A Busy Social Life With Little English In Seattle

A busy social life with little English in Seattle
A busy social life with little English in Seattle. Photo by Pegleess Barrios from Burst.

Is it even possible to have a busy social life in a new city, knowing just a little of the language?  I met just such a woman several years ago. She was my client learning Beginning English. She had just moved to Seattle 3 months before we met from half way around the world.  And in that short amount of time, she had become friends with many people. And with very little English. In this article, I’ll share some of her experience in how she got a busy social life with little English in Seattle. (This article was originally published on August 8, 2019, and was updated on May 16, 2024.)

How to quickly create a community

Find people with something in common

To tell my client’s story, let’s call her Sara to protect her privacy. One of the first things she did with her husband was go to events where others from her country would attend. One was an international event where they could meet people from many cultures. Another was going to a church of their faith. From these two events alone, they met people who invite them to brunch and dinner.

Her husband also met friends at work from his country. They too invite them for dinner. Between her husband’s co-workers and the new friends they already met, they had dinner plans every day of the week, not just weekends.

Meeting friends in ESL class

Sara also enrolled in a local college’s ESL class. Although she was in the most beginning level, she managed to communicate well enough with classmates from other countries that she invited several of them home for lunch.

Now, I’ve been to meals prepared by Sara.  She is not one to put something simple together. She would spend hours preparing. That’s part of the respect her culture shows to guests. A lot of thought goes into how to please the palate of her guests.

The lunch Sara prepared for her classmates was a big hit, with all this attention to details. Her classmates loved the meal. After lunch, they showed each other their country’s popular dances. Everyone had the most enjoyable time. Before they left Sara’s house, they had already made plans for the next get-together.

Contributing to a community

One of the couples that Sara met at a social event just had a baby.  But there were complications, so mother and baby had to be hospitalized.  Although Sara had only met this couple once, she volunteered to help as soon as she heard the news.  Not only that, she contacted other friends of this couple who came from the same culture.

Their friends worry that food in the hospital may not be the comfort food that the couple needed, so they took turns preparing food to bring to the hospital for the couple.

Now THAT’s the spirit of community. Who would not feel a bond after this outpour of love? It really does not take much to go from stranger to friend.

No doubt, I will witness more amazing ways Sara connects with others. 3 short months in Seattle, and she already had a full social calendar. I think she will never be lonely here.

Tips on creating your circle of friends in a new culture

From watching the way that Sara made friends here, I would like to offer her tips to create your own circle of friends in a new culture.

1.  Go to events where you can meet others from your own culture.

2.  Invite those new friends for lunch.

3.  Enroll in an English class where you will meet people from other cultures, and invite those new friends for tea.

4.  Contribute to this new circle of friends whenever the opportunity comes up.

As you think of more ways to create your new circle of friends, even with little English, please email me and share your tips with me at estrellachan@gmail.com

If you find this article helpful, you might also like How to make friend with your neighbors.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email estrellachan@gmail.com

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