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How to Make Friends Abroad

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Congratulations! You’ve made the leap and moved to another country. You’ve covered all the logistics–apartment, insurance, bank account, tax identification number–and oriented yourself to your new surroundings. But now that you’ve settled in, a new, more cringe-worthy challenge, awaits–making friends.

Now, depending on your age and how often you’ve moved, striking up conversations with strangers in a strange land may not be a big deal. But if you’ve had the same friends your whole adult life, collecting new chums can be tough.

When I decided to move to Sydney, AU, in January without knowing a soul, I did a few things to make the process easier for myself both before and after I arrived.

Hook Up With Friends of Friends

Before you leave on your trip or move, ask everyone you know for contacts of people or relatives dwelling in your destination city. Or better yet, have them CC you on an introductory e-mail. It may seem awkward, almost like you’re a charity case, but it’s worth a try.

Cases in point: A friend back home knew someone living in Sydney and gave me his contact info while I was still in the States. We started e-mailing, and after I arrived and settled in, we met up. We hit it off and started hanging out on a regular basis. It helped, too, that he was from the Philadelphia area, where I’d lived for nine years. We could commiserate not just on being American expats, but on having lived in the same city.

Target Twitter or Facebook

There’s a huge expat/travel community on Twitter. If you start following people in your future country or city, you can build online friendships that you can test out in real life once you’re there. You might also glean early insights into what to expect in your new home.

Before I left, a friend introduced me via Twitter to another young woman from New Jersey arriving in Sydney the same week as me. We began following each other online and met up our first week down under. We now joke about being each other’s first friends in Australia. I also met up with another Twitter pal on a recent trip to Melbourne.

Make the Most of Meetups

Some people shy away from sites like Meetup.com because they feel like an inorganic way to meet people. But consider other groups besides the “expat” or “new in town” ones. If you have a hobby, such as cooking, reading or jogging, joining those groups could help you find friends who both share your interests and will join you for a drink on Saturday nights.

I’ve yet to attend an actual expat meet-up here in Sydney, but I did go on a hike with another group a few weeks in. I met other newcomers from North America and Europe, and we exchanged numbers and met up socially a weeks later.

Ham it Up at Hostels

The benefit of hostels is that everyone is thrust into the same situation. If you’re friendly, people will often invite you out because they’re also travelling solo. So while your first instinct may be to seclude yourself in your dorm, force yourself to chat with other guests in the common areas.

When I first arrived in Sydney, I spent a week at a hostel in Bondi Beach. I felt overwhelmed and jetlagged, but I talked with my roommates and made it a point to meet others at mealtimes. Now I have pals I can reconnect with when they pop back into Sydney. Hostels are also sometimes a good place to return to even after you’ve settled, as the more popular, centralized ones can have a big social atmosphere.

Combine Work and Play

If you worked somewhere at home that has a branch or even some clients where you’re headed, ask to be introduced. You could get friends and additional work opportunities.

I work from home as a full-time freelance writer, so I don’t have the social benefit of an office. Before I left for Oz, a North American client connected me with the editor of the Australian version of its Web site. We eventually met for drinks and stayed in touch, and I got the bonus of a writing assignment.

So making friends abroad doesn’t have to be painful. With some in-person and online networking and friendliness toward fellow travelers, you’ll be Miss or Mr. Popularity in no time.

Lauren Fritsky is a journalist and blogger from New Jersey currently spending a year in Sydney, Australia, on a work/holiday visa. Her work has appeared on major Web sites including AOL and CNN and in magazines such as Weight Watchers. Read about her time abroad at www.thelifethatbroke.com.

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28 Responses to How to Make Friends Abroad

  1. Ashley April 8, 2010 at 12:11 PM #

    The friends of friends tactic definitely works! I used it to my advantage when I moved to New York, and plan to use it again next year when I move to Sydney!
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..The summer of bocce =-.

  2. Matt April 8, 2010 at 4:50 PM #

    Besides hostels, I think you stand the most luck meeting new mates at wherever it is you end up working. Thinking back to my previous working holidays, the vast majority of friends were made at work. It’ where you spend the most of you time and logically where you’ll make new pals.
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..Crossing the Cook Strait with Bluebridge =-.

    • Steph April 8, 2010 at 8:50 PM #

      Living with roommates is also a good way to make buddies.

