5 Ways of Making Friends as an Expat
The first few weeks, or even months, of being an expat can be a lonely experience. With language barriers to overcome, a new culture/landscape to acclimatise to and no comforting social network to fall back on, it can be tempting to give up and go home. If you’re in this situation just remember, once you’ve made one overseas friend others will soon follow. But if you aren’t sure where to start check out our top five ways of making friends as an expat!
Okay, some people may blame social networking sites for the collapse of physical interaction, but there are definite pluses to using them when you’re an expat or soon-to-be expat.
Before you move overseas you can use social networking platforms to search for people already living around the area you intend to be based in. You can chat with locals and learn about popular hang outs, or arrange to meet up with fellow expats. Many expat groups have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, so you can find out what sort of communities are out there long before you get on the plane. And even if you aren’t comfortable befriending people online, you can still benefit from the advice of people who’ve been in the same situation.
Language Exchange Events
If your language skills aren’t fantastic you may want to consider taking part in language exchange events. Most cities, particularly European cities, will run a variety of fun and interesting language exchange events on a regular basis. Through such events you’ll be able to brush up on a foreign tongue, derive satisfaction from helping someone else learn English and meet lots of new people, typically a mix of fellow expats, travellers or locals.
Get off the ‘Beaten Track’
Generally, the most popular/commercial areas of any nation will be taken over by tourists during the ‘holiday season’ – and in countries like Spain the holiday season can last for up to six months! Although being surrounded by other foreigners can be comforting, making friends with tourists won’t help you in the long term. So do what the locals do and avoid the crowds. Discover the out of the way places they visit when the tourists come to town and make friends who will still be there to support you when the holiday’s over.
Take a Class
When you’re a child making friends is relatively easy, chucked as you are in a classroom full of children of the same age and from the same location. But the older you get the more difficult the situation seems. If you want to give yourself something to focus on, and make new acquaintances in the process, join an evening or weekend class. Don’t just consider language classes, try and sign yourself up for an activity you liked at home, like yoga, martial arts or painting. That way when you meet someone at a class you have the comfort of knowing that you have a shared interest from which to initially base your friendship.
Throw Yourself in to your Surroundings
Making the effort to socialise and getting to know your new nation/people early on can have a real difference on how quickly you are able to make friends. As daunting as it may seem, throw yourself into every event and opportunity. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible, pass out business cards if you have them and take the initiative. If you meet people who look like they have the potential to become good friends invite them to a gathering at your home or organise a social event.
The most important thing to remember is to not let yourself get disheartened be rejections and to keep going, because in the end all the effort you’ve put in is bound to pay off.