If you’ve just been through an international relocation, it might have felt like you’d never get settled in. But now here you are: Everything is finally unpacked, you’re getting used to your new home and neighborhood, the kids are in school and you’ve learned all the new names of your coworkers.
So what’s the most important thing to do now? Make friends abroad with some native speakers. Even if you’re already enrolled in language training (and we hope you are!), getting plenty of additional practice conversing in your new language with native speakers is essential for building fluency. Remember, hours of speaking is directly related to increased fluency. Of course, practice gets you to the next level.
But that’s far from the only reason to befriend native speakers. Over the next months, you’re going to have lots of questions, both large and small, about how things work in the country where you’ve moved. Native speakers can be invaluable guides.
And then there’s the fact that, as an expat, you’re away from your usual support system. Video calls with folks back home can go only so far. You need a new network of relationships in your new home.
Ideas for Making Friends Abroad
Making friends with native speakers in your new country might feel challenging at first. But if you regularly take small steps to build connections with others, those steps will soon start to pay off. Here are some ideas to try.
- Share some delicious food or drink with your neighbors or coworkers.
- If you live in an apartment building or complex, spend time in the common areas, such as the pool or gym, that other residents frequent. Your property might even host events for residents.
- Do you work remotely? Don’t stay cooped up at home. Working at a nearby coffee shop for the day can help you meet people in your neighborhood. Coworking spaces are an international phenomenon and another great way to connect with new people.
- If you have kids, they were probably a driving force in your social life back in your home country. The same can hold true in your new country. Do you have neighbors or coworkers with kids in the same age range as yours? That’s a head start on bonding with them. Find the places where other parents and kids hang out, such as neighborhood parks, playgrounds and libraries. And get involved at school by joining the PTA or volunteering for an event.
- Pay attention to the signals you might be unintentionally sending. For example, if you always go right inside after work, that conveys to your neighbors that you aren’t interested in getting to know them. See what happens if you spend more time outside. Similarly, your body language might be giving off a “go away!” vibe. Different cultures have different customs around things like eye contact, smiling and personal space. It’s worth doing some research to discover the best way to convey friendliness and approachability in your new country.
- Meetup.com is always one of our favorite tools to recommend for feeling at home in a new country. No matter what your interests are, Meetup can help you meet new people who share it. You might even find a gathering where native speakers of the language you’re learning want to connect with native speakers of your language. Win-win!
- You might feel self-conscious about your language skills, but you’ll probably find people more eager to help you than you might realize. Strike up conversations and let people know you’re a new speaker who’s eager to learn. To help with this, see our guides to basic conversational phrases in French, Japanese and Spanish.
Building friendships abroad with native speakers are one of the most satisfying and enriching aspects of living in a new country. To acquire the language skills that will help you build relationships, contact us for a free consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 401-3159.