The word “networking” can drive fear right into the heart of many expats and if you are not blessed with an outgoing personality and high levels of confidence you can really dread the occasions when you are forced to mingle and make polite chit-chat with people you have never met before in the desperate hope that you will meet an individual who you envisage as a future friend.
Fortunately, networking and making new friends doesn’t need to be a painful affair and meeting new people doesn’t have to take place in an environment where you are forced to circulate a room and approach complete strangers. All you need is a little imagination and a good idea of the situations in which your personally thrives and you may even find that making new friends can be fun.
Consider volunteering to help a charity or good cause. You may wish to help out at a school, animal sanctuary, church or hospital. Here your primary focus will be on helping others but, while you’re at it, you will have plenty of opportunity to chat to fellow volunteers and helpers. Because you won’t be in an environment where all eyes are assessing your suitability as a future friend you will find it easier to be yourself.
If there’s a particular activity that you love doing or if you have a skill that you have been dying to learn, get out there and give it a go. Whether it’s a photography course, book club or sports team, sign up at the earliest opportunity. The people who attend these courses, like you, will be in a relaxed social setting and will be happy to engage in conversation and get to know you without you feeling like you are involved in some type of interview. In addition to this, you will get an opportunity to build relationships with like-minded individuals who have similar interests to your own. If you’re nervous about the prospect of walking into a group environment alone, consider trying an uncommon sport or activity. The great thing about less popular pastimes is that the communities tend to be small and members are usually really happy to have new people join so will go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
Of course we are not condoning getting a dog for the sheer reason of making new friends. But if you have seriously considered getting a dog in the past, your host country is dog friendly and your circumstances mean that you are suitable as a dog owner, then consider getting a dog. Dogs really are people magnets—and usually nice-people magnets. You’ll find a whole host of people hanging out at your local dog park or training center and it won’t be long until you’re chatting away and exchanging phone numbers. Even if you don’t find that having a dog allows you to network in the way you intended, your faithful companion will stick by your side and cheer you up when you’re feeling lonely.
Making new friends and growing your network need not be a major ordeal. Stick to what you know and are comfortable doing and you will find that people are drawn to you like a moth to a flame.
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