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Friends Abroad - Expat Info

Practical suggestions that will help you make friends abroad

by ExpatInfo
15 Apr 2019

Poet John Donne was correct when he suggested, “no man is an island”, we all need to feel a sense of belonging. Community, support and friendships are an important part of life and this doesn’t change when you are an expat living abroad. What will change when you are living abroad is how you make friends, the type of people you will connect with and the additional effort required to forge new friendships.

A universal rule seems to be, the older you get, the harder it is to make friends. As a student you’re surrounded by like-minded people, but adults tend to have fewer opportunities to let their hair down and mingle. If you need help making friends whilst living abroad, be it down to shyness or lack of confidence, here are a few practical suggestions that can help you prepare and put you in contact with a new circle of potential friends.

Prepare yourself for friendship: It’s important to remember that everyone is different and has the right to their own opinions, even if they differ drastically from yours. Once you take this on board, you’ll be much more open to new experiences and give yourself the chance to create new connections.  As lovely as it would be, good friends aren’t created overnight, close friendships grow slowly and are built on trust.

Go online: Use Facebook or join meetup groups to find expat organisations and events in your area. Joining an expat network will help you connect with people who are in a similar position. What’s more, you’re likely to meet all sorts of people from different backgrounds and countries and one day you may find yourself visiting one of your new found friends in some exotic country half way around the world.

Join a club or language group: Try learning a foreign language, go to the gym, take a yoga class or sign up for another type of course… the choice is yours.  Potential friends are everywhere, especially in places where people bond over the same interests. If you feel that there’s a potential friendship, try exchanging numbers or emails and invite the person to coffee, most people will happily accept.

Volunteer: Find an association that needs volunteers or a little help every now and again. Not only will you be helping the community, you’ll feel good about it and you’ll meet a lot of people.  It’s win-win-win.

Hang out with your colleagues:  One of the easiest ways to make new friends is to socialise with the people you already spend time with at work. Going out after work with your colleagues can be fun and it will help you expand your social circle at the same time.

Walk your dog: Any dog owner will tell you that it’s a fantastic way to meet people, and not only other dog owners. You’ll be a magnet to any dog lover. You’ll get to spend a healthy amount of time outdoors and meet lots of new people.

Talk to strangers: If you hear a friendly voice, a snippet of conversation that would allow your interjection, you could try approaching people whilst you’re shopping, travelling on a bus or queueing in line. This method should only be attempted if the opportunity presents itself, as not everyone likes to be approached by strangers. You never know, you may find a kindred spirit and start a long-term friendship in the aisle of your local supermarket.

Maintain a healthy friendship

  • Take care of your friends and do not take them for granted. Be grateful to them for enriching your life and show them gratitude.
  • Actively listen to others, be patient.
  • Appreciate your differences – have understanding.
  • Be honest.
  • Be caring.
  • Exchange a good sense of humour.
  • Spend time on the friendship – friendships need to be nurtured.

The relationships you build whilst living abroad will determine the success of your expat lifestyle.  Friendships require effort and need time to grow, so don’t be impatient, take it easy and enjoy the ride.

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