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40% of foreign students in the US have no close American friends on campus (qz.com)
416 points by pmcpinto 130 days ago | hide | past | web | 292 comments | favorite



It seems obvious that a huge (and hard to solve) reason for this is simply language! There are many levels of language proficiency:

   Level 1: Can read and write it at your own pace
   Level 2: Can comfortably converse in a professional setting (little slang or cultural knowledge needed)
   Level 3: Can comfortably converse in a social setting (slang, faster speech, less clarification)
   Level 4: Can do all of the above passively, being able to pick up valuable information just by overhearing conversation without focused metal effort
   Level 5: Ability to do all of the above in a noisy and hectic situation (like a party, sporting event, etc)
It's really, really hard to make good friends without getting to Level 4 or 5. I work with many people for whom English is a second language. At work they don't miss a beat and are great teammates. But it can fall apart in a social setting. Once there are 5 overlapping streams of conversation stuffed full of cultural references these coworkers of mine very frequently lose track of the conversation and become quieter and quieter over time.

I bet you'd find that this 40% number is much different for students studying abroad in a country where their native language is common. My US friends who moved to the UK or Australia had no problem making friends.


I'm not convinced that language is actually such an essential aspect. Cultural similarity seems like a much bigger one.

For example, I've seen Indians with great English struggle a lot more to fit in and acclimate than French students with poor English but more shared cultural touchstones. As an American, I've found it to be much easier to make friends with Europeans than with students from non-Western cultures—even after controlling for English levels.


I agree to this. As a Non western student I never had any American friends in Collage. After more than a decade living in the US I still don't have any. Primarily because I am introverted but culturally I care less about American sports and music (two big cultural domains).

Edit: Another important factor (at least during collage) is the financial one. As a student from a poor country I had far less financial resources to afford a life style that American students enjoy. For example, I couldn't afford to go out or have a Car.


Never studied in the US but on;

> but culturally I care less about American sports and music

Culturally I do not even understand this fascination with sports; we watch football (soccer) when there is some worldcup on and our country is playing but besides that the whole highschool quarterback and rooting for your teams all seems like wasted time to me. That might be cultural.

But I always turned that into a strength when making friends. If most people do something like watch sports or listen to music I do not like, I find the people that do not; those will be a niche. But I do not seek them out in obvious places with all likeminded people; when I go to AUS or US (and certainly when I was younger and looking for (girl)friends more) I go to sports bars and or clubs (where they will play music I do not like); in those places there will be 1-2 people like me that were dragged along or went along with their friends and who will be bored. Those end up talking with me and sometimes become good friends (two American ex girlfriends and many good friends, some I still do business with like that).


I am American and could care less about football, it does limit a lot of guy relationships if you don't care about watching sports. Playing sports is so much fun though, and a way better way to meet people.


Yes, it is all taste etc; I like doing sports (I don't like ball sports, but that's just taste); weights/martial arts etc and I still make friends that way. But watching... I just don't understand it, but I won't argue it either; it's just not my taste. It does prevent a lot of interaction though as so many Americans & Australians are fanatical about supporting / watching and I just do not get it at all. I go to my own bar when the EK/WK (europe cup/world cup) are on but I just pass out in boredom after 10 minutes. It's just a matter of taste; I end up outside talking with spouses that came with others who cannot watch either. It's fine. It's opportunity; got permanent clients for my business like that more than once like that.


For non-native English speakers:

“I could care less about $THING” and “I couldn't care less about $THING” mean the same thing. Each means that the speaker does not care about $THING.


I'm a non-American native English speaker and "I could care less.." confused me until I had it explicitly explained to me. I took it as some kind of inversion of "I couldn't care less" which I had heard plenty. It still doesn't make any sense (if you could care less, it's implicit that you care to some degree, right..?) but at least I get it now.


That's true. I couldn't care less about televised sports and professional athletes. Watching a game on T.V. feels like watching someone else's vacation videos. I'd rather get outside and do both activities myself.

That being the case, guy conversations that start out, "Hey, did you see the game last night?" typically end in awkward silence when I say, "No."


you do know that many Americans don't focus heavily on American sports and music? As someone who was born in the USA and raised, I have zero interest in sports. Music, I have a fleeting interest due to it's global acceptance.

Financially, not all Americans are rich or come from 2 income households. Alot of 18yr olds+ celebrate independence by moving out, taking a crappy local job at a fast food or retail and still, make American friends.

Introvertness isn't an issue, did you actually try? There are so many clubs that allow anyone to join and be friends. From meetup.com to local bookclubs.

But, we're also forgetting the big issue. Being American isn't like most countries in the world where you're born into a homogenous society. If you've lived more than a decade in the USA, and are a citizen, congratulations! You're a citizen, if any of your friends who aren't native born but also become naturalized, congratulations they're Americans!

Of course, I, know nothing of your background, so the above is all assumptions.

But, I felt like having to write this, as I wrap up spending 6 months in Japan.


"Introvertness isn't an issue, did you actually try?"

I don't think you understand introvertedness.


>> Alot of 18yr olds+ celebrate independence by moving out, taking a crappy local job at a fast food or retail

You may not know but as a foreign student you are not allowed to work outside campus. Those jobs are also limited and hard to get.


>After more than a decade living in the US I still don't have any. Primarily because I am introverted but culturally I care less about American sports and music (two big cultural domains).

I'm a white American guy. I don't give two shits about American sports (or any other sports for that matter). The very best you can do is talk me into watching hockey, maybe, but I haven't done that in years (and that's more of a Canadian sport anyway).

As for music, what kind? There is no "American music". People who like rap probably don't like country, and vice-versa, for example. Lots of Americans have zero interest in pop. When I was in college, I didn't like any of those three, only rock and metal. It did affect which friends I had at the time though. But rock and metal in particular aren't American, they're Western, as a lot of it comes from Europe and UK.

But yeah, it's kinda hard to keep a friend if you have nothing in common with them. And this doesn't just apply to relationships between people from different countries; even within the same country it makes it hard to find friends. Notice how divided rural and urban Americans are now, or how big the racial divide is between white and black people. And that's people who all grew up in America, speak the same language, etc. The cultural values are so different that they don't form many strong friendships across these boundaries.


Indeed. My experience as an Indian grad student in Seattle was a miserable one to say the least; now I think of Americans as pretentious jerks who spare no moment to talk about "diversity" & "equality" and all these things, when in reality they are biologically just as "racist" as the red-necks.

I realized after a while to understand that what people really meant (in practice) was only that they were against the public display of insult, that one ought to be treated with a modicum of politeness. After the pleasantries, most folk just ignored you as if you didn't exist (or would talk behind your back). Some folk stood out and were just outright obnoxious for no reason.

Oddly, I developed a dislike for meeting the same non-Indian people twice. Meh. I wasn't annoyed because of these differences - I do believe they're biological - but I wish the discourse was more rooted in reality, which would've led to me to make better choices. I may not like Trump supporters, but hey I think they're atleast being honest you know. I now think of liberals as being hypocrites who use words to break apart communities and atomize people (more true of India than the US - but that's another story).

This is not to say that Americans aren't decent people - that they are - but there is a lot of pretension in that society. India is by comparison more than tolerable on that metric (if you keep away from the Westernized lot).


About people being instantly friendly and then ignoring you later on, I've heard the exact same thing from french students in America. In France, people will generally be very polite upfront but not overly friendly. Friendship has to be build over time (nothing is valued more than decade-long friendships, it is the subject of many french movies). I think many other (western) European cultures are similar in that respect, so it might be an American thing (in the spirit "everything has to happen now or never").


Corporate America can be very friendly upfront and brutal to murderous once you're out of sight. It's not about race but position and how people decide to obtain and maintain it. In other situations they may not have spoken with you simply for lack of knowing what to talk about together. The first times a newcomer comes to any gathering they're usually quiet and less interacted with by the group. At least that's how I remember things going in school and gaming. Plus cities create their own brutishness over scarce resources.


If that were the case, then you should see Chinese international students hanging out with Japanese and Koreans.

But from what I've seen, the various East Asian groups don't interact much. And each group speaks their own native language.


I'd say that the cultural differences between Chinese and Japanese are easily as big as the cultural differences between Chinese and Americans or between Japanese and Americans. So, no they would not be hanging out between each other because of similarity of culture.

If it were the language barrier that was the issue then actually between Chinese and Japanese students while the spoken language is very different, they can sort of communicate between each other via writing.


This is consistent with my experience in college.

The alcohol doesn't care what language you speak.


It actually is but obviously varies from person to person and from one environment to other.

I am from Eastern Europe and did my degree in England. In the first year, I lived in university halls and out of 8 people in the flat (including me), 6 people were English. It was really really hard initially because I could understand only about half of what they were saying because of the accents, so it was hard to participate and much easier to just browse internet in my room.

However, I picked up the language really quickly since I was very often surrounded by native speakers so all was good at the end, just the initial couple of months were really tough.


Both are essential aspects. I certainly struggled a lot with the language back in my day, as a Russian studying in New Zealand.


It's the cultural proficiency that gets you.

By now I have probably spent 1000 hours learning (as part of a formal process), reading, listening, writing and speaking English. Probably a lot more, but let's go with that estimate. The actual language learning part was probably 20%, the rest was acquiring cultural references.

I'm trying to do the same for French, where I'm probably around level 2 or 3, and damn, I had forgotten how long it takes to "load the cart".

In my opinion, native speakers actually "become" "native" in a lesser degree because they were born to parents speaking that language and in a higher degree because they went through school in that language. All the basic lessons at school that everybody learns, all those initial social interactions, day in, day out, in the language they will use for the rest of the life.

It's a lot harder to squeeze those in later on, especially since the interlocutors become less and less accommodating.


I'm American, lived in Brazil for 8 years, became totally fluent in Portuguese, worked at a local company, etc.

After about 5 years, I realized that no matter how much vocabulary I learned, how perfect my grammar was, or how reduced my accent was -- I would never get the references to childhood cartoons, or any of another 1,000 things that came from growing up there. And it's actually crazy how much of casual conversation revolves around all these things.

And finally coming back to the States, it was all just so easy -- such a luxury to have a whole shared cultural history with people I'd hang out with, so many jokes to make, so much richness to the conversation. Social conversation felt "full" again.

That's what they never tell you when you learn a new language -- the language alone isn't enough.

Addition: the funny thing is, I have a lot of non-American friends who get all (or most) of the American cultural references, because so many of them revolve around TV/movies, and those are exported around the globe. So part of the American so-called "melting pot", I suspect, is helped by the worldwide ubiquity of our entertainment culture.


I can relate to what you're saying. I'm American, born to English-speaking parents. But my father worked for the US State Department, and I spent almost the entirety of my childhood overseas. We moved from country to country (mostly SE Asia), and each location had its own unique challenges and delights.

But. The most difficult move for me, by far, was the one that took us back home to the states. Suddenly, and for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people that all spoke a language I could understand. But I understood nothing of what they were saying! Every joke, every reference... I had no idea what anyone was talking about, and it was awful.

It took me many years to get to the point where I was able to at least recognise the references, even if I didn't experience the things referenced. I still feel like a foreigner most places I go.

I don't say this with any sadness or regret. I feel I gained more than I lost. I loved my childhood, and the lessons I learned. But some were more painful than others, and the lessons in the difference between linguistic and cultural fluency were some of the sharpest.


This is the reason I rent old videos of "Anpan man" (a Japanese cartoon for 2-4 year olds), etc. I learn karaoke from the 80's and 90's (and even enka!). But even still, after nearly a decade in Japan, most of my social connections are actually my wife's friends and family.

