How to Make Friends in a Foreign Country
Go for quantity over quality at first
It’s understandable that you want to make friends with people who share your interests, but when you’re new in town, sometimes it’s hard to gauge who you will click with.
Just say yes!
Just say yes to everything. The colleague three desks over asks you to a comedy night? Go for it. Did you exchange a sentence or two with the nice woman at the library? Ask her out for a coffee. Hold the door for your 79-year-old downstairs neighbour? Bring her a baked treat from your native land, and you’ll be asked in for a drink. Bond with your internet installation guy over Fortnite? Find out if he’ll go for a beer next week.
Sure it’s a bit embarrassing at first, but most people are pleasantly surprised to be asked out for coffee or a beer. Don’t forget your colleagues at work and the other parents at school if you have children, too.
Join an exercise or dance class
Even if you’re not totally comfortable with the language in your new city, a class is a great way to meet new people. Choosing an exercise or dance class means you’re mostly following a teacher’s movements anyway, so the language barrier isn’t as much of a problem. There’s always someone willing to share a smile or a giggle when you can’t get the moves quite right. After class and before class, people often chat a bit, so you have a chance to get to know your classmates. Try to attend the same weekly class a few times in a row, and you’ll start to recognise people.
Learn the language
It can be hard to make friends with locals, but they will often show you the best of your new home, so it’s worth persevering. Learning the language is where to start – the Move to Germany package will give you a kickstart if you’re looking to, well, move to Germany! Or there’s the Lingoda Marathon, which offers you the chance to learn a language for three months and earn up to 100% of your fees back! Alternatively, you can always tempt locals into coffee and cake with the promise of a little language trade – some local terms for some English practise!
Try Meetup groups
Bigger cities will often have Meetup groups for people new to the area. This is a great place to start if you’re desperate for some conversation outside of work. You will meet everyone from students to people working full time to stay-at-home parents. They often have a lot of new faces at every meeting, but you’re sure to find someone up to going for a movie, or checking out that new restaurant. Besides the Meetup site, try expat networking sites like InterNations, who hold regular outings and get togethers.
Find a local hangout
It can be your local wine bar, a coffee shop, the library, or even the bakery attached to your local grocery store – but go there regularly at the same time. Soon the staff will recognise you, and the other regular visitors will too. Even if you never bond with the man in the felt hat who seems to take an hour to read three pages of the newspaper, it’s nice when he gives you the nod.
Don’t underestimate the quiet joy of having your own local where you feel like part of the fabric of the place. When everything else is new and lonely, it’s comforting. If you’re feeling homesick, look for a bar or restaurant of your home cuisine, and you might just discover a little community to connect with as well.
Look for local Facebook groups for your interests
Local Facebook groups are also a good resource for meeting people. Look for something you enjoy doing or have always wanted to try – life drawing, watercolours, hiking, cycling, seeing martial arts films, singing in a choir, gardening – and see if you can join a local association or group. It might be a test of your language skills, but you’ll learn some new vocab in a hurry! You will get connected with the real life of your new city when you find yourself discussing the soil quality with your community garden plot neighbour, or join some singers from the choir at the local wine tavern after rehearsal.
Possibly the most important thing to remember is to be patient. Don’t worry if you don’t have a huge circle of friends in the first few months, it takes time to get to know people. Just keep trying and putting yourself out there, and you’ll find them.