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I am taking an online course. Two days ago, the instructor organized a meeting of all the students. I liked one of them – he is senior to me, and seems like a nice sort of person, friendly-like – and we seemed to share common interests. (We were asked to describe ourselves in a few sentences, so that is how I know.)

I felt that I would like to get to know more about him, so I contacted him personally the next day, thanking him for some of his comments which were helpful for junior students like myself. I also asked him general, non-personal questions, like about his dissertation.

He replied the same day, and was friendly, and talked about his dissertation a bit more. He signed off with "Thank you for getting in touch, and hope to speak again soon."

Does he want to continue this interaction, or is he trying to give me a brush-off? If he is keen on continuing interacting, when should I reply to his email? Today? Tomorrow? I have just one or two friends, and would like to make more, but it takes an incredible effort for me to interact, so I am just not sure what I should do.

What are the general guidelines/etiquette for situations like this?

Note: I am male, as is he. I am looking for a platonic friendship. He is from the UK; I am from Sri Lanka.

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In general, friendships develop naturally over time. When we find ourselves in new circumstances - for example after a move to a new place, or starting a new place of employment or education - we might feel that we have to make efforts to cultivate new friendships, and perhaps try and rush the process. Everybody is different, and it is good to be aware of when we might be coming across to other people as a little too keen to be friends. There shouldn't be anything odd about making effort to make new friends, but over-keenness may be unsettling to some people.

You mention that you are from Sri Lanka, and your new friend is from the UK. I think it is likely that some of your anxiety may be related to the difference in language and culture and you may feel that you are not interpreting his responses correctly. I am a native British English speaker, and I do not see anything unusual about the reply you got from your prospective new friend. "Thank you for getting in touch, and hope to speak again soon" is a very polite way to end a conversation, and sometimes formality can be used to avoid become familiar with someone - but don't overthink it, because it could just simply be politeness. He did say "hope to speak again soon", which seems sincere. When people give someone the 'brush-off' they tend to be vaguer and say things like "see you around". You also mentioned that he talked about his dissertation, and people who do not want to be in a conversation tend to be very brief and just answer questions - volunteering information is a good sign that people are enjoying the exchange.

I don't think you have any reason to think he doesn't want to be your friend at this stage. Just don't try to rush the process and avoid coming across too keen in case that is something that makes him uncomfortable. You had a good conversation. One way to ensure that you don't appear as forcing a conversation is to wait until you have something new to talk about, such as something that comes up in the course you are sharing. "Getting to know someone" shouldn't just be questions about their past. Friendships tend to form over shared experiences.

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  • Hey there Asrtalbee! We now require answers here to be backed up by personal experience or external sources. So, could you edit to tell us about a similar situation you were in the past? Who was involved, what did you say and how did the other person react? – Ael Nov 5 '20 at 8:45
  • @Ael It's clear that the OP's anxiety over this issue stem from the cultural difference between him and the other male. My experience comes from being a native British English speaker like his prospective friend and being able to explain the nuances of what was said. – Astralbee Nov 5 '20 at 8:53

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