Moving abroad or simply to a new city means having a fresh start with all its pros and cons. One of the cons? Finding yourself with no friends (except maybe your partner). Unless you are Ebenezer Scrooge, that may be quite daunting. Worry not! Making friends in a new city is waaay easier than it seems. All you need is optimism, confidence, and following the tips below.
It may be really scary at first to throw yourself into the world. Sure, you get a new start, but you also have to start building your relationships from scratch. Even so, try to look at the bright side: you get to move away from toxic friendships and relationships. But how can you build new ones?
12 effective ways for making friends in a new city
These steps follow the logical order of your moving abroad timeline. First, you start by connecting online before moving. Second, once you arrive in a new city you meet new people. And last, when you are settled, you expand your relationships thanks to your new friends.
See it’s that easy!
1. Meeting Apps
There are many different types of meeting apps. Of course, if you are looking for a romantic relationship you can also join dating apps for example. Otherwise, there are many options among classic meeting apps where you will find new friends. Among the most used I cannot mention the ones above.
Meetup is a website that recently launched a meeting up focused on expats and people who are moving to a new city or country.
Similar to Meetup, Nextdoor allows you to connect with neighbors who are willing to connect. Furthermore, it will tell you when there is a meetup nearby.
2. Join Expat Communities
Wait what are those?
Expat communities are big websites that have forum sections where you can connect with fellow expats. Consequently, they are also very useful if you have practical questions about the city/country you are about to move in.
Are you wondering what’s the best way to find a job in the city you want to move to? Or trying to find childcare services before moving? In these communities you can often ask questions and learn from others’ experiences, even before taking the leap.
My go-to expat communities? the ones above, I was even featured in expat.com
3. Make friends on Facebook Groups
Facebook is a great tool to socialize with people online. And Facebook groups are where the magic happens. There are often many groups that focus on a city/destination related to particular activities. Not to mention those who may be about the region you will move in.
An example? My husband started a group about gardening in French Guiana, and after two years that group has already more than 2.500 members united by the same passion. I am sure you can find a group you would fit in. And if it doesn’t exist create it!
How can you find your groups?
You can simply type your destination name followed by expat, community, or whatever you feel may be relevant. It could even be book lovers of X. Follow your heart!
4. Use your friends’ networks
It may sound obvious, but many people forget asking help from their existing friends. You may get to know your best friend’s cousin or your brother-in-law’s former colleague. And those people share probably many affinities with you as they have moved abroad.
In Italy, we have a saying “il mondo è piccolo” which translates to “the world is small”, to say that everywhere we go we may find someone we know, or are related to. That’s funny but it happened to me a few times, meeting people I know in faraway random places.
So, who knows maybe you will reconnect with an ancient school buddy or with someone we know thanks to someone else. No matter the means it’s the result that counts.
Don’t be shy and ask around you!
5. Throw a housewarming party
This makes me think of Bree Van de Kamp from Desperate Housewives and her muffin baskets. Do you want to make an impression? Get to know your neighbors and throw a housewarming party.
It should be funny, and you could learn to have many things in common with the family who lives next door or the lady downstairs.
You can do this either by connecting with people geographically around you online or Bree Van de Kamp style, don’t forget the muffins!
6. Find people who share your passions
Are you a bookworm? A passionate photographer? A crochet enthusiast?
For sure there must be a community in the city you are going to live in that shares your passions. Contact and join them. It’s always easier to connect with people who have common interests.
You can’t find communities that have the same interests as you? Look around, you may discover new interests.
7. Discover new hobbies
Getting a new start means also that you may experiment with new things, hobbies included! So why not try to join an origami community or learn magic with a real magician?
Ask yourself what you would like to try and search for communities, courses, or associations in your new city. You may find a new passion!
My example: after one year living of in French Guiana, I started playing board games. Thanks to that I have met some of my dearest friends. Many years and a few kids later, we still meet frequently on Sundays for challenges to the last roll.
8. Sports. Burn some calories while connecting with other people
This is two birds with one stone. You get to stay fit while connecting with other people. Although it will depend on the sport you choose of course.
While it’s more difficult to connect if you go running, you will meet new people while trying team sports, like volleyball, football handball, and rugby. Or if you are taking group lessons, like yoga, water aerobics, or dance.
9. Between your colleagues there may be your future best friend
Especially if you moved to a new city thanks to your job, you may find new friends easier in the working environment.
I know that some people are very skeptical about making friends with their colleagues. But the truth is you will be spending a large amount of time with these people. So, isn’t it better if you try to be friends?
On the contrary, sometimes you don’t have much of a choice. Especially in some very specific situations when the cultural difference between you and the locals is too big, and it will be easier to connect with your co-workers who are expat as well. I know that’s the case for some expats who move to French Guiana.
Anyways, if you choose to befriend your colleagues how can you easily connect with them?
- Bring your lunchbox to the break room and join them around the table,
- Engage about common interests on coffee breaks,
- Take part in work events,
- Invite your colleagues to join for lunch, dinner, happy hour, or group activity,
10. Become a Yes man
At least in the beginning.
I know that may sound scary (especially if you are a lazy person like me!) but try and force yourself a little. Are you invited to go hike in the mountains, stargazing, community clean-up, or simply have a BBQ? Go ahead, throw yourself!
It will be fun, or you may end up thinking you enjoy solo life after all…
11. Moving to a foreign country? Take language courses!
Mix business with pleasure and learn a new language. It’s useful, fun, and you may end up finding your new bestie. Indeed, taking language courses to learn a new language is a great way to make new friends. Especially when you are “limited” by the language barrier.
If you have the chance, you may also join language meet-ups. These may be easier to find via meeting apps or forums (see above).
12. Once you have done all the above? Meet your friends’ friends
The more the merrier!
Once you have started to have a reliable group of two or three friends you can ask them to organize group activities and meet their friends. You could also create a WhatsApp group (without being spammy) to let also other people propose activities and meetups.
Just remember to stay true to yourself and enjoy!
Only remember to stay true to yourself and your values. It’s better to be alone than in bad company.
Moving to a new city or country is always a life-affirming and enriching experience. And connecting with new people can be exciting and get you out of your shell. Oh, and if it wasn’t clear from the post, making friends in a new city it’s really easier than it seems! 😉
Would you like to read more inspiring expat content? I share my experiences as well as more expat tips in the Expat Life section.
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