Building Connections

The mobility of U.S. society is, perhaps, the most significant influence on relationships in the United States. People frequently do not reside in the same communities for their entire lives. Many large corporations require their employees to move often if they want to advance in the company. This mobility influences how people interact and form friendships.

Americans tend to be very friendly on a casual basis and open to meeting many new individuals, but these interactions do not always result in close, lasting relationships. It is typical for Americans to develop friendly relations with others in the classroom, at the gym, where they live, and where they work. An individual may have a friend to study with, another to play tennis with, and still another as a movie companion. These relationships often do not carry over into other aspects of their lives.


A common habit of casually friendly American is the tendency to say things like “Let’s get together sometime” or “Let’s do lunch” and then not follow through with a specific invitation. This casual, informal style is sometimes seen as superficial by others and can be frustrating to a new international student. It is perfectly appropriate to make a call and suggest a meeting time.

Certainly the potential for close friendship exists. College and university campuses have many student organizations and clubs and offer many activities in which students can participate and have the opportunity to meet people with similar interest. In academic settings, graduate students may form close relationships with other students in their academic departments. Similar opportunities exist for undergraduates for joining study groups and through smaller size classes.

Romantic Relationships

Dating and romantic relationships are special cases and occur in a variety of styles and levels of commitment. Americans date many people before or instead of engaging in more committed relationships. It is not uncommon or inappropriate for an American making a commitment to more than one person at a time or to date many people over time before making a commitment to one individual. It is still somewhat more typical for the male to invite the female and to pay the expenses of at least the first few dates.

Committed relationships tend to gradually become more serious. Not all such relationships, even very serious ones, result in marriage or long-term partnership. However, there is a strong expectation that romantic friendships involve mutual attractions. It is never appropriate to pursue another person who express no interest in developing or continuing a friendship.

Romantic relationships among people of the same sex occur openly in most parts of the Unites States. However, because these relationships can be subject to prejudice and negative reactions from others, many colleges and universities have organizations to support and assist such students as needed.

What should be avoided!

Certain kind of conduct are considered inappropriate in the United States. For example, making personal comments or touching someone in personal manner can be considered sexual harassment and is not acceptable. It is important for international students to understand what is appropriate behavior, especially in relating to the opposite sex. To learn what is consider appropriate, one might ask American friends, one’s resident assistant in the dormitory, or international students who have been in the United States for some time.