It is quite interesting, though. My biggest goal in learning Japanese was to make a friend who could not speak English. That's what led me down my path. I think without that focus, it would have been quite difficult. Also a bit strange that my first real Japanese friend was actually the person who became my wife. For the first 3 years, we spoke only Japanese, but now her English is so good that we hardly ever speak Japanese :-P


It is interesting that it is so much easier to make friends with someone where they is sexual interaction (not necessarily actual sex right now - can be the possibility of sex in the future). It's not something conscious but the attraction/chemistry seem to smooth over the cultural and language barriers.

Source: my own life and similar anecdotes to yours.


> "It's the cultural proficiency that gets you."

Yes. This one of many reasons doing extensive reading of easy texts, children's stories and then later consuming TV and radio is so important. So many learners tend to take the approach of making a giant deck of flash cards or using an app like Duolingo and never get that much authentic input.

Going to school is probably the surest way to ensure that you do get all of the above, though it's not the only way. In the future, VR will give learners the quantity of practice and input that the world just doesn't have the patience to.


Also, massive amounts of conversation with natives. It turns out that most people are more than happy to talk about their childhood reminiscences with a foreigner, or explain the complicated rivalries between their home town and the next town over.

Most people love talking about themselves; as a foreigner, you are in some ways uniquely equipped to be a good listener. Wherever you go in the world, you'll find lonely people who are glad of the company.


> the rest was acquiring cultural references.

Exactly as I was reading this sentence I heard someone use the idiom in English, "You're in the home stretch". A bit of a comical coincidence.


I have spent years living abroad and am utterly unconvinced by this argument.

The people who are easiest to befriend are not those with the best language skills, they are those with the same cultural (or sometimes religious) values. At least that has been a very consistent, reliable way of modelling this phenomenon of human behaviour in my travels.

A very obvious example is that alcohol is a large part of Western, and now, some Eastern cultures; but people whose religion and culture strictly abhores it will have a harder time being happy among a group of Western friends.

Other values around sex and relationships are more subtle but of real importance.

Further, pushing the limits of what's PC to say, the fact is many cultures have a "we need to stick together," or "we stick together to preserve our culture" attitude that ends up also drawing boundaries around social circles based on race due to culture.

Very close relationships, such as romantic relationships, on the other hand quickly approach the point where language fluency becomes absolutely necessary. But friends to do activities with on the other hand--I love it when people are speaking other languages, have different reactions and place different significance on events. It adds spice to life and opens your eyes to see other ways of viewing things the same way you always had.


I have to disagree on: "A very obvious example is that alcohol is a large part of Western, and now, some Eastern cultures; but people whose religion and culture strictly abhores it will have a harder time being happy among a group of Western friends."

Alcohol was always big in Eastern cultures. It's just not dominated because it is always considered an old people thing, not what young people do.


>It's just not dominated because it is always considered an old people thing, not what young people do

Yes, well that's true, but now it's part of youth culture so I think we're actually in agreement on that. However, what I'm not sure about is South East Asia..? I believe in places such as the Phillipines, drinking culture was largely introduced by the West, but I'm not sure about that.


I think it really depends on what period of history you are talking about and also what you mean by "West". The Philippines is, of course, currently dominated by the Roman Catholic religion, but in pre-hispanic days there were local animist religions. I don't actually know that much about Philippine history, but every other culture in the area had a rich tradition of alcoholic drinks. These days there are a lot of countries where drinking is frowned upon, but these are mostly Islamic countries. Before the countries became Islamic, the indiginous cultures very certainly drank a lot.

Now the question is whether the idea that drinking alcohol is a bad idea is a Western idea or an Eastern idea really depends on where you think the middle east is. But the far east has historically been quite keen on drinking.

Even though Buddhism does not really look at drinking as a great thing, I can't think of any officially Buddhist country that banned drinking. Japan was Buddhist for hundreds of years and even banned eating meat (though I don't think it was widely observed). But drinking remained a big part of the culture.

So my impression is quite the opposite of yours. SE Asia has historically been quite fond of drinking alcohol, but has seen prohibition relatively recently. That prohibition has mostly come out of the middle eastern cultures moving east, rather than the other way around.


I used to live in Laos, and I agree with your assessment. Rice wines and whiskeys were omnipresent, even in the local Buddhist monasteries.


Good points. I should edit the 'and now' detail out of my comment to avoid ambiguity, but it's not possible anymore.


It's not just raw skill but fatigue from the mental exertion of using a foreign language all day. You take classes in a foreign language all day and it's very hard to spend the evening hours also exerting yourself linguistically. I can empathize with the desire to just take it easy using your native tongue after a long day of keeping up with academics in a non native language.


I think this is the case. When a relative of mine went to Germany as an exchange student she very much intended (as the program advises) to make a lot of non-English-speaking friends. But speaking German was effort for her in a way that speaking English isn't, and after awhile she naturally gravitated toward other English speakers when she was ready to relax.


'For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.' - H. L. Mencken

American society is massively socially segregated by race and class, more so than in many other countries. I can form friendships with people with zero language in common, but it took me several years in the US to build a community of American friends despite being a native English speaker and a highly literate one at that.


American society is as good as it gets when it comes to inclusion. No other country, except maybe for Canada, had to deal with multiculturalism as much.

Humans are complicated social creatures by nature. There will always be cliques, competitiveness, the us against them mentality, etc. It's who we are. It's what got us here.


> No other country, except maybe for Canada, had to deal with multiculturalism as much.

There is a Christian majority country in the world that also has a ~15% Muslim minority, and it's not even particularly geographically confined. It's not US or Canada.

Curiously, it's also not a particularly inclusive country. Which just goes to show that multiculturalism doesn't necessarily translate to inclusiveness - it can also encourage silos.


That's actually the point the previous poster is trying to make. It's easy to have an inclusive society when everyone in that society is the same, and it's difficult to have one when there is so much cultural variation within it. One of the things that can be said for the U.S. is that it is fairly inclusive considering how diverse it is.


Russia is an Empire though.

Its Multiculturalism has always been about hadling Subjects who could become Citizens by Russifying.


That hasn't been true since 1917. There are plenty of citizens in Russia who hail from other religious or ethnic groups, and they aren't any worse for it in terms of political rights.

The difference is how it is handled. Russia is structured as a federal republic, in which some constituent entities are explicitly designated as national republics. Those have their own official state language (in addition to Russian on the federal level), their own regional constitutions and laws etc.

But it also means that for the titular ethnicity, when they're outside of such a regional republic, they can face an attitude of "we don't do these things here, and if you really want to, you can go back home and do them there". In other words, different cultures are siloed rather than amalgamated.

This is oversimplified, because there's still plenty of amalgamation in practice - it's inevitable when people live and work and intermarry. But it's definitely very distinct from e.g. Canadian multiculturalism.


Sounds like Russia?


Yep, it's Russia.

(Well, and possibly others - that's just the one that I know of, there may well be others.)


I'm going to guess France, which has around that percentage of Muslims and is certainly not geographically confined.


More like 6%


I stand corrected, thanks. The Google article preview listed a much wider confidence interval of estimates.


Canada is certainly a major instigator, but expand your thinking outside North America and you may be surprised.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_ranked_by_et...


Interesting but they seem to be treating all cultures the same rather than weighting the relative differences between cultures. Papua New Guinea may have a lot of cultures, but they are a lot more similar than Indian and French cultures for example.


My decade of living in London suggests otherwise, on both the notion of inclusion and the claim that no other country has dealt so much with multiculturalism, which just sounds uninformed to me.


It's inclusive for all the assorted WASPs, and assorted WASP-clones. Everyone else hits a wall.


I've been using HN daily for about 8 years. There are about 5 usernames I recognize because I'm wowed by their knowledgable responses. Then there are about 5 usernames I recognize because I go wow, that guy is always an argumentative abrasive jerk. Yours is one of the 5 in the second category. Your need to include the Mencken quote is a small example of what pushes you down into that category. Perhaps the reason you find it difficult to make friends in the real world isn't race, class, segregation, or language, but personality. People who lead with positivity, and the expectation that will be able to make friends probably do a lot better at it.


I find your comment distasteful and frivolous. Ad hominen attacks do not contribute anything to the discussion. Please refrain from that.


Perhaps the reason you find it difficult to make friends in the real world

Not what I was saying at all. Perhaps you should reread my comment, or alternatively ignore it if my opinions upset you.


I don't think that holds, the same happens with Erasmus students in europe (~40% don't make local friends).

https://thepienews.com/news/erasmus-students-local-friends-e...

And they mostly DO know english and the local language (in fact that's a common reason to do it).


That may also be a result of how Erasmus programs are structured. At least here in Czech Republic, Erasmus students tend to take classes taught in English, not classes taken by local students, so they interact with many other exchange students but not with locals.


I would think it is even more extreme with Erasmus students.

My thoughts about this are: Erasmus students stay for a very limited time- 1 or two semesters and leave then. Forming real friendships take longer.

I have only so much time to meet and catch up with friends. Taking away from that time to invest in short term relations is a problem.

Erasmus student have other priorities than "natives". First is partying, second is partying and maybe third is university. From my experience regular students do not have the time to go out partying that much resulting in different peer groups.


Although this could be a factor, I have to disagree on this. Before any foreign student is given admission to an American University you need to take TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). You need this to be a high score to get admitted and depending on the country, you need to show this score at the American Embassy to get a student Visa. Unless it is some exchange program ALL foreign university students can speak English on a conversational level.

I am from Nigeria, where English is the National language. I grew up visiting America as a child because my parents grew up there for some portion of their lives. So even with all my linguistic advantages I still bonded more with other International students faster and better than I did with Americans (regardless of race).

I would say the issue I found was cultural, basic things like sense of humor differs. What a Nigerian finds funny is not always the same thing an American would find funny and vice versa.If you cannot laugh together, you have a problem. Same with etiquette, some things a Nigerian may do might be seen as rude to an American but a sign of love in Nigeria. The second issue I found is that Americans don't have a lot of curiosity beyond their own culture. A lot of Americans have the idea America is the best country in the world, so what could they learn from anyone else when they push the world forward, so there is a lack of interest to understand others perspectives and there is a gap.

I personally worked hard to have American friends and I have life long ones today both white,black, latino and Asian American friends but this did not come easy. This took about 10 years of open-mindedness and extroversion that was not always reciprocated.


It's by far more than just language.

Cultural norms, customs, and the fact that on many campuses, there are quite a number of foreigners, making it more difficult for the social scene to absorb.

US/UK and Australia are all basically the 'same culture' as far as people outside the Anglosphere is concerned.


> US/UK and Australia are all basically the 'same culture'

While indeed similar, a story on that: a friend at a high-end consulting firm here in Australia told of a US colleague who was over for a 6-month secondment. At the end of the visit, he apparently said "I wish I had known at the start that the people making fun of me probably liked me, and the people being perfectly polite probably didn't..."


As an Australian living in the US it was probably odder: I'd make fun of people that I thought were friends... which probably drove them away; while I'd be polite to people I didn't like.

My spouse always said she had a problem that people thought she was being genuine when she was being sarcastic, and sarcastic when she was being genuine: she even got told off at work about it.


> At the end of the visit, he apparently said "I wish I had known at the start that the people making fun of me probably liked me, and the people being perfectly polite probably didn't..."

That's not really a cultural difference. It's just basic social skills in America too.


Excuse the language, but Australia (Aussie/Kiwi here!) is where you call you friends "cunts" and your enemies "mate". So I can understand someone's confusion!


From what I understand (Australian here) the Australian (and British) version is much more extreme.


In my experience the American version really isn't the same thing at all.


