Have you ever been confused about how “friendship” is defined in the American culture? Americans often call other people their friends very easily. It is a term used loosely — perhaps because the English language does not offer any viable alternatives. The usage of “friendship” may be very different in your country!
From the article “The Paradox of American Friendliness”:
“An analogy that has struck a chord with many international students is the comparison of Americans to peaches and many other nationalities to coconuts: Americans are soft on the outside, easy to approach, but the pit is harder — it’s harder to get to know an American really well and to create a real friendship. In contrast, many other nationals may be like coconuts. It is hard to get inside, but once you are there, it is pleasant and you are real friends when you have got through the tough exterior.”
If you are interested in developing “a deep friendship,” asking people for lunch may be a good start!
An American’s perspective:
Americans are typically polite but they also are very private people. They want to be perceived as nice, friendly, and helpful, but many want to preserve their private space and not get too close to people right away.
I have many ‘acquaintances’ who I do not consider friends, but we are always friendly to each other. If you truly would like to get to know an American, ask them if they would like to get a coffee or lunch sometime. And yes, they might even suggest “Let’s get coffee!” or “Let’s get lunch!” and it seems like they don’t really mean it. However, if they are serious about it, they will propose a time and place. Or, if you would like to make sure they are serious about it, suggest a time and place and see if they follow up.
Also, Americans really value their time (which is tied to their privacy and independence). They are so polite that they don’t want to say “I don’t have time to meet up!” They would rather say, “Sure!” and then not follow up. They don’t want to overcommit if they don’t have the time or interest. Don’t take it personally; I encourage you to keep trying to make friends with us Americans! Those of us who have traveled and studied abroad may be even more open to having international friends ~Dana