by Naphtali / Borderless Media Team Leader

A man began a conversation with an immigrant in the supermarket. As they talked, he invited the immigrant over to his home. “That is the first time in 10 years that anyone has invited me to their home,” the immigrant said.

It’s easy to be so deeply invested in daily life that one forgets to notice the people around them who may be hungry for connection, an invitation, a hello. Life is often hurried, and it’s natural to sometimes miss these moments.

We sometimes don’t know where to begin. Every culture has unique nuances, and we want to honor these.

“We don’t have the symphony without first having the dissonance,” Shannan Martin says of making new friends. It’s natural and normal for things to feel awkward in the beginning.

Here are a few simple ways to foster connection and make things just a little easier to connect with an immigrant neighbor.

Smile + say hello
A smile is one of the most universal forms of communication. It communicates that a person is seen. Saying hello is another easy way to acknowledge this. “As I speak with refugees,” one of our workers wrote. “I always hear the same story: people ignore them. Even if they greet them, they get ignored. What effort does it cost to say ‘hello’? You will be surprised how many will react positively, and we can show them real hospitality in this way.”
Intentionally learn their name
When someone remembers a person’s name, it shows that they had enough intention and care to do so. This is a simple way to connect with an immigrant neighbor. If their name is hard for you to say, that’s okay! You can ask them to repeat the name, put it into a song, or write it down. Bonus: ask them what their name means.
Learn a greeting or phrase in their language
This shows that you are interested enough to know more about their home culture and in turn, them as a person. Depending on the situation that they left back home, home may carry some difficult memories with it, but it is also deeply a part of who they are. Even if you just learn “thank you,” “hello,” or “have a good day,” they will be happy to teach it to you and you will learn something new!
Invite them to a community or holiday event
There are built in opportunities for connection all around us. A lot of places have a farmers’ market, a church holiday event, or an autumn festival. This is a way for your immigrant friend to learn a little more about the culture they’re living in and meet new people. You can also invite your immigrant friend along on an already-planned family beach day, hike, or picnic.
Offer handyman help
Sometimes immigrants end up living in housing that is poorly maintained. If you’re someone who likes to fix things, offering to repair a broken door, appliance, or plumbing issue can go a long way in deepening connection with your immigrant friend.
Invite them for coffee or a meal
By inviting someone into your space, it deepens trust. It shows to your immigrant friend that you are willing to share something very personal with them – your home and family. And if you’re not quite ready for this, you can meet them at a park over a biscuit and tea or offer to buy them a cup of coffee at a local coffeeshop. Remember that loving is listening. It communicates that they are seen and heard. And if they invite you into their home, go for it! Hospitality is highly valued in many other cultures. You’re in for a treat if you go: you’ll learn more about the person whose home you’re in, you’ll get to try their food, and you’ll give them the opportunity to share a part of who they are with you.
Offer them a ride somewhere
Immigrants who have recently moved may not have a car yet or may still be learning to drive. Offering them a ride to an appointment, a community event, or the grocery store is a way to meet a practical need. Your friend may be more open to spiritual conversation as well since you are in a quiet and “safe” environment away from the ears of others.
Ask them to teach you how to cook a meal from their home culture
This is a delightful way to share culture. People who move into a new culture often still cook food that they’re used to from their home culture. By asking them to teach you how to cook a meal, you put yourself in the position of a learner. You’ll learn and your friend will be happy to share what they know with you! Plus, you’ll get some tasty and unique grub out of the deal.
Invite their kids to a Christian kid’s event like Awana
When living life in a new place, it’s nice to know that there are events for you and your children to take part in. By inviting an immigrant’s children to events, it shows love in a special way and will give the parents a little space as they might be spending a lot of time with their kids. This is a way to share Jesus with the parents as well since their kids will be learning things that they may teach to their parents. Make sure you’re sharing with the parents what their kids are learning as well. This will put them at ease to know what is happening when their children are somewhere without them.
Ask them how you can pray for them + do so in their presence
A lot of people will allow you to pray for them. There’s something comforting about being prayed over. God works when we pray. If they refuse to share prayer requests or don’t feel comfortable being prayed over, it’s okay too. God sees them.
As you go about this, find joy in knowing that you have been given a gift to impart life and love into the immigrants you’re meeting. Your friendship will go a long way in helping them feel like a part of the culture they’re now living in. This is also an opportunity to share the love of Christ with them. There is no better way to love your neighbor than this.

If you want to dig deeper to find out more about how to love your immigrant neighbor, feel free to reach out to us with your questions.