[Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

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[Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Tigerlilly on Fri Jul 22, 2016 7:31 pm

Hello Forum,

I like reading DNL's essays, and thought this would be a good place to ask for advice for a long standing life problem.

Context: single, 27 years old, graduate student in nuclear chemistry, currently studying abroad in Germany. I live more or less completely by myself. I have house-mates, but never see them. I work very long, stressful hours, and when I get home I am too tired to do much other than read or play computer games. Everyone I could call a friend lives far, far away, even those rare times I am in America.

Problem: I feel like I am horrible at making friends, and horrible at being attractive. I am below the average male height. I have daily bouts of self-loathing, mostly of a religious nature. I am not terribly athletic, though I walk to work every day (10 km round trip). My fashion sense is restricted because clothes typically do not fit me properly (strange body shape). Right now I am on anti-depressants. I have the hardest time approaching women, for anything, and think I might come off as a grump. The one time I asked someone for a date, after we had some fun conversations over the course of three days, it never panned out, and I haven't approached anyone sense because I haven't met anyone new, and that depresses me.

I do not know what to do about my loneliness. There are clubs on campus, but I do not have the time, and when I do have time I am restricted by exhaustion and lack of transportation. I do not know German, and that limits things further. So much of my mental energy goes into studying that I have no will to practice. I have been here for roughly a year, and things haven't improved. I feel just worse and worse. The anti-depressants help, but I still have moments when I wonder if God cares about me, and the uncertainty creates its own anxiety.

Between the prolonged culture-shock (longer than a year), language barrier, overwork, isolation, low self-esteem, and general anhedonia, I feel like I need to get out and meet people, but I feel so anxious because I can't communicate, I'm falling behind at work while going out, and I am just an all around boring person, aside from my reading interests. With all the terrorist attacks, I am anxious about just wandering the city looking to meet people. I just have tons of anxiety and tend towards the sedentary. Please, what direction should I take to get out there and make friends?

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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Enail on Fri Jul 22, 2016 7:49 pm

That sounds like a really exhausting and stressful situation! Have you considered looking for a language-exchange group or partner? It's a way to meet people that turns the language barrier into a plus rather than a minus, and learning a little German might help, too (I'm not sure if you're studying beginner German or not in your program, but if you are, it would count as studying too!). Or if you don't have the bandwidth for learning a language, you could just offer yourself as a one-way conversation guinea pig.

I'm assuming your classes are in English? Could you try to chat with your classmates a bit, maybe even suggest forming a study group or going for a meal with some of them after class? Since you're so busy, it seems like combining study and socializing might be a good way to go.
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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Tigerlilly on Fri Jul 22, 2016 8:36 pm

Enail wrote:That sounds like a really exhausting and stressful situation! Have you considered looking for a language-exchange group or partner? It's a way to meet people that turns the language barrier into a plus rather than a minus, and learning a little German might help, too (I'm not sure if you're studying beginner German or not in your program, but if you are, it would count as studying too!). Or if you don't have the bandwidth for learning a language, you could just offer yourself as a one-way conversation guinea pig.

I'm assuming your classes are in English? Could you try to chat with your classmates a bit, maybe even suggest forming a study group or going for a meal with some of them after class? Since you're so busy, it seems like combining study and socializing might be a good way to go.

Thank you so much for this response. I feel like I should have clarified: I am not taking classes, but working on an experiment at a national lab. There is a college campus nearby, though, so your advice is still good. I really should get over the pride thing and be open about the language barrier. Is there something sleezy about a 27 year old man talking to undergrads just for language exchange?

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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Enail on Fri Jul 22, 2016 8:52 pm

Any language exchange partner-finding resource would probably be used by grad students as well, so it wouldn't be a situation it's weird for older people to be looking for language partners.

Do you work with any colleagues who you could suggest grabbing lunch with sometimes?
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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Tigerlilly on Fri Jul 22, 2016 9:15 pm

Enail wrote:Any language exchange partner-finding resource would probably be used by grad students as well, so it wouldn't be a situation it's weird for older people to be looking for language partners.

Do you work with any colleagues who you could suggest grabbing lunch with sometimes?  

That is good advice, and I have done that a couple of times, but I don't really enjoy it. I don't know why. I feel like that is really, really anti-social, but work relationships never seem to feel right for me. I am not ragging your advice, it is reasonable, but maybe part of the reason I feel so lonely and unappealling is that I don't connect well with the people I am around all the time.

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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Enail on Fri Jul 22, 2016 9:48 pm

I definitely get that, I've been in that situation before. Sometimes it's worth pushing yourself a bit to try and make a little more connection with the people you're around, just for a bit of company, especially when time and energy are so scarce for seeking other connections, but if it's making you feel more lonely, that's probably not a great route.

Maybe try looking around for expat organizations? If there's an online group, that might be a low-energy way to talk to other people who understand what you're feeling. And if it turns out there's a presence in your region or specific people you connect with nearby, there'd be the possibility of trying for some in-person meeting up.
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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Tigerlilly on Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:51 am

For example, I tried to go out today, but there was that terrorist attack, so I was anxious. It was incredibly hot and humid, so I felt bad (my home has no AC), and my pen pals (?) haven't answered my emails for months ( Sad ). While this is going on I felt more and more horrible about my appearance, my celibacy, how uninteresting I am ... And on and on. I feel like these cognitive doom-spirals are a real problem, and reaching out would help, but it is more difficult because of the same.


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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by litterature on Sat Jul 23, 2016 12:05 pm

I think language exchange is a good idea, actually. I did some informal language exchange with a Japanese classmate and it went well - there was even a romantic side to it which didn't work out at all (she wasn't into me, I began transitioning a few months after meeting her and I found I'm not really prepared to deal with the cultural differences anyway), but she ended up visiting my hometown for her holidays. Keep in mind that I might have got lucky, though. After all I guess people do language exchange primarily to learn a language, so I think it's a context where anything else might be unwelcome. It's totally worth it though!

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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Enail on Sat Jul 23, 2016 12:30 pm

It sounds like the anxiety and doom-spirals are a real problem. Maybe it's time to get professional help with that? There are bound to be some English-language resources.
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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by reboot on Sat Jul 23, 2016 8:41 pm

Even if you are not a runner, you could try looking for a Hash House Harriers group in your city. It is a great way to connect with other English speakers and explore your area. Most groups have at least 1/4-1/3 walkers and if you do not drink beer you can use water. Usually it will be 2-3 hours on a weekend
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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Tigerlilly on Sun Jul 24, 2016 11:44 am

I tried to meet some people today. There is a board game club at the local campus, and I told myself "let's go to that". But when the time came to actually walk up to where these people were playing CATAN and various things, I couldn't do it. Instead I wandered off to some quiet corner and taught myself how to use the random-forest algorithm in julia-script. I don't know what is wrong with me. The medicine keeps me from getting all in a tizzy like I used to, but I still can't "people". It makes me sad.

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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Enail on Sun Jul 24, 2016 12:03 pm

Anxiety is super-tough. But good for you for trying! Keep working at it when you have the spoons for it!
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Re: [Advice] Don't know how to be attractive and active abroad.

Post by Tigerlilly on Sun Jul 24, 2016 8:38 pm

I feel so sad now. So very sad. I wonder if God doesn't really care about me, and why they won't talk to me, or what awful thing I did to be ignored.
I know on an intellectual level that I am being silly, that this is my way of masochistically lashing out at healthy people who happen to be religious. But it makes me angry. Whenever I am talking to someone and discover they are religious I feel so angry. I walk around with a big grimace. Sad I need help.

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