At this point, you’re probably getting your sea legs in your new country. You’ve got a schedule, started your job and are adjusting to your living situation, be it a house, apartment or other arrangement. You’ve explored a bit and are settling into a routine. Now’s a good time to turn your attention to making some friends in your new international home.
Depending on your stage in your life (single, married, kids or child-free), your bandwidth for how much energy and effort you can put into meeting new people and making friends will vary, but regardless, your experience will be enriched by having at least a few friends you can meet with regularly. Also, the sooner you start talking to people, the easier it will be to speak with ease in your new language. On that note, here are tips to expand your social life.
Join Meetup to Match Up
Meetup.com is a rich resource for anyone looking to grow their circle. The groups are created by people who are interested in a particular topic and participation is usually free to low cost. Typically anyone can join any group. Some groups are small and specific (bare metal enthusiasts, for example) and others broad and big (like hiking), and some are serious (philosophy discussion groups) while others are light-hearted (board game groups).
Pick out a few that interest you and RSVP for a couple of events in the coming weeks. If you’re an introvert and naturally on the quiet, observant side, socializing can be a bit draining, so be sure to pace yourself. Tell yourself you’ll go for an hour and then leave to take some of the pressure off of yourself. If you’re an extrovert, well, you’ve probably already attended a few events or even started a group of your own!
If you don’t gel well with a particular group, just keep trying different ones until you do. If you’re particularly good at something (tennis, chess, trivia, etc), join groups focused on those topics as that is always a good way to make inroads with new people. You’ll stand out in a positive way when they see your skills and competency.
The little interactions build on one another, so say hello to your neighbors. Remember people’s names and be purposeful about using them the next time you see them. This signals to people that you’re available for friendships. Take advantage of everyday moments to connect. For instance, if you’re laying at the pool at your apartment on the weekend, try to say hi to people around you, especially those that are there alone.
Tap Into Internations
The largest international community for people who live and work abroad, InterNations has over 6,000 monthly events and activities for expats to meet fellow internationals in their city. Represented in 420 cities, the odds are good you’ll be able to tap into this global networking source no matter where you’re stationed. It can be comforting to commiserate with other expats who understand your situation. Membership also gives participants access to tips and information about your specific destination.
Raise a Glass to Toastmasters
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. There are over 357,000 members in more than 16,600 clubs in 143 countries. International dues run about $45 every six months, plus a new member fee of $20. The groups are generally very supportive in nature, lending themselves well to making friends. They’ll also give you an edge professionally as you become a more confident communicator, not to mention you will be required to practice your new language.
Seek Out Religious or 12-Step Groups
If you associate with a particular religion or 12-step group, this is also a great way to connect with people who share your values and worldview. Again, membership is free and open to anyone. There are a lot of opportunities for talking and practicing your language during meetings and after meetings and services, people often go out to eat or for a cup of coffee to socialize.
A bonafide bookworm? Then what better way to meet new friends than to hobnob with other readers? Google “book clubs” and your city to see what turns up. You can also check meetup or inquire with your co-workers and ask if they belong to a club you can join. Lastly, keep an eye out on Facebook for groups and events that you’re interested in. For example, I found a vegan group meeting for food last week. YUM!
Micah Bellieu is CEO and Founder of Fluency Corp. She has relocated as an expat to Campeche, Mexico, and used the above tips to not only increase her fluency in Spanish, but also to survive the year and a half in Mexico. She made a ton of new friends and she now speaks Spanish very well.