Travel True Rotating Header Image

Culture Hack: How To Make New Friends Quickly

One of the most important linchpins in making sure your travel goes well is the ability to make new friends quickly. Some people just seem to have this ability naturally and others come off as terminally shy. There are some simple tricks and tips to building this skill, and here is one of them.

Making local friends on the beach

First, some background. Relationships generally fall into five stages, and progress forward through them. Different relationships max out at different points, but I bet you can classify all of yours into this list.

Stage 1: Small Talk

This is the “Nice weather we’re having” stage. You most likely know nothing about the other person, and don’t know if you want to. You don’t find out anything about the other person, and are just seeking common ground.

Stage 2: Medium Talk

“Seen any good movies lately?” is a good start. You are actually venturing into finding out some light preferences about each other, but staying away from anything controversial, as you are still seeking common ground.

Stage 3: Big Talk

“Can you believe what the President did last week?” Politics, Religion, Sex, Money. These are where controversy lie, and where true friends and enemies are made. This is the first stage that has any risk of someone disagreeing with you, and the first one that has a real payoff in connection.

Stage 4: Emotions

“It really hurt when she said that.” “I’ve never been so excited in my life!” This is when we finally start revealing our emotions, the parts that make us vulnerable. We don’t want to share these with just anyone, and typically some level of privacy is necessary.

Stage 5: Disclosure

These are our most private thoughts and feelings. Our secret hopes and most painful regrets. This requires high levels of trust and openness, and is where true intimacy is formed. Most people only have a few people in their life at this level, and some people don’t have anyone here.

Kachunk kachunk kachunk kachunk...

Now that we have a good background, it’s time for the hack. In many parts of the world, the USA included, people start out at phase 1 and slowly move forward as common ground is established. Moving forward without common ground is considered an unnecessary risk, and if a negative response is expected, people retreat to the previous, safer stage. In these cases, conflict is seen as something to avoid at all costs, and relationships are kept distant to ensure that.

This ensures a society where people get along, and one where loud argumentative conversations don’t disrupt dinner. However, in other parts of the world, being able to argue your beliefs without taking things personally is a sign of having an education, and is reached much more quickly to establish that as common ground, regardless of personal beliefs. This is much riskier, and can lead to losing relationships before they even start.

Which is exactly what you want to do. If you jump ahead to step 3, you immediately expose yourself to vulnerability and risk the person disagreeing with you. It may seem forced and a bit shocking at first, but you may be surprised how often people will jump right there with you if you give it a shot.

For example, imagine that you are talking to someone you just met, and while talking about families, they bring up a parent that just recently died through traumatic circumstances. Odds are you will immediately open up to them in response to the vulnerability they showed, rushing to match their level quickly. This simple moment just skipped multiple stages into a deeper relationship, and it’s completely against the grain in America.

Never lie to seem like you are exposing more, and definitely don’t cheapen things that should have weight in your life by telling them like they don’t matter. Just relax the censor that says you shouldn’t expose your vulnerability and treat people like you’ve known them longer than you have. Soon it will seem like you really have known them for a long time, and you will have made a good friend quickly.

One word of warning, however. In countries where starting out at level 1 is the norm, people may take your jump to mean you are much more interested than you are. This can result in hurt feelings and leading people on. Be careful with this hack, and make sure that you don’t go around breaking hearts. You want amazing new friends, not a trail of disgruntled interactions.

Related posts:


  1. Steve Parker says:

    Chris, I came across your blog, interestingly enough, while trying to research possible methods of getting someone out of Vietnam with the assistance (or knowledge) of the Vietnamese authorities. (It’s a long story that involves the United Nations bungling the request for refugee status by a member of one of the Montagnard hill tribes that dwells in the Central Highlands of Vietnam who had fled to Cambodia to avoid political and religious persecution. They have been returned to Vietnam and are facing reprisals for having the guts to try to get out…)

    While I didn’t find an answer to my dilemna, I did find beautiful and inspired prose to describe the awesome adventure of life that you have undertaken. Reading it is immensely rewarding. Thanks for sharing it.

    Steve Parker

  2. Chris Dame says:

    Great to hear from you, Steve! I’m glad you enjoy the stories.

    Good luck with your situation. There are always answers, and it looks like you are already dedicated to finding them.

  3. dylancoyle says:

    i forget where but Michael Moore was talking about how he noticed that when people met each other in san francisco they normally had a standard story of Disclosure they would share when becoming instant friends. He was being critical about it, but it is a great hack and definitely part of what makes The City so special and the people so friendly!

  4. Chris Dame says:

    Ooh, very interesting take, Dylan. I’m more one to find a relevant story from my history what’s going on, which may arguably be more effective, but having a stock story might be a great way for someone who is getting started.

    Putting yourself out there is risky, and typically deserves admiration. Having a stock story that displays this might reduce some of the risk for the teller, which is a big step.


Leave a Reply