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Who are you making friends with, when you live abroad - nationals of your home country, other expats, or locals?



A popular expat short cut to making new friends is contacting the community from your own country. It can feel really great to speak your language and to talk nostalgically about your childhood favourite cookies and movies that perhaps no foreigners would know. It can help when you feel homesick, or simply long to spend time with someone to whom you do not need to explain the cultural or historical background for your attitudes and tastes. Finding people through contacts from your old friends, community websites, or approaching them when you hear your language being spoken, might be the easiest and most comfortable way of finding new friends. But I would still encourage you to also meet people from other cultures, to experience the added value of living abroad.


Perhaps the most common choice of new friends for people living outside their country of origin are other expatriates or relocated people from different countries. A client once told me: “I sometimes think I have more in common with other expats, even from the other side of the world, than I have with people – whether from my own country or the locals here – who have never experienced living abroad.” Moving abroad is an experience with a strong impact on our lives. Sharing this experience brings people together. However, a lot of expats and migrants at some point move, either back to their own country or to a new place. And, as making close friends takes time, the temporary nature of stays can be the tricky part of such friendships. On the other side of the same coin, there is the great bonus of having friends all around the world.


Getting to know locals of the country you just moved to may seem particularly challenging. Many people quickly assume it is a matter of local prejudice. Keep in mind that those people are simply at home and have plenty of old friends and family around them, so they might just be less thirsty for new intensive contacts than you are. But that does not mean they are not interested, and such contacts are the nicest way of learning about your new place of residence. Don´t give up easily, and keep on trying: involve yourself in activities that contribute to the local community life.


Who are the closest friends you have found while living abroad: nationals of your home country, other expats, or locals? What is your view on the topic? I will be happy to hear from you via e-mail (coach @ smallbigchange . com), or you can share your experience with other readers here.


If you are seeking ideas about where to meet new people and make friends, check our 20 tips here.

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