Making friends abroad can be quite a daunting experience but the sooner you form a social network the better you will feel about living overseas. Having people to share your experiences with, both good and bad, will assist you to feel more comfortable and settle in well. Whilst many people find that expat clubs, groups and forums are a good way of meeting new people, you should not overlook the local population and you should try, where possible, to form friendships with people who are native to your expat destination. A strong social circle that consists of people both from your home country and from your expat destination can help you to settle in more quickly and feel a true sense of belonging.
Making friends abroad can often be easier if you have children and are sending them to international schools. Expats in such a position usually find very quickly that there is a busy social scene revolving around the school, parents and children. Your children will make friends quickly and the likelihood is that you will make friends with their parents. It is an excellent introduction into life abroad and meeting parents from a similar background is a good way to find other people who are experiencing similar feelings to you.
If you are moving with work, you will be able to socialize with your work peers. If however you are a trailing spouse or setting up your own business, you may find it a lot harder. Expat forums and groups can be useful in these situations and can assist you to meet new people and form friendships. Most cities throughout the world have expat groups (large and small) which offer advice, support and social activities for the whole family. Our international relocation guides have detailed contact information on all country-specific expat groups, clubs and ways of making friends abroad. Contacting these bodies before you leave will ensure that you have a social and support network immediately upon arrival.
It can be hard to make new friends wherever you are in the world, but on the whole, expat communities are very welcoming and, providing you make an effort to get out and meet people, you should find that it won’t be long until you have a whole new circle of friends.
Regardless of whether you are traveling alone or with family, we have put together a list of six great methods of making friend abroad:
Professional Networks and Associations
Professional Associations are available in major cities throughout the world and they offer people an opportunity to become acquainted with people within their own professional circle whilst also providing a means by which they can develop and learn. Such associations can be especially used for the Trailing Spouse, who may have had a successful career in their own country but who is now searching for new opportunities now they have relocated. Joining a professional network will both demonstrate your commitment to your career as well as offering an opportunity to meet with people whom you may be interested in socializing with outside of the professional arena. To find out what professional networks and associations are available within your expat destination please see our city guides, which contain a full listing of associations together with contact details and meeting time scales.
Sports and hobbies
Participating in an organized sport or hobby is a great way to make friends with people who have similar interests to you. Many sports and hobby clubs encourage new members from all backgrounds and abilities. Through joining a local sports club you can have an opportunity to try something completely different whilst improving your fitness and your social network. There is no end to the activities on offer in many expat destinations from yoga, dancing, mountain climbing and crafts through to football, chess and book reading clubs, there’s always going to be something that suits you. For a comprehensive list of activities that take place in your expat destination please see our city guides.
Pubs, clubs and bars
Popular expat hangouts can be found in destinations throughout the world and hitting the bars can be an ideal way to meet people. Sit at the bar enjoying a drink and it won’t be long until conversation starts with the locals. Attending organized activities such as pub quizzes, karaoke nights and racing night can also offer you an opportunity to mix with fellow expats and there will be no shortage of expats who will happy to strike up conversation and meet new friends. See the local newspapers for details of events that or being held in bars in your area or browse online expat forums.
Completing voluntary work for charities is a further ideal method of making friends abroad while simultaneously contributing to a good cause. There are always large numbers of charities that are looking for volunteers and you can get involved in a wide range of different activities from feeding stray animals through to teaching underpriviledged children. For a full list and contact information of charities in your expat destination, please see our individual city guides. You should also consult the visa section as, in many countries, you may be required to have an appropriate visa in order to complete any type of voluntary work.
If you move to a country that has a different language than your native tongue, participating in language exchanges can offer an ideal opportunity to meet new people whilst also learning the local language. There are always large numbers of people who are looking to learn a new language and will be happy to teach their own language in return. Many of the online expat forums contain details of language exchanges and you can often also find advertisements in the local newspapers.
Social network groups
Many of the online forums contain social network groups that anyone is free to join. Within these groups you will find people who are looking to meet people and make new friends. The online forums often organize meet and greet nights at popular venues throughout the expat cities and these offer an ideal opportunity for you to mix with people who are looking to increase their social circle. The added advantage of such organized evenings is that they can help you to become familiar with the new city in which you are living as well as offering a great opportunity for making friends abroad.