Making Friends in the US

Me at Mount Lemon, Des 30, 2017.

Since I started auditing Japanese 101, I’ve been thinking about this. How do people make friends in the US? I’m taking this class with the undergrads. We meet every day from Monday to Friday, but I can’t see how we (or they) can make friends. I can say that we are classmates, but I don’t think we’re friends. How can it be? I mean, even with my friends in the graduate program, even though we don’t always take the same classes or meet every day, I know that we’re not just merely classmates or cohorts; we are friends. So I wonder how come I am not friends with these undergrads albeit meeting them every day? :/ Is it because I’m a graduate student? Is it because I’m from a third-world country? Is it because I’m a Muslim – wearing hijab? Oh, no, here I go again. No, I’m sure it’s not because of it. It’s just that people make friends differently here.

Thus, one of my American friends came to my place the other day and so I told her my feelings about this. She says I do not need to wonder since I’ve known how American cultures are. Well, yes, it’s somehow different from Indonesian cultures. I understand this. But sometimes it’s still hard to comprehend. When I was doing my undergraduate study in Indonesia, I can say that I made friends with almost everyone in my classes, in my department, of the same cohorts. We even keep in touch until now. Well, not everybody is close to each other, some are closer to certain friends. It’s common. You have friends, you have close friends. But here? Gosh, I can’t figure out the friendship among my undergrad classmates.

Sometimes I wonder if I could just say, “Can we be friends?” But that would be creepy and cringey, right? That’s not how we make friends. Besides, people will misunderstand. That line is usually said when people are trying to start or make a romantic relationship, which is not the case here. I imagine myself saying that to people in my Japanese class, wow, that would be so embarrassing 🤦🙊🙈😂😂😂😅✌ When I told my friend about it, she also laughed. She even jokingly suggested that I say something like, “Hey, can we study together for the quiz/test?” in exchange. LoL That would be the same; it’s cringey. So, really, I don’t see how I can be friends with these undergraduates. We just come to the class and become partners during the in-class practice. We don’t even talk before the class begins! Gosh, this is kinda wrong. I mean, if we are to learn Japanese culture, then that’s not how it is supposed to be. That’s not how it is when I watched those Japanese movies, dramas, or animes about school life in Japan. Students do talk and are noisy before the class starts. Then they become quiet when the teacher starts the lesson (except if it is an “exceptional” class where the students are portrayed as problematic, rebellious, or “naughty”). But here people just keep quiet. So quiet it feels so awkward. But then, it is one of the reasons I don’t come to class way too early. I always try to come around 5 minutes or less before the class starts. So yeah, even though I appreciate the silence, sometimes I just can’t stand it. You are there in the class, sometimes the teacher is there but it’s not the time yet, sometimes the teacher is not there yet, but you don’t talk to the person next to you; you don’t laugh; you don’t make jokes; you don’t talk about the lessons; you just stay quiet or busy with yourself or your phone. Gosh, I can’t stand it. You can spare me.

But then, maybe because it’s a language class. Not everyone in that class has the same major. Not everyone is of the same cohorts. Some are from Biology, Physics, Nursing, etc. Some are freshmen, sophomore, junior, etc. So yeah, maybe that’s why they are not friends with each other. But then I asked my Malaysian undergraduate friend about her classes and her cohorts in the same major, and she says that they don’t really make friends either. It’s driving me crazy. It’s just weird.

But then my friends say that Americans usually make friends by going to a party, join a sorority or fraternity, or such. Oh, well, fine. I’m not really a party or sorority girl, so I guess I can’t really make friends that way 🙈😅✌

But yeah, every culture has pluses and minuses. Many Americans are so individualistic and independent. Many Indonesians are caring too much and love to mind others’ businesses or private lives. But, well, sometimes I imagine the worst here. I live in a studio apartment. Alone. It’s not that I’m lonely or what, I do love my freedom living alone. But I just imagine, what if I die and nobody knows? We barely know our neighbors. Nobody knows what each other is doing or with whom they are hanging out or where. We simply don’t check on each other. What if I’m that suicidal type? I get depressed and commit suicide and nobody finds out until my corpse is rotten? What if I accidentally cut myself while cooking, or slip on the bathroom floor and accidentally bang my head on the wall, lose consciousness, bleed, and die? Well, I know I’m being dramatic and hyperbolic here, but just imagine one of them happens. Nobody will know. Even my Indonesian friends or Indonesian families or community here might find out too late. They might contact me, I won’t answer, they’ll think I’m just busy with school, doing my assignments and stuff. And by the time they think it’s unusual of me to be like that, they’ll come to my place just to find…my dead body. Isn’t it sad?

Well, I’m not trying to make you worry. I’m just being dramatic. I’m sorry. I have no intention to commit suicide, don’t worry. But I imagine, even if it doesn’t happen to me, what if it happens to somebody else? Being individualistic, independent, minding one own business is good, but sometimes it’s also scary. Then, imagining all of this, suddenly I appreciate people back at home more and more. Even though sometimes they ask annoying questions, but maybe, if the same thing like above happens, somehow I’ll still be saved…

But, well, I guess I’m straying way too far from my topic of Making friends in the US🙈😅✌ My apologies 🙏🙏🙏

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