Volunteering abroad is not only a great way to experience new cultures but can also be a way to make new friends from across the globe.
When you volunteer abroad for the first time, preparing for the culture shock and new environment can be a bit daunting, not to mention the fear of not being able to make friends or understand the rest of the volunteers in your group. And while, at first, it might be a bit frightening to go off to a foreign country on your own, we provide a few tips to help new volunteers make friends quickly and easily when you volunteer abroad.
Smile, laugh, and express interest
As a volunteer you will be assisting with support for children from impoverished areas but that is no reason to be sad! By smiling and laughing you will not only help the children have some fun, but also find it easier to socialise with the other volunteers. People who smile frequently are every so often perceived as being more approachable and fun to be with, helping to break the ice and tension in initial introduction when all volunteers get together for the first time. By also being genuinely interested in what is being said by fellow volunteers and locals alike will make others comfortable to share with you which will help with our next tip – small talk.
Make small talk
The weather in Cape Town is frequently changing so you’ll always have something to talk about! Known as the city with ‘four seasons in one day’ it will be easy to talk to the other volunteers about something you all have in common. Small talk also don’t need to be as inane as the weather. By talking about where your fellow volunteers are from you will not only get to know them as potential friends, but will be able to learn about new cultures other than those of your host country.
Popular local areas and events
Making friends also don’t need to be limited to your fellow volunteers from your volunteer organisation but can include the locals and residents from your host country. Making friends with local residents will help you keep in touch and with the rise of social networking you will be able to keep in touch with your friends and with your volunteer organisation to fully be able to see the full impact your volunteering has had on the community. Visit popular local areas and meet new people, getting you out of your comfort zone and let you experience the culture first hand. Popular areas include local restaurants and hotspots, sports events and special events. Here you’ll be able to meet a lot of people with a common interest, making it easier to make new friends.
Learn a phrase in the local language
People take an interest to foreigners who are able to speak a few phrases in their local language. It breaks the ice and creates a connection between you and the local residents. South Africa has 11 official languages so nobody expects you to know a few phrases in every language, but a few words in Xhosa and Afrikaans in the Western Cape is sure to thrill a few children, especially if your pronunciation is incorrect. They will have a ball teaching you the correct pronunciation and will have totally forgotten that you are a foreigner. And if languages are not your strong point don’t stress, English is the most common business language and most South Africans would be able to understand and relate to you.
Find out how you can join Dreams To Reality’s volunteering program today and you could make new friends in South Africa and across the globe.