And the best way to learn, practice and improve for the last two levels is to get involved, which means the ones need more chances are more likely to be separated from the group and this is very discouraging. Instead, babies and toddlers generally get more patient guides. That's a more important reason for adult second language learners. The general solution I can think of is to have a private coach to help them learn with feedback and correction so that learners are more likely to catch the limited chances to begin to get involved with groups. High quality chat bot could be a more affordable option for most learners, if the bot is good enough, which I'm not familiar with.

edit: combined two sentences into one.


It's a bit of a catch-22 because you need a high level of interaction with native speakers to be able to get to Level 4/5, but it's intimidating and difficult to do so.

Most of the international students I've interacted that pushed through this were really, really social to begin with.


I'm not a social person by nature, but when I decided I wanted to learn Spansh, I had to go out of my way to talk to Spanish with people I didn't know. It was scary, embarrassing, and at times depressing, but my desire to learn the language overcame my fear of social embarrassment. I'm now trying to do the same thing with Portuguese.

There are ways to force interaction, but if the student doesn't understand how to learn or doesn't have the desire, then they'll never be able to comfortably speak with people. They don't have to be really social (it certainly helps), they just have to want it enough.


This notion is simplistic and unsupported by the article. The article mentions nothing about language proficiency and plenty about cultural adjustment, specifically about how peers and teachers interact with one another. There is a lot more cultural overlap with UK and Australia.


Similarly, I made a good number of friends who were international students by playing intramural soccer. I suppose you could say soccer is a common language.


>But it can fall apart in a social setting. Once there are 5 overlapping streams of conversation stuffed full of cultural references these coworkers of mine very frequently lose track of the conversation and become quieter and quieter over time.

Hmm, this sounds exactly like me. And I'm a white American guy (obviously, English is my first and pretty much only language, unless you count the German I learned in high school where I don't even meet your level 1).

I'd say I'm at your level 4 with English. When there's too many people talking, I'm unable to discriminate. It's not quite as bad as it sounds, if the relative volumes are different enough I can (so in a bar if someone is talking into my ear and the other conversations are in the background, I can make it out though I'll ask for a lot of repeats), but my big problem is in the workplace, where people for some reason insist on carrying out multiple loud conversations in the same room, right next to each other, and seem to have no concept (unlike the bar-goers) that it's really really hard to follow one conversation when the other one is right next to you at the same volume.

Yet another reason I totally regret going into engineering and software, and wish I had gone into something else where I'd get an office.


A few comments below disagree with you, but my experience is exactly as you described it, and I am a native English speaker in Norway, where everyone speaks English (although not nearly as well as the media or the locals wold have you think). When it comes to following along at a noisy social event or when there are many conversations happening simultaneously I fall somewhere between 3 and 4 on the list. Cultural references and expressions can easily boot me from a conversation as I lose the thread and have to start thinking about the conversation instead of partaking naturally. There is little in the way of real cultural differences between the UK and Scandinavia but enough to make a person feel like an outsider. This often leads to me abandoning social interactions.


And this is why most people want immigrants to learn English when they come to the US. Assimilation!


And it's also the reason why throwing an immigrant in English classes won't actually assimilate them. You can't teach Levels 4 and 5 without driven students and a welcoming populace.


But you can't get to level 4 and 5 without getting to level 3, and a lot don't get to level 3.


Learning English in school is not the same as absorbing the culture, language, and social conventions in the real-world.

I know many people that knew flawless conversational English before immigrating but they were utterly baffled by some cultural conventions and turns of phrase not covered in class.


Native english speaker and I can't do 5 half the time.


I heard this site reddit is great for picking up on dank memes and social cues


>My US friends who moved to the UK or Australia had no problem making friends.

us, uk and australia are identical cultures. us and india or us and china is not even comparable.

Its not just language, its common cultural memes that bond people.


that's pretty demeaning. there's certainly overlap, however that's mostly US TV and movies being exported, which also happens in other (non-English speaking) countries. but each has a distinctive culture, with different TV shows, music, artists, celebrities, politicians, words, lifestyles etc.

now, speaking english with ease does make it easier to pick up on the differences. but it still takes effort to engage with people. i've seen people from other countries integrate easily because they were either very socially aware or simply made the effort, regardless if they spoke the local language with ease. this happens in countries and with people that aren't the UK, US, or Australia or from there.


>that's pretty demeaning.

sorry , Certainly not my intention. I am curious why you say this though.


Calling the US, UK and Australia "identical cultures" is pretty bad, just because they all speak English? True, they share common history, but they also have so many other influences that they're quite different. E.g. Wales, a country in the UK, even has it's own language which is still taught in schools and used officially everywhere.


Language is not the reason however why these foreign students wouldnt spend energy to learn the language better before studying abroad.


No amount of studying outside of the native environment will give you the skill level necessary to easily maintain social conversations once you're in it.

English is not my native language. However, I went to a school that had a specific emphasis on English: we had 5 hours of it per week in the first three grades, gradually ramping up to 6 in middle school and 7 in high school, and adding English literature on top of that. We wrote numerous essays, listened to recordings of native speakers, and spent a lot of time talking and listening to each other.

Then I went to study in a college in a country where English is a native language. I could read and write easily - better than natives in many cases, in fact (I'll never forget a rant that our elderly ethics teacher gave to me in private about how, based on the essays she was grading, only people with non-Anglo names could spell "its" vs "it's" right consistently). I could also speak fast while remaining perfectly understandable, and showing only a very subtle, hard-to-identify accent - that's where those hours of listening to tapes and talking with other students to polish pronunciation really paid off.

But for the life of me, I couldn't understand half of what people were saying. It was either too fast, or it was in an accent or dialect that was too unfamiliar to parse easily, or it was too casual (shortening or outright dropping many things that are always there in writing); and often, all of these at once. I had to ask people to slow down and repeat things - made all the more confusing because I spoke at a much faster pace (as I was taught to) than what I could follow.

It took about two months for everything to really click to the point where I could follow any conversation, and a lot longer than that before it stopped being a conscious mental effort.


It's one thing to learn the language, it's an entirely different thing to be an pleasant presence, especially in a noisy environment.


There's only so much you can learn from books and TV shows. One might have Shakespeare's vocabulary and mastered the intricacies of grammar, but there's no substitute for prolonged interaction with native speakers in achieving (near-)native proficiency in a language. Studying abroad is one of, if not the easiest way to get there.


You should spend the energy to write proper English sentences before posting online. It's easier to learn by doing.


I've met several people who have moved here to New Zealand specifically to learn better English. It's immensely difficult to learn another language when you have nobody to talk to. Reading and writing proficiency are easy, but the spoken component is just so difficult.


Yeah you can learn English all you want, but that isn't going to help you understand Snoop Dogg lyrics.


Fo shizzle my nizzle. Snoop wrizzles dope lyrizzles, but his rich vocizzle is confizzling.


People should know the Quartz headline is wrong.

Follow the source link and you find that 40% have no close American friends, which is different from "friends on campus". I checked the source looking for a baseline (how many domestic students have no close friends) and discovered that it was specifically about international students making friends with Americans.

> "Nearly 40 percent of the survey respondents had no close American friends and would have liked more meaningful interaction with people born here"

This is a very different result - still important, but the corrected stat and the free-response listed in the source make clear that we're looking at a different question than simple loneliness.

edit: The HN headline has been updated, which is great news. Now if only Quartz could meet the same standards...


Thanks, we've updated the submission title to clarify.


This completely invalidates the headline! Go study in Japan or anywhere, and you will see that foreign students mostly hang out with each other. Certainly their close friends will be fellow foreign students. This is mostly because local students already have an established friend group.

Besides, many are on short exchange programmes. How close friends can you really become during a 1-2 year exchange? How many of those 40% had just arrived on the last couple of months?


> This is mostly because local students already have an established friend group.

I don't think that's correct, at least outside small countries. I certainly didn't find it unusual when all my school friends went to different universities. Two others from my school were at the same place I was, but they weren't friends of mine.

My university was in London, and had a very large proportion of foreign students. Many of the Chinese students hung out together. The Europeans (including the British) and other westerners mixed together, divided more by interests and age than nationality. Some groups (South Asians, Japanese) mixed with some British students with similar ancestry.

I ran a social club for a couple of years. The students on short exchanges, like ERASMUS, seemed to make much more effort to join in with clubs, teams and societies, since they were only there for a few months.


I was thinking of students who go abroad after a couple of years. I suppose in the US and UK it is more common for foreign students to start from the beginning with the locals.

As for socializing with people from your own country vs. locals and others, I observed two factors:

1) If you are from a big country, it's easier to stay with your own countrymen. If you are from Belgium or something, you have to find friends from other countries.

2) International students motivation tends to vary between adventure/experience and opportunity/academics. Those who are abroad for the experience are more motivated to get out and meet different people. This is largely orthogonal with introversion/extroversion. But, students from rich countries more often moved for the experience, as the opportunities were similar back home. Students from poorer countries are more often motivated to get a better education and future opportunities, and may have more pressure from home to focus on their studies.


> If you are from Belgium or something, you have to find friends from other countries.

But country boundaries are not the only cultural divisions, and national/international is not a simple dichotomy. Belgians in the US might hang out with other Western Europeans but continue to spurn Americans.


"Go study in Japan or anywhere, and you will see that foreign students mostly hang out with each other."

That is not a right comparison. The U.S is not Japan.


Full points for worthless technical accuracy on "the US is not Japan". Zero points for accuracy of any kind on "the US is not anywhere".


Yes. If you know any history, the U.S is singular. I deserve more than zero points for highlighting that.


And yet the conclusion is still right.


Yeah, that's a totally different statement, with utterly different implications. To be honest, I'm impressed that 60% do have American friends... that's a pretty solid majority.


The data is highly distorted by a large fraction of foreign students being Canadians. "Hey guys lets watch hockey tonight" and a fondness for maple syrup in the cafeteria isn't a major cultural road bump, compared to say a dude fresh out of Saudi Arabia who barely speaks English.

Also the study carefully avoids discussing the stats for the Americans so there's no useful comparison (intentionally?). Is that the same ratio? I wouldn't be shocked. I took some weekend/night classes and those folks are samurai with lives outside class and barely enough time for assignments and homework and existing social relationships, so in those classes I would not be surprised to see 90%-plus of students having no student friends at all. When I was finishing up my degree a couple decades ago I had a wife and kids and a house and a full time job and zero interest in going to a kegger with some kids almost young enough to be my own kids, and after a full days work and a four hour lab and having to go to work early the next morning there's no way I could stay awake for a kegger anyway.

I also took some specialty classes at a tech college and their students have nothing at all to do with each other socially as near as I can tell. A nineteen year old kid living in moms basement, a 40 year old retired disabled army vet living in a house, and a 30 year old single mom working three jobs and living in an apartment walk into a bar together sounds like the start of a joke but it was pretty accurate description of tech school. Socializing with classmates seems to be a purely 18-22 residential/dorm/greek thing. And thats still a lot of kids... but gotta be realistic, its maybe only 3/4 of total students, maybe even less.

I am so old that I know that inserting a 21 year old legal drinking age in the middle of the prime college socializing years of 18-22 must have quite an effect. That must be very weird for foreign kids from countries without drinking age hangups. What I have had a beer with my pizza for two years now back home what do you mean that I go to jail? What I am here in your country illegally and everyone thinks thats great and its illegal to kick me out but I want un cerveza after class and they act like I am felon? Crazy americans... crazy americans.