  3. Christine April 8, 2010 at 4:53 PM #

    What great tips! One thing that my mom told me when I was backpacking by myself–buy into the friendly Californian/American stereotype, smile and say hello. People expect you to be friendly, so you might as well play that up and make some friends! Worst comes to worst, people think you’re weird but at least they won’t think you’re rude.
    Making friends is my biggest concern about moving to Nice–especially since I’m not fluent in the native language and I’m doing a homestay instead of living in dorms or staying in hostels–but I’m sure it will all come together in the end.
    If you hear about the crazy, smiling Californian in Nice…that’s me. And if you have any friends of friends on the French Riviera, send them my way :)
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..How traveling cured a picky eater =-.

    • Steph April 8, 2010 at 8:50 PM #

      A friend once gave me the advice that even if you are feeling shy/nercous just pretend you aren’t. I’ve practiced that “fake it til you make it” attitude in many situations and it has gotten me pretty far.

  4. Gray April 8, 2010 at 8:32 PM #

    Great advice all around!
    .-= Gray´s last blog ..So This is Mofongo =-.

  5. Bobbi Lee Hitchon April 9, 2010 at 3:46 AM #

    Those girls in that photo are so hott! haha jk-nice post. Love Twitter for uniting me with Lauren.

    • Steph April 9, 2010 at 8:09 AM #

      Definitely some pretty ladies :)

  6. Thomas April 10, 2010 at 9:45 AM #

    Great article. Thanks.
    I have blogged yesterday about “how to make new friends on the road” from a backpacker’s view.
    Check it out here: hostelvideoguide.com

    Happy travelling :D
    .-= Thomas´s last blog ..How To Make New Friends On The Road =-.

  7. Ekaterina June 9, 2010 at 8:07 AM #

    Hi!
    Really good tips!! Thanks for that. Would try to find more friends now:)

  8. Jessie March 2, 2011 at 12:01 PM #

    Hey, great suggestions! Making friends is by far the hardest part of moving abroad (or anywhere new for that matter…) but fortunately meeting people online doesn’t really have the same stigma it did a decade ago.

    I also found in some cities Couchsurfing.org can be good for making friends too, and chances are, you’ll be hooking up with some fellow wanderlust infected travelers as well.

    • Steph March 6, 2011 at 11:20 AM #

      Couchsurfing is great! something I could take better advantage of.

  9. lacell May 14, 2011 at 11:57 AM #

    would luv to speak to people especially from orlando florida

  10. Sandra September 11, 2011 at 10:55 AM #

    Hi Laura, read your post about how to make friends abroad with interest. I recently stumbled upon a webby (www.culturetraders.com) that enabled me to get free personal guides anywhere in the world and make new international friends at the same time!

    The concept is really quite simple – All i had to do was to organize tours in the country i am in and show travelers the local perspective of things in exchange for free personal tours anywhere in the world!

    I personally find it a great way to meet new friends from around the world and hope that works for you too. :)

    • Gaudence February 8, 2014 at 1:33 AM #

      Hellow

  11. Shreyas January 15, 2012 at 4:35 AM #

    Although a lot people dont agree with me, couchsurfing is a more popular concept in Europe and Asia than the US.

    But using couchsurfing to make friends in europe is not a very good option because you’re always restricted by the only barrier, language.

  12. Kate March 10, 2012 at 11:07 PM #

    Great post – thanks for sharing all the great wisdom. I am finding myself in a difficult situation. I moved to the USA 4 years ago and met the guy of my dreams within a year of moving here. After 3 great years together we split up last month and up until that point all my friends were friends that I met through him. It’s very sad to say that only one or two have kept in contact with me. As a result, I am now finding myself back to square one. It is as if I just moved here, but I am now 4 years older (33)! Does anyone have any tips on how to pick myself backup? I love people and being sociable.

    • Steph March 21, 2012 at 9:28 PM #

      Not too many tips but I’ve heard of some people having luck finding groups on meetup.org.

    • volcano April 29, 2012 at 1:03 AM #

      I’m so sorry for what happened to you but I assure you that there are lots of thing you cab do in your life.with this experience you have in your life you know, you are more grown and the way you look at the life and people is great. love and passion are things that always keep people alive and certainly one or two split ups are not sth that make us down. get new friends and try to have fun in your daily schedule . sports are very useful too. bu the most important thing is that you believe in god and rely on him. he will never leave his creatures alone

  13. ALLY MYAMBA March 14, 2012 at 12:53 PM #

    hi! friends am a Tanzanian University Student (LLB) i like friends-let us get connected.

  14. Mike March 21, 2012 at 4:27 AM #

    I would like to have friends and share with them.I will be grateful if any is interested.Thanks

    • monal July 10, 2012 at 9:46 PM #

      Friends are all around us,we just havnt said hello yet..!!!!

  15. Rangani September 17, 2012 at 1:58 AM #

    Hi All..

    I am a sri lankan girl who loves to make new friends in other countries.If u like mail me.Thanks

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