20 ideas for finding new friends after moving abroad
I guess everybody has experienced the feeling of loneliness and social isolation after moving to a new place. Most of the old friends and family are back home. Keeping in contact from a distance works better with some of them than with others, still it is not the same as being in the same town.
There will be days when you feel like going out after work, having a chat, sharing your day… not over skype, not through e-mails, but in person… and you might find out that all the three contacts you have in the city are busy, out of town, or whatever else, and get horribly homesick.
At moments like that, it might help you to treat the feeling of isolation as a phase, a step every newcomer must go through. It might take longer and be more intensive the first time it appears, after the initial exciting weeks at the new place, but that will very likely improve. After some time, phases like this tend to become less intense and less frequent.
Maintaining the most important old relationships, but at the same time finding some friends at the place you just moved to, are the crucial keys. Fortunately, many people are interested in new friends, just like you are. So heads up, find them and show that you are one of them, too.
Making the very first contacts is the most difficult; so here are some ideas on where to find people with whom it might later go beyond small talk – all collected from expats.
- Enquire among your friends, relatives and ex-colleagues at home, whether they know about anybody living at your new place of residence. Although links such as knowing your cousin; working for the same company but at different times; or coming from the same town as a husband of your friend, would not make you contact the person on your home territory, it is a perfectly adequate link for contacting among expats.
- Start a conversation with a co-traveller or a co-passenger who is flying to the same destination as you.
- Find out about local habits when moving to a new neighbourhood, for example: whether it is common to visit your new neighbours and introduce yourself or invite them round. Do so, and see which of them might have a similar lifestyle, kids of a similar age, shared pastimes or a similar professional background.
- Check out the usual sources of information about local cultural activities: websites, magazines distributed at metro stations, etc. Go to different events, even if on your own. Your chances of finding friends in your flat are much more limited than they will be there.
- Subscribe to a local language course, or any other sort of course.
- Find someone interested in tandem language learning (native speaker in a language you want to learn, who is interested in practising your own native language).
- In bigger international cities, communities from different countries often have their own websites and organize common activities. In small or less international places, such communities often exist as well, but they are more likely at regional rather than local level. Find yours and get in touch with them.
- Check also wider expat communities (for expats from different countries) and their public networking events: fairs, parties etc. Everybody goes there with the intention of getting to know other people, so you do not need to seek any other reasons to start a conversation.
- Participate in local activities, such as weekend workshops, related to your hobby or topic of interest. Ask another attendee for recommendations for other good events around that hobby. If you get information on an interesting one, show your interest in going there and perhaps seeing each other again. Asking for a contact is easier then.
- Check online social groups established around your interest: choose a local group that also meets in person. If you do not find one around your biggest hobby, create one.
- If you prefer contacting an individual person instead of the whole online social group, introduce yourself through a message, acknowledge that you are new here and seeking people with similar interests to yours. See the reaction and follow up accordingly.
- Participate in public presentations organized by local universities and training centres.
- If you like the arts, try out events of smaller size or with a reception, as their atmosphere is often more encouraging for people to start talking to each other. Approach an individual or a group that consists of an odd number of people (those are unlikely to consist of couples only, and thus are usually more open).
- When go to a new gym or any sport classes for the first time, ask some other attendees how it works at that place and which activities they could recommend.
- Pick an interesting charity event or activity and offer your help.
- Encourage your kids to bring home new friends from school. Later you can consider inviting them together with their parents or suggesting a common activity.
- Once you have some contacts, they might invite you to join activities with their other friends. Accept these offers because, if they invite you, it probably means they believe you would get along well.
- Organize your own party or gathering: invite the people you know (don´t be too afraid just because they seem different from each other) and encourage them to bring along some more friends.
- If you are not confident about starting a full conversation with a stranger and introducing yourself, use the following trick: think of just one question you could ask, and the rest can take care of itself: e.g. I wonder whether the exhibition on the second floor is related to this one – do you know what is there?; or Great event, isn´t it. I wonder whether they often organize events like this.
- ? How have you made new friends at a new place? I will be happy to add here your best practices. If you would like to share them, click here.
Keep your mind open and don´t judge people too fast: you never know who might later become your friend, or introduce you to another interesting person. Focus on what you have in common instead of differences. The more people you get to know, the better the chance that you will make some good friends among them.
If you are generally rather introverted and shy when it comes to approaching new people and talking to them, still try to find some ways of showing that you are interested in making new friends: with your looks, smiles, gestures and acts, through joining common activities and through your reactions. It is important that the others can at least read the message about your interest from your behaviour, so that they feel encouraged to follow up.
Making friends takes time. New contacts do not become close friends overnight, but working towards it can already be very nice and cheerful.