>I also took some specialty classes at a tech college and their students have nothing at all to do with each other socially as near as I can tell. A nineteen year old kid living in moms basement, a 40 year old retired disabled army vet living in a house, and a 30 year old single mom working three jobs and living in an apartment walk into a bar together sounds like the start of a joke but it was pretty accurate description of tech school. Socializing with classmates seems to be a purely 18-22 residential/dorm/greek thing. And thats still a lot of kids... but gotta be realistic, its maybe only 3/4 of total students, maybe even less.

Sooooo true. It's become, for all intents and purposes, a series of parallel universes that just happen to occupy the same space.


In general, I've found that people will not invest as much in a friendship given an upfront, known shelf life (duration of grad school, year abroad, etc.) unless they are bound by a similar constraint. How often does chatting with someone on a plane lead to a life-long friendship?


This is true for a lot more than friendships. It's less rational than I think you try to give it credit for in your last sentence.

How long were you at your last job? Let's say you spent 3 years and 2 months there. Let's make an assumption and say that your time there was a positive one for your colleagues, and that you left with no animosity and—specifically—no animosity about the timing or circumstances of your departure.

Now let's suppose, though, that you walked in on your first day knowing that you would end up spending 3 years and 2 months there, down to the date of your departure, and during introductions you let your colleagues (including management) know about the limit on your time there. Let's call this version of you You'.

The way this would play out is that You' could make the exact same moves as you in every situation, and yet will be given much fewer opportunities and find much smaller success, despite there being no difference between you and You', save for this small discrepancy. As a result, your colleagues and the company will end up getting much less value from You' than they get from you.

People are bad at maximizing the resources available to them.


I think there's an omission in your argument. The reasonableness of not forming a friendship given limited time constraints is based on time being a limited resource, e.g. it'd be better to spend time on other friendships. In your argument, you didn't analyze whether the time saved by not befriending You' was "better" spent reinforcing other friendships or whatever else. The company may have received less value from You', but the rest of the team may have increased their own value by forming stronger friendships. It's not necessary that this will be the case, but it's a non-trivial assumption to make that befriending "you" is the best allocation of resources. It all depends on the shape of the friendship-strengthening-to-company-value function.


This definitely seems true. Although, it seems that a shared experience of a known duration can create a stronger bond. Lots of people make strong friendships during specific time-bound periods (high school, college, military tour).


also "close friends". not everyone has close friends at all


Before I got into software development I worked for a South Korean company that helped high-level students get into American and Canadian universities. The single biggest source of stress for myself and the other westerners working there is that the administration's (and the parents'!) only goal was to get these kids into a school, and absolutely no thought was given to acclimating them to a different culture or teaching them the skills they would need to thrive in a very different educational system and social climate. We (the foreign teachers) would try to sneak cultural lessons in and hold extra classes about how to join campus organizations and social clubs, and we'd always get in trouble with the management because "it wasn't important". There's a very real sense in East Asia that once you get into an American university that you'll become successful, but some of the brightest kids are coming back to their home countries with a 2.7GPA, a memory of crushing loneliness, and many tens of thousands of dollars wasted. It's a solvable problem that no one is really interested in even examining.


I'd say many expat europeans or americans in Asia (Shangai, south korea) don't make any effort in making close native friends. Many of them prefer to hang out with people from their own country, or other western people. Only a few think about "acclimating to a different culture or learn new skills they would need to thrive in a very different educational system and social climate".


I lived 5 years in South Korea, and well:

* It was incredibly easy to meet other foreigners, and not necessarily westerners, far from that actually. I now have genuine friends on every continent.

* Since you're on the same boat, you can relate. Given how unique the work and life environment can be, it's nice to be able to talk with people who'll understand you.

* Making native friends isn't easy, even when you're making real efforts.

I don't have an unlimited amount of energy I can put into socializing, so after a short while I stopped trying too hard. Even the Korean friends I made before my move weren't too interested in hanging out once I lived there.


I wonder how much it comes from the culture in Korea. I've been living in Tokyo for 3 years, and although I never to the university here, I my observations in the country are that: * Korean people tend to stick together and don't mix much with other nationalities * Chinese people integrate so well that their Japanese friends and acquaintances barely notice they are not Japanese. And as they are not afraid to speak in English they're able to make English speaking friends too. * Unless they had some exposure to western countries, many Japanese people tend to be superficially friendly due to keeping their public persona separated from their true feelings (the 2 concepts of tatemae vs honne). And this not specific to making international friends, as they have themselves the same difficulty making Japanese true friends. * English speaking foreigners tend to hang out together or with English speaking Japanese people, unless they're introduced through a friend to Japanese people who can't speak English.


A great deal of that is probably the tension between the two countries - Koreans tend to feel it far more personally (they were the ones invaded, after all). Having lived in Seoul for the same amount of time I'd say the same thing, only about Japanese. I'd say you're on the money about Chinese folks, though. Chinese people bring the party with them, for sure.

Koreans have a saying about their neighbors: "The Chinese love you rudely. The Japanese hate you politely."


I would say because Japanese takes so much of Chinese in terms of their writing system and numbers, the Chinese have a running start. Sure, it may be considered basic Kanji to the Japanese, but arriving to Japan and knowing immediately 2000 (or so, I don't have an exact number, I made it up.) of the basic Kanji is key to survival -- all you need to pick up then is the grammar rules and hiragana/katakana which are just 72 chars each so 144 total.

I, myself have fallen into the English foreigner trap. It's exhausting to make Japanese friends, that in the end you really don't get anywhere with, casually.

I've gravitated towards existing hobbies, and soon will enter a bekka. I still want to blame my non-existing Japanese for my lack of true Japanese friends.


Comparing East Asian cultures to U.S culture is not a proper comparison.

Remember the U.S is a nation of immigrants.


I think his comparison is perfectly valid. It's not one of East Asian vs US culture; it's one of coming from one culture to living in a very different one.

He's discussing the same situation mentioned in the article, but in reverse.


The reverse ( non East Asian moving to an East Asian country) is not the same. East Asian countries were never a nation of immigrants.


Ah, OK, I think I see your original point: the US isn't as culturally homogeneous as East Asian nations.

While I think that's true, I still think the original point that OP made was valid: you're going from a culture that you're very very used to, into one that's radically different. I think that comparison is still valid in this context. Unless there's another layer to your statement that I'm not seeing...?


America is a nation of immigrants, but isn't the USA supposed to be a "melting pot"?

Contrast that to Canada, where the term we used was "mosaic" (when I was growing up in the 70s & 80s).


"Salad bowl" was a trendy metaphor in the 90s for the United States, which is much more in line with "mosaic." Personally I find mosaic to be a more term.

The problem with "melting pot" was that in melting everything becomes indistinct and bland, where as in a salad bowl, the pieces remain distinct but work together as a whole to make enhance the entire salad.


But is assimilation (i.e., the melting pot) as it relates language, culture and values still expected of immigrants in the US to the same degree as it used to be?


Honestly, I don't know. I know what I want to be true, and I know what I see in my own experience, but I don't know if it is nationally true.

I live in Silicon Valley and am married to an immigrant, and live next door to a house where I don't believe everyone that lives in it speaks English. Meanwhile, a man that ran on a campaign on explicit xenophobia and implicit white nationalism is now president.

In my world, it's not. I mean a common language is just a pragmatic thing. After all, you're not going to move up the economic ladder without knowing the lingua franca. I certainly wouldn't expect to have the job I have now in say Korea, because I can't speak or read Korean.

My family has gone to Dia De Los Muertos events, and no one in our family has any ties to Mexico. At the same time, I grew up in the rural midwest where one of the biggest regional events was Fiesta Italiana, and there aren't any Italian immigrants left, and the people left with Italian surnames don't know anything more about Italy or Italian culture than I do.

Most people live in the cities, and deal with immigrants and foreign cultures on a daily basis. The people that live in the rural area don't, and they're the ones that elected him. So who says who's right?


Nothing like a drive by downvote for calling Our Dear Leader a racist.

His words and his choice of advisors speak for themselves.


With respect, I believe your comment may underestimate the long history and overall ethnic and cultural diversity of China.


That's very true, but you're talking about a totally different thing here. There's a big difference between an (ostensibly) self-reliant adult looking for work/adventure/cheap booze and a kid fresh out of high school tossed into a totally different world and expected to "become successful" with little to no guidance.


The term expat is almost synonymous with "not integrating with native residents" to me. Otherwise imo they would be immigrants!


As an American in Beijing, I didn't know many other Americans. True, I hanged out with foreigners (westerners, non-Chinese Asians, and Taiwanese who were basically considered foreigners), but I also hanged out with Chinese, heck, my whole team at work was Chinese with only me as the foreigner.

When I was studying Chinese in PKU, it was similar. Part of the problem was that the university wasn't really setup to mix foreigners with Chinese students: we were studying at PKU, but using very different facilities. Of course, if you made an effort, you made friends, some of which I have today (incidentally, almost all of them went abroad to the USA as PKU undergrads tend to do).


It's more than that -- parents explicitly don't want their children to absorb American culture.


> parents explicitly don't want their children to absorb American culture

As my Indian parents say, these white people just drink alcohol and have sex all day.


that's funny, my dad says the same thing and he went to an American university


Not absorb American culture seems like a gross mischaracterization. It's not so much not absorbing (which is a losing battle unless you cloister yourself off), as much as not forgetting or not passing on parts of your own culture.


Interestingly as a parent I think that's fairly common, certainly more than majority, both foreign and domestic.


I spent a year in US as a foreign student. From my previous experiences (internships in UK and Germany), I knew it would be difficult to make friends with "locals". In UK, I was in a dorm during the summer with a private room, shared bathroom and kitchen. Most people were eating in their room. I finally made friend with one british guy as he was cooking. He told me later he didn't think he would make friends during the short summer session, even less with a foreigner. His girlfriend owned a pub, I had a great summer!

In the US, I didn't realize it would be even more difficult because 90% of the students in MS are foreigners in the college I attended. Anyway, I decided that the best way to make American friends was to be with them all day long. I joined a fraternity on campus.

This was not easy. Most fraternities never had a foreign student, except the one I was accepted in. Because my english was not great, I focused all my time on 1 fraternity to increase my chances of being accepted. I was the only foreigner in all fraternities this week.

It was not always easy, but it was worth it. I joined while doing my MS, all my brothers where freshmen. We had very different work load and about 4-year difference. But I did make friends with all of them. I spent Christmas with one of my friend's family (I didn't leave the US for winter break). It was a great experience.

I'm rather an introvert. But when you travel in a foreign country, you have to talk to strangers all the time. Expectations are also lower when you don't master the language fully. You have to be very direct and explicit in your communications.


> In UK, I was in a dorm during the summer with a private room, shared bathroom and kitchen.

That's a shame. The kitchens were the most social spaces at my university. I think taking hot food into rooms was forbidden -- in any case, few did so.

I remember giving my views on plans for new dorms at my university, which were planned to use small kitchens shared between 4-6 students. I, and many others, objected -- they were replacing buildings with large kitchens, shared with 20 or more students. Much better for meeting people and making friends. It opened after I'd graduated, but judging by the pictures, the kitchens are for about 12-14 people, possibly more :-)


Fwiw 10 years ago I was organizing weekly dance parties in a college town. 80% of our attendance was foreign students. Nightly I would have kids from all over the world profusiosly thanking me. The bulk of the complements were in one way another "thank you so much for putting this on I feel like I'm home. I don't get American culture but I get this." 10 years later I still have people coming up to me randomly thanking me saying they've stuck around because of friends they made.

In my limited experience I feel there's a real cultural mis-match with kids from other countries coming here to study. Most of the kids I met were from huge cities and the shock of being in a small college town was in many was too much for them. That and the greek system was overtly hostile to them.

On side a note it's humorous what many kids take back with them from their time in America. It's worth doing an image search of "American party" to see what I mean.


