Here is a simple, easy-to-remember approach to making a friend with someone of another culture.
S = smile
A smile is the international way to show friendliness. It is your best first step. Best to keep your smiling man to man, woman to woman, so you don’t miscommunicate.
A = appreciate
Say something appreciative about the person, such as:
- I’m glad we are neighbors.
- It is great to see your family getting together
- That shirt/dress is beautiful. Is it from your culture?
N = name
Everyone loves to be known by their name. When appropriate, ask and remember the name of your new friend. If it is difficult, resist the urge to shorten it. Say, “I love your name and want to remember it. Could you say it again (or spell it)?” Don’t be afraid to write it down; that shows you really mean what you say. Remember the name for the next times you meet.
T = tea
Sitting and chatting over a simple cup of tea or coffee, with a biscuit, is an important step in deepening a friendship. Do this often, preferably in your home or apartment, although a neutral cafe is okay. Home hospitality invites your friend into your space, which helps build trust. If a visitor of another culture comes to your door, invite them in without question (not applicable to sales people necessarily).
A = ask
What do you talk about over tea? Ask your new friend to tell you about him/her self. There is an interesting story to hear. Do this more than once, for there is much to learn. You might ask:
- Where is home for you, and how are things there?
- What was your experience in coming to this country?
- What are your favorite traditions in your culture?
- How has this country been different than you expected?
- What do you hope to accomplish in coming years?
I encourage you to repeat the S.A.N.T.A. approach many times with your new friend. Each time you will deepen your friendship. In time you will be able to share your story. Showing interest in this way is so rare that you will be invited into your friend’s life and network. You will be amazed at how fulfilling this can be.
–Robert Rasmussen, NEAR FRONTIERS Executive Director