How to Make Friends Abroad as an Expat

by Sojourner
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It is time breakdown how to make friends abroad.

Imagine you decided to move abroad and get all settled. You are unpacked, have a nice workflow, and are creating a nice routine. As a new expat you are feeling semi-adjusted and want to get out and meet people. But now you are wondering, how easy is it to make friends in a new country? 

Understanding how to make friends abroad has to be one of the most nerve-wracking dilemmas for new expats. Building that community is critical. Do not get discouraged because it is possible! It is easier than you think. Seriously.

Let me help you learn how to make foreign friends! It is only fitting to share your experience abroad with people you adore. With these tips, I will make it fun for you to find those right people. We will have you kicking it with a new group and community in no time. Here are ways to make friends as an expat. 

How to make friends in a new country

Volunteer with a local NGO or community organization

Getting involved in the community is a great way to start marking friends abroad. It is one of the more popular ways to get acquainted with a new home. Expats are looking for a deeper connection that is more natural and not forced. No one knows better than those involved in the community.

If you have a skill set that is needed for a community organization, start there. Look up the NGOs in the area to understand if they are looking for long-term or short-term volunteers. You can look up volunteer opportunities in the area or ask around at local community centers. 

Volunteering helps you find like-minded people. But, one thing to remember is that unless you are returning to your birthplace, you are a foreigner. The dynamics between you and the community, or you and the other volunteers, may take some time. You need to build that rapport and trust. 

Once you commit, be consistent and follow through. Do not impose or try to lead when you need support and be ready to learn. Keep an open mind and assist when asked to do so.

Join an intramural sports team

A “how to make friends overseas” blog post would not be complete without this tip. While verbal language is one way to make foreign friends, body language is another. And sports work as a universal language that requires some skill, knowledge of the game, and observation skills.

You can find sports teams through word of mouth, flyers, at actual sporting events, or in the community. It does not matter if you are talking about the Olympics or an intramural sports team. Getting active through sports is an excellent opportunity to meet new people abroad.

Participate in language exchanges

When wondering how to make foreign friends, learning a foreign language should be at the top of the list. How can you make those friends if you do not know what is going on? News flash, you can’t (entirely). That is where language exchanges come in to help ease your new life abroad.

I love a good language exchange. You should too! But for those who are unfamiliar, I can explain. Language exchanges are meetups you do with someone who wants to learn a language you speak and vice versa. Think of them as fun language dates. And if you are in a Spanish-speaking country such as Spain, they are called intercambios. 

These language exchanges are most common in cafes. You may see flyers posted looking for language partners in various languages. You can find these through formal language exchange websites too. Heck, you may even use dating apps to find your language partner!

Making friends abroad using social media

Find destination-focused expat Facebook groups

Making friends in other countries is a lot easier in the era of social media. Joining destination-based expat travel groups on Facebook is the way to go. There is so much information in those groups! You can ask questions, search old posts, and introduce yourself and your move upon arrival to connect with others. 

The upside of expat life becoming more popular is how these groups are now mixed with locals too. How genius! Seeing an opportunity to reach tourists, locals in your respective destination may be in these groups. You never know who will respond, so go for it. 

Dating apps

I mean, if you are going to date someone, you want to be friends first, right? If you don’t, no judgment. Do you. But with apps such as Bumble, Hinge, Tinder, and many more, it is possible. You can always go on a few dates to see if you want to take it further than friendship. My main piece of advice is to be upfront about what you are looking for on these apps. 

If you genuinely want to get to know people, nothing serious, or just friends, say so. For those expats who are looking for more, make your intentions clear. Use that bio to let people know who and what you want. Be direct and to the point. You may get no hits this route, or you may get a lot! But you won’t know if you don’t try.

Connect with locals on social media

Love or hate social media, allows us to connect in new ways. Dating apps are one form of social media, but there are more to use too.  You can use Meetup and the Facebook Local app to check out what is going on around you. Both apps share expat-driven and locally curated events for networking, activity-focused hangouts, etc.

On that note, I highly suggest mingling with locals and expats. Having a good variety of friendships is healthy. Do not limit yourself to just one group. There are some experiences only other expats understand, and it is good to have some around. And then some things only locals will understand. 

But also remember that big international hubs for expats can be known as “transient cities” because people leave so much. Due to the revolving door of expats, you do not want to build a community for half or more to go one by one. Get to know everyone in your possible circle. 

Final tips on how to make friends as an expat

Pursue a hobby or interest

If sports teams are not your route on making new friends in other countries, do not worry. There are different ways. Think about what you like to do and go from there. When I taught English in Spain, I took a photography class to meet new people. Check any of the schools and community centers near you to get involved. Add this to your “how to make friends abroad” checklist for sure!

Go to bars or restaurants alone

To be honest, this is one of the hardest for me! Yet, considering how bars and restaurants are made for socializing, it is one of the best ways to make new friends abroad. People are more likely to approach you when you are solo than in a group.

If going to bars or restaurants alone is how you want to make friends in a new country and scope it out first. Search for rooftop bars or the “top bars to visit in x destination” to find the best ones. Go to a few bars during one week, different ones the next, and repeat. 

Feel out the vibe on different days of the week and see if they have special nights. Some bars may offer dancing and drink discounts which can attract a lot of people. Make conversation with the bartenders and ask them the best days to come to that bar. Heck, the bartender may even become your friend too.

Follow up with people you click with

Once you meet someone, put in that effort. Whether you are in your home country or abroad, friendships should never be one-sided. They will not survive that way, and you want them to thrive! If you make friends abroad whose company you enjoy, let them know by inviting them out too. This tip is often forgotten on advice on how to make friends abroad. But you need to invest in people who invest in you. 

Say “yes” more often

Building a community is no joke, especially if you move abroad solo. When you know no one, you have to make more effort to meet people. Remember to be open to new experiences. Do not be as afraid or timid as you may be at home. Be safe and cautious, but take some risks and put yourself out there.

Exciting things can occur when you push past fear and say yes. It may happen instantly, a few weeks, or a few months. However, you will find that friend group perfect for you. Choose it more often if you want to make friends abroad. You have so much life to live! It’s great to share that life with others. 

Curious about what lessons you learn living abroad? Read this post here.

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