Why do you say that the greek system was hostile to foreign students, more so than the regular social experience of college?


Well I'm speaking from experience and this in no way will apply across all schools or groups. As such I know of some great organizations which have great missions and members and do great work. That said at this particular university which was largely greek, the largest fraternities and sororities were the largest offenders of indoctrinated and systemic racism which had subsequently seeped into the school culture and administration as a whole. That school has had numerous national scandals as a direct result. The scandals are just the instances that get reported and they're just the tip of the iceberg. Daily life for the kids I knew was fraught with fear and apprehension. It's also one of the reasons why I think when we were doing our parties we had so many foreign kids come out and respond the way they did.


What part of the country was this? I find this hard to believe on the west coast or parts of the east coast (NYE/Boston). If you're talking the South or midwest then ok it makes sense.


As a former international student, the first year was incredibly lonely as I used to be a deep introvert. The article mentions some of the obstacles but perhaps one of biggest ones is being able to communicate well with Americans. I used to be incredibly anxious about buying groceries simply because I talked very fast English with a heavy accent. I could talk but not communicate; which means that I could convey facts, but I couldn't strike up a conversation with a stranger, or make a joke. I didn't understand American sarcasm and would be alarmed by some of the things Americans said. And this is despite me having pretty good knowledge of English; I can only imagine how hard it must be for Chinese/Korean etc. students.

The best thing that happened to me was to get an internship in a company where my team was composed mostly of Americans. I learned how to talk slower and more importantly, slowly understood sarcasm as well. Perhaps most Americans don't realize just how much of a shared culture is needed for immigrants to understand before they can communicate effectively.


> I could talk but not communicate; which means that I could convey facts, but I couldn't strike up a conversation with a stranger, or make a joke.

I was born here and went to a university with a large percentage of international students (the highest percentage in the US? At least at one point.). I'm extremely introverted and oddly found it easier to talk to international students than American ones. Maybe they could tell that I was as uncomfortable as they were.

> I can only imagine how hard it must be for Chinese/Korean etc. students.

In the experience of some of my friends, it took them 4+ years (they finished their undergrad and started grad school) before they started talking to non-Chinese/Korean students. Though it's possible the science/math kids aren't a representative sample.


> Perhaps most Americans don't realize just how much of a shared culture is needed for immigrants to understand before they can communicate effectively.

I would also like to add to that: The fact that we have a culture. (That's often underplayed to seem "fair" to other cultures)


Culture to us is like water for fish, if you never travel and see something different, you could live and die without knowing anything else.


The political correctness statement is so spot on. I still struggle with that till now. People just don't want to talk about certain issues here it seems; a stark contrast to europeans


They didn't mention political correctness, though...?


Political correctness was mentioned in the article:

> Typical campus discourse is often a minefield for newcomers, said a Norwegian student. “I find that Americans are generally very politically correct, and as a European, I think I’m used to being blunter and saying things right out. ..."


Politeness too. There are some cultures which are extremely blunt, no diplomacy or being indirect. For instance just going into a meeting and saying that someone's idea is dumb and they should do it X way instead. Most americans I know perceive this as "being a dick", but this is pretty normal discourse where they come from.


That sounds so much better.


I'm still not used to it, but I can see the appeal. Try working with Germans or especially Israelis


Ignore it. It's only important in the professional setting (where theres a personal risk).

Otherwise, in social situations, people who are sensitive towards it are holding others hostage to it. You're only a hostage if you allow it.


Give an example.


Not exactly political correctness in left vs right meaning but, where I am from, you would say something like "I would kill him/you" causally and no one will think twice. That sort of thing tends to freak out Americans (I know cause I said it) who tend to take it much more seriously. For me, it was just causal expression.

Americans expect you to show a lot more enthusiasm then Europeans and if you don't show it, they will consider you rude and act towards you accordingly. Every single question is "good question" - it seemed to be rude to say that some of them are not good questions even to third parties in social setting.

On political correctness: in my culture, I know maybe one person who would identify herself as feminist publicly. You are expected to dislike feminism even when you are pro-equality. It seems to be the opposite in American liberal campuses (tho radical feminism seems to be waaay more aggressive then anything I know in here). Moreover, what Americans consider "too revealing" seems "perfectly normal" to me. I have seen American boys react in surprising way toward girls that wore mini skirts that were short, but still within normal range to me.

So, if you want example of political correctness, people from here might consider it perfectly normal to blame feminity when woman does something stupid or just makes them angry - that definitely wont fly in many American groups. That does not necessary means the person who said it is sexist, I would even say actual sexist tend to be more careful over what they say in my experience. Nevertheless, American liberals would not accept such thing at all.


> people from here might consider it perfectly normal to blame feminity when woman does something stupid or just makes them angry [...] That does not necessary means the person who said it is sexist

I am going to be descriptive here. Non-judgemental. But: that... is sexist. By definition. It perpetuates the idea that "being a woman" is a thing that can be blamed for an action. Continuing to talk in that way perpetuates sexism.

> You are expected to dislike feminism even when you are pro-equality.

Again, this is structural/cultural sexism. You might not want to hear that, and you might not think it's a problem, but that's what it is. So when you enter a place where the culture is not accepting of that sexism, I don't know why you should expect not to have backlash if you continue to act like that.


I understand the impact you have in mind.

I mostly wanted to distinguish "saying those things as verbal salad" from "really assuming girls are like that and/or raising girls to be like that". Kind of like with the "killed him" thing - the person saying the words does not really think about killing. As in, the person saying it would treat me equally while different more polite person might not say it out of politeness, but will treat me like the stereotype. The latter kind exist and is the bigger threat to me.

I am not saying that our culture does not have elements of sexism in it.


Questioning liberal ideas in a liberal place; try asking a question about anything related to gender, "born this way" narratives, third wave feminism, and you will be called a bigot.

I'm not even talking about making an assertion here; asking a question about these politics sparks huge responses in people.


You're being super vague so I cannot give a good response. If you treat people as people, assume good faith, and ask genuine questions you'll be treated just fine.

I rarely find people on the conservative side of the political spectrum are actually interested in doing that, because they don't act like they think of gender non-conforming people as people. They might, but they certainly don't act that way. I'm gratified where I'm proven wrong, but such people are few and far between.


You expect to be proven wrong, which means you put the burden of proof on them, which combined with miscellaneous linguistic and cultural barriers might make foreigners seem more sexist than they really are.


I am a radical leftist and I have my complaints about gender identity politics and third wave feminism. I think you're confident about the world as you consider it to be, rather than how it actually is.


Money. Asking an American how much they earn or how much they paid for something can be perceived as rude.


>Asking an American how much they earn or how much they paid for something can be perceived as rude.

American here. Really? I agree about the first part (how much you earn), but not the second. Lots of people like to brag about how they scored a great bargain on something, or complain about how something cost too much. But it really depends on a lot of things: what it is, what your relationship to the other person is, etc. You wouldn't just ask some stranger on the street how much their phone costs, for instance.


> Lots of people like to brag about how they scored a great bargain on something

But if I ask how much they paid for something, and it was not a bargain, will they feel bad? Like I'm mocking them for their poor haggling skills or something?

I don't have a lot of experience with Americans. It's just something I heard from my English teacher.


It really depends on a lot of things. And obviously there's a big difference between asking someone, and them volunteering the information to you.

I wouldn't ask someone how much they paid for a car, for instance: it's a big-ticket item, and strangely enough it's still haggled over in this country even though most things are fixed-price. Same goes for a house. But something small, I might. Retail goods are usually about the same price everywhere, unless there was a sale or someone took advantage of some kind of promotion, so it's not like the price they likely paid is a big secret. If I want to know the price of the latest iPhone, I can look it up. So you're not going to be exposing anyone's poor haggling skills by asking how much they paid for a (normally) fixed-price item. But yeah, I wouldn't ask how much they paid for a house or car.


> I didn't understand American sarcasm and would be alarmed by some of the things Americans said.

Funny enough, this is the second time I have stumbled across an expat noting the eccentricity of American humour. How it's hard to make friends because their jokes are .. different. I wonder wherein the difference lies.


Come to France and everyone will insult you and your mother, it's quite a change.


> I didn't understand American sarcasm and would be alarmed by some of the things Americans said.

Whoah. You just blew my mind. I didn't realize things like jokes and sarcasm could be a barrier for someone who technically understands otherwise understands English.


From the other side of the spectrum, while not American but being raised American, I have a sense of humor that's strongly sarcastic. It alienates me from non-native english speakers in my workplace.



I genuinely can't tell if you are being sarcastic.


I was being sincere. Seriously.


This is spot on to me as well, apart from the internship. It didn't help that I don't socialize more. Public speaking was a nightmare which I thought I was speaking well but complete blank stare from the audience just added to my anxiety. To be honest, social media (reddit etc) has slowly helped me understand the culture and I like to think that I can atleast decently communicate now.


When I came to the US as an international student, I was basically invited to some event by the local church that they hold for all new international students. It was like a booster board to make new friends. It was incredibly helpful. Though I eventually stopped going since I am not religious and just make my own friends elsewhere over time.


in my experience the split has to do more with east/west cultures than nationalities. americans are friendly and like to joke around, be sarcastic, and not take things too seriously unless you are dealing with personal safety or a lot of money. if you aren't like that, you're going to have a really hard time.

for example, in the first couple of years, a spanish (from spain) person is going to do a lot better than a russian.


Reading this, it just clicked where the "brash american cowboy" stereo type comes from. I've wondered about that for the longest time. We tend to play loosey goosey until there's a "reason" to get serious.


When I was in college, circa 20 years ago, I studied Korean. (I had a friend growing up who was Korean, and he taught me swear words and such, and I figured if I ever got the chance to study I would.)

Anyway, I was 6 months into a language course that was heavily populated by US-born Korean students who were taking it for the easy A... I needed a tutor to keep up so I reached out to the teacher who introduced me to a few Korean exchange students.

They lived in their own apartment, not the dorms. They cooked their own food, didn't go to the cafeterias. Fast forward a bit, my fraternity had a charity event and I invited a few of them... was a casual invite, said something like, "Hey we're doing this thing, tell your friends!"

A week later at the charity concert like 60 Korean exchange students showed up. Every single one of them was dressed in a tux or evening gown. Totally classed up the place. Had no idea there were that many exchange students until that night.

And they were all really appreciative of the invite. Basically said no one had invited them to any events on campus before... I met some new folks, knew just enough Korean at that point to ingratiate myself and get invited out drinking after the event... and quickly realized I was playing checkers at a chess tournament when it came to drinking with Koreans. Ha.

Made some friends out of the deal, but it wouldn't have happened without everyone going outside of their comfort zone a bit.


I sometimes work with foreign engineers, often educated in America and working their first or second job. My wife and I often invite them and their spouse home for a dinner.

In every case, they mention sometime during the evening that its the first American home they have ever been inside. After years of school and job. Every, every case.

Americans, we can do something about this! Invite a newcomer coworker to join you for dinner! Its so simple.


That's a great point.


Just an anecdote from a medium sized German town:

We had two big bunches of foreign students, Chinese and US Americans. Americans organized a lot of parties, the Chinese were hard to engage with. We had a big international community (language exchange regular meetings, parties, movies, BBQs, etc.) But the general thing from the Chinese group was what seemed like shyness. Even when one managed to get them to join, they tended to leave early and barely interact (not for a lack of trying). There were exceptions of course, and I'm currently subletting my apartment (while in another country) to two Chinese students, one of whom turned out to be very talkative once he opened up. But for the majority I met it's really hard to get them to get them to open up. There is some cultural barrier that's very hard to break.

