like Amsterdam holds incredible amounts of potential; you are able to meet new people, and as a result, bond with people from all walks of life. This is enormously helpful as you may be able to increase your worldview and experience the positive differences between you and your friends. To let go of an exclusive clique and to slowly but surely branch out is far more healthy in the long run, and allows you to finally get rid of those old world blues.
Cover: Death to Stock/Mark Forbe / Final Editor: Ivo Martens