Moving to a foreign country has enough complications as it is and amongst all the admin that goes along with moving abroad, many people overlook that fact that they are essentially landing friendless...
According to a study by the UN in 2013, more people than ever are now moving abroad, with 3.2% of the world’s population living outside of their countries of birth.
This figure would have surely increased since then, meaning the hunt for jobs abroad is as popular and competitive as ever.
One of the main considerations, once you've actually moved new country, is making friends. It can be rather intimidating relocating and trying to break into new friendship groups to socialise with is never easy.
Having travelled extensively and having been living abroad for the past 4 years, I have used numerous ways to meet new people. Some have been pretty standard and others a bit more on the extreme side. Below I have shared a variety of my experiences to help make friends abroad.
Tagme is a really simple and hugely addictive new app that can really help you make friends when you move abroad. It matches you with other users with similar interests. When registering you select keywords (or Tagwords, as they are called in the app), selecting specific interests under categories such as Hobbies & Social, Sports, Health & Fitness, Languages, Food & Drink, Instruments, Music, Pets & Animals and Business.
You can then send messages to other users who match your criteria.
So, for example, I wanted to learn Beach Tennis, with people around my age so I selected ‘Beach Tennis’ and the age group 30-45, added a short message to introduce myself and that I was keen to learn to play. My message was then sent to the 20 best/closest matches who can choose to reply and create chat conversations instantly.
There really are endless ways Tagme app can be used and as a new friend/hobby finder, it is surely one of the most exciting social apps to launch this year.
This sounds like an obvious suggestion, however, I can’t recommend this enough. Whether you're a beginner or looking to hone in on a sport you already play, joining local clubs is a fantastic way for making friends abroad.
The good thing is that they are always looking for new players and also organise regular social events, which are ideal for letting your hair down and getting to know the members.
Most have a Whatsapp group, so make sure you join this and contribute to the conversation.
Similar to sports clubs, gyms can be a good way to meet people, as there can be a lot of standing around during training breaks and waiting for classes. I guess the hard bit is always how to introduce yourself. Most gym-goers are regulars so they will know a new face when they see one, so don’t be put off as they will recognise you are new. Try offering to help spot, or visa versa, asking for some advice etc.
Again some gyms organise social events, so make an effort to find out and attend.
If you have free time on your hands, then volunteering is something to seriously consider for a number of reasons.
First and foremost you’ll be giving something back to the local community, which in addition to being a great cause, will also give you a lot of credibility.
You’ll feel great about yourself and meet a ton of interesting people.
Volunteer options could include helping at local youth clubs, homeless, age-related groups, children's homes, hospices, communities etc.
You can take comfort in the fact that there are, of course, people in the same situation, who are actively looking for a way to make new friends. Hopefully, they will stumble upon Meetup too.
Meetup is a website dedicated to organising and attending local events, sports, hobbies or skills. It’s certainly one of the most growing services around for meeting new people.
Simply find a skill or hobby in a city close to you and join the group.
You are limited to those cities with events on, however, you can always create new events.
Couchsurfing is a website for ‘sleeping on someone’s couch’ I love the idea, as it allows the not-so money-hungry Airbnb’ers to meet a variety of new people. Although it’s fundamentally for short-stay travellers, it is also a great way to meet local people and make new friends when you move abroad, I have done this a couple of times and I’m still in regular contact with the hosts now.
Sign up and give it a go!
Print your own T-shirt declaring you are new in town, with a personalised cheeky message. This would surely attract a lot of attention!
You can print your own T-shirts for next to nothing, and you could get really creative - a different shirt for each different day of the week!
Create an event on Facebook, limiting numbers, (and perhaps strictly no couples!) inviting people to come to your hosted dinner party. This is a great way to meet new people, who may also be in a similar situation.
You can even add a special theme for the evening, or ask attendees to bring something along for fun.
If you’re in a non-English speaking country, language groups are a great way to meet new people in the same boat as you. Most of them organise regular events hosted in small cafes and bars, creating a really friendly environment, where you’ll meet locals and other foreigners all eager to speak to you to practice their English, it’s a win-win!
What I mean by this is self-styling. Instead of dressing the same as everybody else, why not find an accessory that makes people notice you and gives you individuality. I’m sure you have heard the expression; ‘All Press Is Good Press’ well, in social environments if people are noticing you because you look different/interesting it’s a good thing!
The first time I traveled I grew dreadlocks and wow, it was an amazing ice-breaker, I had all kinds of people coming up to me. In fact, I remember once that I was in a small town in Australia when a guy came up to me and said ‘Hey I saw you having your dreads done in Thailand!” - it really is a small world!
So why not grow that crazy moustache, dye your hair that luminous colour the inner you have always wanted, or buy a funky new hat?
Facebook events are a really great way to meet new people and try different things. From treks to wine tasting and everything in-between.
You could even create your own event, especially if you have a particular hobby or interest.
So make sure to regularly see what’s coming up and join anything that interests you.
If you love animals and can commit to owning a dog, they’re the perfect way to meet new people and keep fit at the same time!
You’ll surely meet other dog owners and if it's cute attract a lot of attention :)
So there you go! Hopefully, there are a couple of gems in here that will help cure your inevitable post-move loneliness and make some expat friends.
Just make sure to make an effort to learn the language as that is the best way to break the ice with the locals.