Of course this might be the same for other nationalities, but as those usually arrived here alone, they didn't have a group of countrymen to fall back to and I couldn't tell.


I moved to the US when I was 12 and my middle school principal tried finding someone who spoke my language that I could shadow. She couldn't. Little did I know then, but I think that it might have been the thing that had the biggest outcome in my success in the US.

There were other kids who joined the school from other countries right around the same time as me (we all did ESL together), but they all spoke languages that were highly represented in the school. Over the years, it was incredibly noticeable to me how insular they ended up -- hanging out mostly with expat friends, speaking their native language on breaks, etc.

Meanwhile, I had to try and make American friends any way possible -- which for me was through our school's robotics club (and since I am typing this here, you can guess that the rest is history)

I completely understand the way immigrants rightfully treasure and celebrate their heritage. But I have always found it puzzling -- especially in college -- to see people from overseas mostly hanging out with their own.

I have heard far too many times how "cold" Americans are, how they aren't friendly to foreigners, etc. At least in my experience, that could not be further from the truth. What I HAVE observed is foreigners like myself failing to leave the safety of their known communities and fulling embracing the experience they supposedly came here for.


I can't generalize for every school, or everyone at every school. I attended an engineering program at one of the top 5 schools by total international student population.

Honestly, international students are cliquey. Many of them that I talk to openly admit to cheating on their english proficiency exams universities require you to take before you can attend. Meshing with local students is nearly impossible if you don't understand the language proficiently.

I'd expect you'd see roughly the same numbers if you looked at American students in Chinese universities, or elsewhere. But we have to make this anti-American because its Quartz, and Trump is bad, right?


> international students are cliquey.

It might help if you understand why they're cliquey. Many of them are living away from home for the first time, so hanging out with familiar faces and having shared cultural references is comforting (though it sounds wrong). They may not be as proficient in English as they are in their native tongues, so they speak their own languages when they're with each other. And of course to an outsider, a group of people speaking a foreign language seems very forbidding and closed off. Believe me, they (mostly) don't want to be seen that way.

I think pretty much every "group" is cliquey. My own Masters class (about 20-25 people, 50-50 American/foreign) splintered into 2-3 disjoint groups almost immediately after the introductory mixer. I understood and spoke English fine. But not knowing any American pop culture (music, TV shows, sci-fi, games etc. and my own introversion, meant I didn't know then how to deal with people I didn't that have much in common with) meant that I was filtered out of the most likely "group" (students roughly my age). They may all have been speaking English but all the alien (to me) cultural references made it seem forbidding (who's Stephen Colbert? what's Arrested Development? why is it a faux pas to admit liking Coldplay and U2 and Nickelback?). I ended up hanging out with other students from my own country.

> I'd expect you'd see roughly the same numbers if you looked at American students in Chinese universities, or elsewhere

You're right. Most people struggle to flourish socially in foreign cultures; I think this is universally true.

> But we have to make this anti-American

I didn't see the article as anti-American at all. It was more "Isn't it unfortunate how these students are missing out?"

I personally blame myself for my own social isolation during my Masters. I should've tried harder.


To be fair, at companies when people interview and deny a candidate for "cultural fit", they mean "this candidate doesn't interact and know the same cultural references as my in-group", so this type of exclusion is pretty common.


Out of curiousity, did you meet or make many American friends? To me, I enjoy meeting different people from different cultures. I imagine I am not the only one.


Not many. I too enjoy meeting people from different cultures but...it's difficult, for me at least. I mean I find it hard to make friends period, regardless of culture.


I understand that. Going back to your original comment, I think Americans will understand that you don't get those culturual references, and several will not mind showing you and helping you. For me it's actually a lot of fun to show different parts of american cultureand seeing someone else experience it for the first time (Like here: https://xkcd.com/1053/ ). One of the most interesting things that happens if they ask "well why is this part of culture like this", because sometimes I do not even know, so I get to learn a bit about my culture as well.


Agreed. And that's the part that I take the blame for. When you're adrift in a culture, you should ask for help. In my (relative) immaturity, I thought asking questions would be considered annoying, rather than being a way to build bridges.


I understand why you could have that mentality though, you can't be blamed for it. I hope sometime you would be able to visit the USA with that knowledge and get a better experience!


>international students are cliquey

I've noticed this at my college firsthand; I see groups or pairs of Chinese students speaking solely Chinese. Speaking in their native language isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly makes them less approachable.


From my experience, these Chinese students probably did try at first to make friends with local Americans, but were made fun of because of their accents.

So rather than be humiliated, they chose to just hang out with people who won't insult them.


I do wonder if they were making fun in a mean way or just poking fun in good nature. Of course, the person experiencing it is the one who can better tell, but it is often not obvious when lacking cultural context. One of my closest friends early on laughed at me because whenever I pronounced "vehicle" it sounded to him as "bagel", it did hurt my ego but I quickly got he meant nothing bad by it.

That said, if the American students were really making fun of the accent of Chinese students in a mean way, I can only assume they themselves never tried speaking any kind of Chinese. It is insanely difficult to get to "understandable" in a tonal language if your native language is not tonal, let alone "without funny accent".


I'm sort of okay with the cheating on English proficiency exams. They're pretty contrived anyways.

But these groups also tend to help each other out in cheating on actual assignments and tests, which doesn't sit well with the me.


Going off-topic from the OP: Not only that, but when I was a foreign student, the Indian and Chinese students had networks of past-year students, who'd built up databases of exam questions. While perhaps strictly not cheating, this gave them an advantage, because some professors repeated questions from previous quarters/years. Some of us thought that was unfair, and talked with the professors and they were unwilling to ensure that questions were not repeated. So we asked the professors to give us exam questions from the last few years, and made them available to everyone in the library. Hopefully this at least leveled the playing field a tiny bit, but I'm not sure it mattered in the grand scheme of things. (Disclosure: I'm Indian too).


Everywhere I've studied made past exam questions available by default - and doing them as part of revision was absolutely standard. Certainly not cheating!


I am international myself and have seen international students cheating before. In one (really bad, no one cares) course that I took as an undergrad, everyone cheated. I was the only one who came to class and didn't cheat (or didn't know that you could cheat in that course). It was, perhaps not noble, but not rare for students (American + non-American) to pass on their exams to the next class and professors discuss how to deter that too.


This is exactly why I'm against this behavior -- the only one that are punished are the ethical ones [1]. Kept unchecked, soon you will have pressured all the ethical people into giving into cheating as well!

[1] It's like doping in sports.


> the Indian and Chinese students had networks of past-year students, who'd built up databases of exam questions.

A friend of mine joined a frat and he said they had the same thing.


> Honestly, international students are cliquey.

Since we're generalizing here, I'll say the reason for this is, honestly, American students are mean and like to make fun of our accents.


Seems like kind of a leap to declare an article about cultural gaps and "adjustment fatigue" to be "anti-American."

Not everything is political, dude.


You can become extremely proficient in the language and be highly sensitive to the culture. You can also spend 10 years in the country to the point were you grasp practically everything, no matter how much randomness is involved in the conversation or the place and time it takes place.

It does not matter. Majority of foreigners, westerners or not, won't have real local friends in English speaking countries.

Even though you do acclimatize to the culture and language you might still not be fond of it. I lived in countries were it would have been easier than in others to interact with people, but in the end I wasn't able to because I either wasn't a fond drinker (commonplace in all english speaking countries) or I didn't enjoy being involved in mundane silly-office conversations during the smoke break.

Most of the fresh expats can't even realize what they are getting into when they move into another country. If you are deciding to do so and you come across this post, do it, go and check it out, but beware that your inner you will never completely mold to that place.


I am curious as to what the ultimate goal is for these foreign undergrads. Get a job in America? Go back home and get a job?

I guess it all depends on the home country and the American school, but I wonder how valuable an American undergrad degree is worth in their home countries?

I know in Japan it often isn't seen as worth it because in Japanese undergrad programs, the people you meet often are a major part of your network along with the people you went to high school and middle school. And these networks are essential to your career arc.

So, by going to school in the US, you lose out on these networks.

But, if your goal is to get a job at an international company where you speak English or get a job in the US, then I guess it is worth it.


Some people (like me) just wanted to experience living in the US for some longer time. Some people (like me) just wanted to experience something else than just the home country. Eventually getting a job here was on the plan, but since I over time started to dislike this place, I will be going back home in a few months. I am glad I came here because it allowed to learn more about the US.


It takes a lot of courage to put yourself in a strange environment, away from familiar comforts and friends and family, into the care of strangers, to learn about a million faults they have, and then learn to love them anyway, and, most importantly, to really allow the experience to change you.


What does close friends mean? A lot of relationships in the US are based on "activity" partners[0]. Someone to go out with, sharing a same hobby, passions etc. Close friends in other countries means a lot more than just activity partners.

I had the same experience in grad school, I only had "activity" partners, than what I would call close friendships with Americans. It always felt "distant". It's sadly true even today.

[0] I couldn't find the relevant article that discussed about this, specifically in the American context.


Yes the most American website ever is meetup.com go search the meetups in your area and at least 95% if not 100% are what you DO at work or when not at work, and almost none exist to BE someone or to hang out with an identity. The only identity groups will be like "something area singles group". I find it typically American that all americans aspire while not wanting to appear aspirational, so lots of americans want to start a business, but none would ever be caught dead at a meetup called "we want to start our businesses" or "we want to lose weight", americans can have "gym buddies" to hang out with cool bros but never "weight loss buddies" because that sounds very aspirational. Perhaps Americans are too pessimistic to be caught sounding that optimistic, I donno. Its a pity, you'd think meetup would be a good place for "I wanna learn (some technology)" but thats as unamerican as possible because its identifying as wanting to learn something as opposed to physically doing something, and even worse its aspirational.

Also it never fails to amuse me that they'll be about one hiking group per half million people in a metro area and they all claim they're the "real group" the "fun group" the only "active group". Something to do with Dunbar's number you just can't have 1000 americans work together they have to make smaller tribes and pretend the other tribes don't exist. All a bunch of foolishness. Sometimes I think meetup.com is all an elaborate stunt by some grad student gathering anthropological data about Dunbars number.


I teach at a midwest college and I worry about my international students. Some of them do great but too many of them struggle and I don't have the skills or even the time to help them. I try to make sure that they get mixed into groups with the students from the USA in the hopes of encouraging the creation of friendships but I often feel like the university is just taking their international tuition and not doing enough to help them.


As a foreign student, thank you. Among close American friends, some of them were acquired through my class projects. Although it might not be the most effective channel, it definitely makes a difference.

I think the best the school could do is to make the students stay in dorms with shared rooms when they come to study. Roommates, in my anecdotal experience, are among the best channels to acquire friends. If the school doesn't have the policy in the first place, then perhaps there is little that anyone could do to help, if the students don't make it a priority.


Thank you. As a former international student, I really appreciated the efforts that were made by our faculty to help us integrate. Many of the friends I made, both from the US and from other countries were from the informal events and clubs that the faculty organized outside of class hours.


> 40% of foreign students in the US have no close friends on campus

Missing important data for contrast: How many non-foreign have no close friends on campus.


Exactly. Close friends? I'd guess it's at least 20-25%.

College can be a weird place. Personally I had a lot of people I hung out with for a semester or two, but nobody I liked enough to truly be friends with.


When I came to the US, I made an effort to reach out to Americans (in the dorms, in class, etc). I found that, after you remove the veneer of programmed culture and biases, under it we're basically all the same: similar goals, fears, aspirations, etc. I formed some very close friendships with Americans, and I'm still close friends with them 20+ years later.

My point is: as a newbie in this country, I had to make the effort; if I didn't do that, I would not have made those friendships.


