The first time I moved abroad, I was terrified. I knew it would be different from traveling. When I traveled and I didn’t like a place or couldn’t find any friends there, at least I could just leave the next day. It’s a bit different when you’re moving somewhere and you’ve committed to a job and an apartment. So, how exactly do you find friends as an expat? How do you find that group of friends? Here’s a few suggestions that has worked for me.
One of the best sites out there is Meetup.com. When I moved to Lisbon, I had no friend and no acquaintances. So the first thing I did was to join Meetup.com. Since Lisbon is a very popular city amongst expats, it wasn’t very hard to find people who wanted to meet up for coffee, explore beaches, go on hikes, etc. There’s also many meetups scheduled where you can meet people.
Whether you’re a travel blogger yourself or not, this is a good way to meet friends. Perhaps you’ve followed someone’s blog or social media and you see that this person is also moving or have moved to the place you’re going to. Don’t be shy – reach out! Chances are high that this person also wants to get to know new people.
Join language classes
Learning a new language can be stressful, but it can also be a lot of fun. If you’ve moved to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, it can really make the integration process easier and faster if you learn a bit of the language. Another good thing about joining a language class is that you’ll most likely meet other expats there. A big bonus is that you get a practice buddy.
Making friends at work
One of the best places to meet new people is at your workplace. You’ll probably work with some amazing people who might have an established network already that they can also introduce you to. Also, it makes it so much more enjoyable at work when you work with someone you both trust and consider as a friend. Suddenly, those long work days are much more fun.
Couchsurfing isn’t just good for when you’re traveling – it’s also great when you’ve settled down in a place and want to meet up with people. Like Meetup.com, it’s a platform where you can find other travelers or locals who just wants to hang out or do stuff like go on hikes etc. The main reason for couchsurfing is to host or be hosted by locals, all for free! Before I found an apartment in my new city, I couchsurfed with a guy who then would become one of my closest friends. He then introduced me to his friends who introduced me to their friends and all of a sudden, I had more friends than I thought I would!
Join a sports club
… Or yoga club or whatever you’re interested in! You can both do something you love (or at least like) while getting to know new people.
Look on Facebook Groups
There’s groups for everything on Facebook and this is a really good way to meet people. Find your niche and look for it on Facebook. Perhaps you love climbing? Then I’m sure there’s a climbing group in your city where there’s tons of people who wants to meet up.
Many people I met who were expats complained about how difficult it was to meet new people. They said it was way easier when traveling, but as soon as you’re stable somewhere, finding new friends were more difficult. And it might be true. But you need to be patient. You can’t expect to find friends as soon as you land. It takes time to form real connections and it takes a lot of patience. Even if you’re meeting up with tons of people, perhaps their personality won’t match yours and that’s okay. Because sooner or later, you’ll find that click of people that you’ll want to spend all of your time with and then you’ll see that the wait has been worth it.
Just be social
Don’t be afraid to join every social event and talk to people! Have a positive attitude, come with a smile and you’ll soon be surrounded by people. When you move to a new city, you can’t expect people to come to you. Sometimes, you have to come to them. And if you want to find friends, you have to be social, you have to put some effort in, join all events where you can be social, build a new circle of friends and put yourself out there. You’ll be surprised by how easy it actually is to make new friends, especially in a city that has many expats.