Not everyone is up to making that effort (I agree that they _should_).

For me personally, I could easily have ended up in the 40%. I was not very social, and would have had problems making friends with anyone. As an Indian, I'd probably have welcomed Indian friends, just because I'd have felt less ill-at-ease with them. Luckily, my English was good, I loved playing sports, and some American students made an effort to make friends. That made all the difference. I really appreciate those classmates who made an effort to know a strange-looking, strange-talking kid. They made a massive positive difference in my life.

Also, I did some free tutoring. I probably wouldn't know anyone outside of Engineering, had I not done that.

Another large difference nowadays, I suspect, is that a critical mass of students of certain cultures has been reached. So it's perhaps difficult to break out of a default behaviour of hanging out with "your own kind". When a foreign student arrives in the US, the local <insert foreign-country here> students association welcomes them and helps set them up. Right there are laid the potential foundations of remaining in the comfort zone of fellow countrymen.


It is the same for almost anybody studying in a foreign country. It takes a fairly high level of self-confidence to really put yourself out there and cultural/linguistic differences can be confusing to navigate. I myself have studied in 3 foreign countries and can say that it requires a lot of effort to make local friends.


See also "When a Chinese PhD Student Meets a German Supervisor " https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12769385


40% of US students in the US have no close American friends on campus too. We all went to college. Come one. That is how it is. I wouldn't call the dude saying hi to me everyday the room next door ma friend. They are all just living around me. We all have to pretend to be nice to each other because none of us wants trouble. Sure we do hang out or get drunk at the party. But we are not friends. The only true friend I got is my college sweet heart.


I remember, several years ago (2010-ish), a friend's roommate brought a couple of his Indian coworkers home. I got to meet them because I was hanging out with my friend at the time. They hung out for a bit, and then he took them to a shooting range, bringing his gun collection along.

Before they left, he told my friend and I that he was doing this because he read a statistic showing that a huge percent of Indian-born workers have never been in an American's home, so he wanted to get his coworkers out of that statistic.

In hindsight, that act was the only decent thing that man has ever done (he is no longer on speaking terms with me, my friend, or virtually everyone else we know for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with his co-workers).


Dude, the stories you didn't tell are far more intriguing


I wonder if they tried to normalise how different people and different cultures define what is meant by "close friends". I mean I'd probably say that I've made maybe 4 close friends in my entire life (5 if you count my wife), half of which I've lost contact with, without ever really feeling I'm lacking friends, acquaintances and people to hang out with.


So 60% DO have close friends that have a very different culture and language. I find that very positive. I traveled all my life, and I know how hard it is to do it. Well done !


Most foreign students are in the US for a two years masters program, which is not that long a time to assimilate to any culture. I am from a relatively similar western culture, I arrived here thinking to myself in English 50% of the time (not my native language, but my main "Internet language"). I still spent my whole first year with my closest group of friends consisting chiefly of Germans, Greeks (from actual Greece, not a frat house), Indians and Chinese. It wasn't that it was easier to breach that cultural gap, but more that other international students were aware that there was a gap to be breached. Americans seemed always more likely to only understand overtures of friendship in their very specific cultural context, and even with extensive American media exposure it takes a few comical mishaps to become fully conversant in that cultural code, independent of language. English fluency was the lesser of the issues for me, but admittedly having a strong accent can make it even harder to be understood at a loud party even if it is perfectly fine for asking questions in class. I don't blame the natives at all for it, but do keep in mind that it is the foreign students who often do 9 parts in 10 of the effort. Wonder what is the statistic - even for colleges that are 50/50 overall - of "American student with no foreign student close friends".

For the curious: I did end up having a much closer group of friends including roughly 50% American students later, though, after bonding over one of the most American experiences possible, a Spring break trip.


Did they compare against American students though? Modern culture is making everyone increasingly lonely and isolated, so I wouldn't be surprised if a good portion of that number is explained by the fact that going off to college and making close friends can be difficult whether you're from Nebraska or Nanjing.

That being said, the cultural aspect can't be ignored. There's a reason that despite going to two very international schools, almost all of my close friends are European, American, or Australian.


I would like to frame my thoughts on this as an American that is dating a Taiwanese person, and as someone who has traveled around the USA a lot. I also ran my thoughts by her and she agreed with what I said.

First, I think there are two types of people who travel to a new place (this can be a different part of the country, or a foreign student to the USA): 1) the person who wants to try new things and enjoy where they are, or 2) the type of person who hates where they are and refuse to try anything new.

The latter type of foreign student will not make any American friends. They will only stick with their culture and friends of their culture. She has also said a lot of people feel very nervous speaking English, because they will they will get something wrong and get ridiculed for doing so.

As an American with foreigners in my classes, there are also people who speak their native language to other students who speak it. I empathize with the fact that it is easier for them, but by doing that, the effect that I get is the feeling of exclusion, so I cannot even attempt to try to befriend them. As an anecdote to that, I can say I have felt resentful when I have been the only American in a group of Taiwanese and they did not speak English at all when I was there, as the message I got is they don't want me in the conversation.

I hate to say, it is very intimidating, but if you want to befriend Americans while in the country, you HAVE to speak English as much as possible. I am, and I would like to think any others are very forgiving in the fact that they know English isn't your first language, and are happy to accommodate that. If you do not, most Americans will feel excluded and not even attempt to befriend you.


It goes both ways. Aside from cultural differences, I would assume you would also feel excluded or isolated if you were the only non-American among a group of Americans who only spoke English, and you didn't understand or speak English.

Note that English is used as a universal language in international settings, and that you are a native English speaker. It's somewhat easier for you since they would know a least a little bit of English, while you wouldn't know their language unless you have some level of proficiency.

Also, Americans generally have a culture of accommodation or assimilation, while people from other cultures may not. The social environment when the host population interacts among each other as peers is also different than when interacting with foreigners, as it requires a separate form of interaction that isn't the norm. This applies to both Americans and other nationalities.


I agree, and it wouldn't surprise to hear that there are also Americans who are uninterested in trying to accomidate forgeiners, and I imagine that would be very discouraging for someone who tries to get out of their comfort zone as well.


If foreign students want to make American friends, they should be prepared to feel uncomfortable and also be willing to make others uncomfortable.

There is no easy way. You have to separate yourself from your comfort zone. That includes others from your home country as well as other international students. Live with an American roommate, go to every (American) party you are invited to. Say no to every (non-American) party you are invited to. Find an American gf/bf or keep trying. Join volunteering activities (food drives, blood drives, salvation army etc) to meet locals.

In a couple of years, you would have made yourself deeply uncomfortable on many occasions, annoyed some people, but by now you'll be talking and walking like an American.

This applies in general to immigrants who tend to huddle together because it is the easier thing to do. That is why in most cases, cultural assimilation takes atleast a generation.


I went to UC Berkeley in the 80's and I found it a sterile and unfriendly environment. Maybe it was me. I had one friend from all the classes I took. One. I had a lot friends from working in the CS department.

I think the reason was the hyper-competitiveness between students. It doesn't foster any sort of cooperation.


Right now everybody cheats, so there is a lot more cooperation - but typically only in your racial group.


Consider yourself in the following scenario:

You hang out with Indians and they start talking about Cricket, a sport that is widely watched there, but also a sport that most likely you know nothing about. How can you partake in that conversation? you can, probably, but only at a basic level and you might not have a lot to add.

So, the same happens with American football, or baseball, or sports that are not widely followed elsewhere.

Those types of conversations marginalize foreigners, even if it's non intentional. Now, if you have empathy, you might prefer to talk about something else, with the purpose of being inclusive.


>So, the same happens with American football, or baseball, or sports that are not widely followed elsewhere. Those types of conversations marginalize foreigners, even if it's non intentional.

What about those of us Americans who don't give two shits about American football or baseball or other sports (including cricket)?

And am I "marginalizing" someone if I want to talk about D&D, or retro gaming, or astrophysics, or some obscure musical genre?


I had a college roommate from Hong Kong for a couple years. He specifically asked for an American roommate, and I think we both benefited from the exchange. His English was far better than most of his friends after that time. It's hard though, if I were in his place, I might have been more insular as well seeking out those with my native language.

He also got to laugh hysterically as he saw me try to pronounce some greetings/messages in Cantonese to his father who would call from Hong Kong, so there was that benefit too.


I personally chose to come to University in the US and had a great experience. While my campus had issues with international students and domestic students being divided, we did a lot of research for our newspaper and wrote opinion pieces on how to bridge the gap.

If you'd like to read about another perspective to how international students feel after coming to the US, here's an opinion piece I wrote: http://www.dailynebraskan.com/opinion/agrawal-us-universitie...

If you'd like to read more about what it's like to be an international student making friends with domestic students: http://www.dailynebraskan.com/opinion/agrawal-making-friends...

Here's an article one of my colleagues wrote about making friends with international students as a domestic student: http://www.dailynebraskan.com/opinion/simon-making-friends-w...


As someone who grew up heavily in both the west and east, it's most definitely a cultural issue. IMO Americans tend to be oblivious to so many things and try to hide their ignorance behind liberal values. Which I'm all for, but conversing becomes a game of "what can I say and not have to have a huge discussion explaining my opinion." Mix that in with the college experience and it starts to make sense. I blame the schools for not properly educating children in this country.


My wife studied at an American college. She had no friends. The college had over 100 students 100% of them from India, Middle East and Turkey. The college was nothing but a way for H4 women to get F1 so that they could eventually get OPT and instead of being deadweight at home they could stand on their own legs. This is probably one of the N colleges out there.

There aren't too many American citizens in these colleges and I will not be surprised if these student constitute 50% of total F1s.


If there are 750K foreign students coming in every year to the US why are there only 65K H1 visas per year available? Surely they should expect at least 10% of them to want to work in the US after their education right? With that why is everyone acting as if the Indian outsourcing companies are the problem for the H1 visa shortage?


Its because 65K is for workers without degrees from US colleges & another 25K is for people with degrees from US to get the OPT. The 65K gets 85% applicants from IT companies based out of India, those jobs don't pay well but companies willing to pay decent salaries get thrown out of it coz of sheer probabilities. There was a post some time back recommending a application fee based on the number of applications from a single entity.


Not quite. You only get the 25K if you graduate in the US from a graduate program. If you graduate with a Bachelors you are not eligible for the extended cap (25K). But the OPT still works.


When I was in school, international students had a week prior to orientation with their own orientation. They formed friend groups from this orientation, so it's not too surprising that they would stick to those friend groups rather than then branching out to the people they have less in common with the following weeks.


Yep. Through the orientation they are also introduced to organizations on campus that provide outings and other social activities specifically just for these people who happen to have nothing much in common besides being international students. It's kind of a weird idea, honestly: oh you're from Belarus, you're from Indonesia, and you're from Peru? Here are a bunch of activities you can all participate in for free or cheap, that are ostensibly mostly about exposing you to the local culture & attractions, but without having to interact with local students or other local people.

Further, students from some countries have the option of a critical mass of their compatriots to hang out with, which I'm sure is a tempting comfort to rely on. >30% and >15% of international students are from China and India respectively: http://www.iie.org/Services/Project-Atlas/United-States/Inte...


For me personally as a foreign student from India the biggest hurdle was cultural. I didnt know much about Star Wars, or American TV of the 1980s-90s which meant I couldnt just jump in to most conversations. The second biggest hurdle was that I just didnt enjoy drinking and drinking games to the extent that is a part of contemporary American college setup. Thus I didnt have stories of things I did while drunk. All this combined meant it became hard to enjoy settings with predominantly American/Western groups.

At some point sub-consciously I stopped trying and went into my comfort zone i.e. other Indian people who got my jokes, and where I didnt have to give cultural context before every life story I was telling. I do regret not having made friends from alternate cultures while I had the best opportunity i.e. in college.


I'm surprised drinking culture hasn't been mentioned more here. As an American who when to an American university, I had no friends who were non-American. When I reflect on the reason for this, I do remember meeting students from other countries but they had different priorities than myself and my group of friends at the time so we never really clicked. (our priority was to go out and drink as often as possible - 4 days per week usually) For someone coming from a country where alcohol is consumed in moderation from young ages, I can see how this would be an unappealing scene to get into.


>I'm surprised drinking culture hasn't been mentioned more here. As an American who when to an American university, I had no friends who were non-American.

Yeah, I think it's a big factor. I'm a white American and went to an American university, and in my later years (I transferred midway through to go to a better engineering school), all of my friends were non-American. Why didn't I have any American friends? Probably largely because I don't drink and don't care about sports. (I'm not a teetotaler, I just don't like alcohol much, and at most will drink a little wine, and even here I hate the dry ones. I also have a peculiar condition where it seems that alcohol has no effect on me; I can drink a couple glasses of wine and not feel anything. I don't want to try any more than that.)

I had a few American friends at my first university, but I met them because I lived on the same floor in the dorm as them. I never had the dorm experience in the second university. And they didn't drink either.

Dating American women has never gone all that great for me either. Now I'm dating an Asian woman, who, you guessed it, doesn't drink.


A very one sided argument and a good example of using statistics for evil.

I came to the US in 2007 for my Undergrad from Dubai (Indian by Birth). I lived on a dorm floor with 40 people and only another Indian and I didn't actually talk to that guy much. Most of my friends are Americans including some of my closest - To be honest, the few Indian friends I have are people from work.

End of the day it comes down to your comfort zone. People who come to another country to get an "American degree" will stick to their comfort zone. For those of us who come to explore and understand the local culture, we're going to assimilate into the local culture (my kickball team calls me a coconut: Brown on the outside and white on the inside).

Do you want to stay a tourist or become a local?


I was a foreign student, and I ended up assimilating by becoming friends with first gen Americans (children of immigrants). Once I got used to a handful of cultural norms (took about a year or two), it became easy to interact with Americans directly.

Today my closest friends are the ones I made in college.


Please note this article is from 2012. I feel like the HN headline should be edited to reflect this.


Years ago I studied abroad for a year in the U.K. I'm American, so no language barriers, but I found it very difficult to make British friends. I was friends with my flat mates who were British, but otherwise only the Germans were friendly to me. The other international students tended to stick to themselves (particularly the Chinese and Pakistani), despite my attempts at bridging the gap.

Homophily is a known social bias, and certainly affects people in their own country let alone a foreign one. I wonder how much of this is "America" per se, versus standard social forces that affect all populations.


I think it has more to do with the culture than with the campus context. It seems to me that North Americans value more politeness and independence, whereas Europeans think more in term of honesty and reliability. That's why you hear stories of French people being "rude" and Americans being "superficial" or "fake", for instance. Building strong relationships is not impossible, but it is more difficult and it takes time, and a semester can be too short. I'd imagine it can be even worse for people with even fewer common cultural ties.


I was friends with many foreign students in college (a large school in the midwest), and it was because all of them wanted to meet people unlike them. One friend, from Zimbabwe (who was originally from Sri Lanka), once said to me, "I can never understand why all of the foreign students hang out with only people from their own country." She was pretty exceptional, but it's true in general. A lot of Americans do the same thing when they go overseas. It kind of makes no sense to go all of that way, and then just hang out with people just like you.


What percent of Americans have close friends of any nationality on campus?


^ repost.


What does that mean? Did someone else ask the same thing? If so, no one has time to read every single comment before commenting, sorry.


Sorry, I didn't make that very clear - I meant that I completely agree!


As a university student in London, I noticed Chinese students (the main foreign contingent of the student body) overwhelmingly tended to socialise with one another, and groups of Chinese students speaking Mandarin to each other was a common sight on campus. If you weren't a Chinese speaker, it was hard to penetrate these groups (I tried and failed). Is this also the case in American colleges?


so a solid majority of 60% gets to have a close US friend sounds impressive (too good to be true actually)

how does this compare to foreign students in Canada, Germany, UAE, UK


It's unbelievable impressive from my experience. I've only travelled and studied within Europe but I would say, foreign students pretty much never have close native friends. But then again in the US there is no language barrier.


Why should they have "close" American friends? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/15...


I studied hospitality in Switzerland for a while and was surprised that some of my classmates just wouldn't integrate with the students there. It was as if they had some aversion to change/something different. Normally I wouldnt find that behavior odd but the whole point of hospitality is to engage and be welcoming. I could see it being a stonger issue for people in other areas of study


I assume much of this is due to language or cultural barriers, even if it's mostly perceived and not a legitimate barrier. Not surprising that most foreign students congregate with one another, but they're missing out on part of the experience of studying abroad surely. This goes both ways BTW, US students studying abroad in many countries experience the same thing as well.


I found that sports and trivia knowledge is more important than language skills when interacting with the "locals".


Having lived in a few countries, I wouldn't be surprised if an extended research showed that in country X, a significant percentage of foreigners have no close friend from X.

In fact it is much easier to make friends with other foreigners, even when not fluent in country X's language.


theres a mad dash for everyone in the world to come to american universities and suck every last drop of credibility from them. for a long time college has been getting worse. we went from college being a selective and prestigious club to what we have now: giant degree mills where actual learning is a fucking foot note. and college has become this way because everyone needs a college degree now because there are no jobs for the ordinary joe who doesnt have a degree or connections. so college has been on this slow decline and now we see a ton of asian students who are coming and getting degrees while they still have some value. so at the end of the day the whole thing just stinks. you walk around and look at all the amazing buildings and amenities that the school spent millions upon millions upon millions of fucking dollars on to attract the rich foreign students and out of state party students and the domestic rich students. meanwhile the quality of the education that students get has plummeted. students dont learn anything anymore. elon musk read his physics text book and showed up to exams. he was able to pass because he learned the material. maybe other people have has a different experience but that has not been possible at my school. i had a single professor who went against the current and taught for understanding and at the start of the class he practically got on his hands and knees and begged the students to read the book. being new, i didnt understand. but soon i realized that it was because students dont actually read the books! every other professor chooses some shit textbook thats filled with irrelevant material and you are forced to only read the equations and game the fucking system and get points. learning has been totally abandoned! and now i see swarms of asian students cheating on every exam and i look at the state of the college and it just depresses me. i was in an algorithms class and we had a quiz. times up, we are walking to the front to turn things in and there was an asian guy standing in front of the desk, looking at other peoples papers and copying the answers. completely brazen. and the nobody did anything. nobody gave a shit. and i go to a well known school. the state of affairs is not good.


So you move far away AND prefer the company of yourself... what's the problem here?


If you're an introvert or very shy, it doesn't matter how far or close you're from home - it's very difficult to make friends.


As a point of comparison how many domestic students have no close friends on campus? In other words, what's the differential between foreign students and those who grew up here?


"You never meet people in their own country" is a factoid I've noticed.

You have more in common with fellow travelers than you will have with people who are just status quo.


Student unions should encourage "welcome committees" to make sure no one whom wants to participate in the social scene is left out. (dorm life was the best.)


It is because Americans are cultureless robots pumped full of paper thin thoughts, who have replaced any experience of togetherness with consumer preferences


Living in south east Asia I see more than 40% of US American expatriates who are living here not having even a single native/local friend...


Another way to look at this is American students don't engage with 40% foreign students on campus. It takes two to tango.


My experience in the U in my generation, started with 60 students and ended only 6 from different levels/years.


I wouldn't be surprised if 40% of all students have no close friends on campus.


love the foreign students.


[flagged]


"Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.:


Why would good hackers find this article interesting? What do you find intellectually curious about it?


This is an article pointing to the difficulties of culture hacking: i.e. assuming the culture of one that's non-native to you. As an American engineer working in an Asian country, it was interesting to me to hear about the difficulties in cultural adjustments going the other way. It was also interesting to read about the stories of other people whip have had similar experiences. Both give me ideas on how I can better bridge the cultural gap that I experience in my everyday life here.


For me it touches on some things I experienced in college/grad school. Moreover the idea of "adjustment fatigue" is an interesting idea, and an interesting way to think about interactions you have with people from different cultural backgrounds. Do you only work with people from your exact cultural background? I don't, so I find these things interesting. Especially working in open source I often run into situations where friction is caused by cultural misunderstanding.


Sure, so how about a good article about it instead of this QZ garbage? Did you even read the article?

Chinese student is used to always having one answer but in America there are ambiguous answers.

Saudi student has to be around women and work with women. But it's different in Saudi Arabia

Really? Oh wait I forgot I have to have a absolutely mind-blowing statistic. Like you won't even believe this statistic. Click here to find out what it is!

It's like a more lengthy clickbait article targeted toward people like us. But it's just clickbait. Read for substance.


> Did you even read the article?

You literally broke the HN guidelines here. I agree that the headline is misleading, but nonetheless it promotes interesting discussions that can bring more value than the article itself.


no I did not. The headline isn't misleading, the content of the article is extremely poor.


Please don't insinuate that someone hasn't read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

It's not a great article, you're right. But you've made the thread worse by complaining about it in a way that... made the thread worse. We share your concern for the quality of HN, but it's also important to let go sometimes.


Of course I read it, I literally used the term "adjustment fatigue" from the end of the article.

Yeah, the article is pretty thin, but it's an interesting topic that can promote an interesting conversation. If you don't like it, flag it and upvote something else or submit a better article.


I'm sorry, but none of your suggestions here are good solutions to this article problem. Speaking up and calling the article out, which is what I'm doing, is preferable.

""Please don't submit comments complaining that a submission is inappropriate for the site. If you think a story is spam or off-topic, flag it by clicking on its 'flag' link. If you think a comment is egregious, click on its timestamp to go to its page, then click 'flag' at the top. (Not all users see flag links; there's a small karma threshold.)""

The story isn't spam, or off-topic. It's bad. It's a really bad story that isn't worth reading. People are allowed to post things that are really stupid. I am allowed to point that out. Hopefully to save other people some time.


Again to quote the HN guidelines:

"Please don't submit comments complaining that a submission is inappropriate for the site. If you think a story is spam or off-topic, flag it by clicking on its 'flag' link. If you think a comment is egregious, click on its timestamp to go to its page, then click 'flag' at the top. (Not all users see flag links; there's a small karma threshold.)"

That's all I have on the topic.


>> The story isn't spam, or off-topic. It's bad.

> If you think a story is spam or off-topic, flag it by clicking on its 'flag' link


Perhaps there are people here who have experienced this themselves? Also, the fact that it's being upvoted is evidence it's of interest to the community.


To play Devil's Advocate, there is no downvote option so it's hard to gauge just how much folks care about a given article.


If it isn't getting upvotes it will quickly fall off the front page. This whole thread is a bit silly.


Once your karma goes over about 1000 you get a downvote on articles (not certain about the threshold).


No, you don't. Articles can't be downvoted, only comments.


Weird I'm sure I've been able to downvote articles on an old profile.


Ok sure. But instead of that experience we just have a very generalized article with some wild statistic. 40% of foreign students have no close friends? Really?

It's a garbage article that somebody is posting for up votes.


Is there an alternative article you would recommend for this topic?


[flagged]


I'm about as shitlordy as it gets, and I'm glad this was on HN.


While I did find the article interesting, I don't think it belongs here because it has nothing to due with technology.


Because someone submitted the article and readers upvoted it.




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