How to Make Friends When You Move Abroad

Today’s article comes from Ashley Abroad who has been working as an au pair and studying French in Paris for the past year. Here she shares how she went about making new friends in a foreign country. You can keep up with her adventures on Facebook and Twitter

Moving to a new city without knowing a soul is daunting. When I first came to Paris, I was terrified; why had I left my comfortable life in Chicago to be stranded out in the Paris suburbs, doomed to wander the city streets alone? But soon enough, through not-so-typical means, I created a lively and fulfilling social life with friends across the city.

Here are some of my tips for making friends when you move abroad.

Blogs and Twitter

Making friends through blogging

A blogger meet up with DanielleEdna and her fiancé and Emily

I consider my blog to be my number-one networking tool- it’s a great way to meet like-minded people who share the same interests. And when other bloggers are in town they often email me to grab coffee or lunch- blogging really does keep life interesting!

But even if you don’t have a blog, reach out to bloggers you follow via Twitter and meet them for coffee. Twitter is also a great medium for reaching out because it keeps things casual and quick. And keep your eye open for any Tweet-ups, or a real-life meeting organized on Twitter.

Facebook groups

Facebook groups are a fantastic way to meet other people in your area. When I moved to Paris I joined several Paris au pair groups and posted a message in the group along like likes of, “Who lives in [my town]? I just moved here and want to meet some other au pairs.” Through this method I met some of my dearest friends and all I had to do was arrange a few coffee dates.

Couchsurfing events

Couchsurfing Event in Paris

A CS picnic I attended on the Seine with people from all over the world

Couchsurfing is not only useful for finding a place to stay while traveling but also a smart method for finding friends in your new city. Couchsurfers put together lots of events, everything from picnics to salsa dancing to cinema clubs. In my experience, I’ve met both locals and other travelers at Couchsurfing events.

Language school

French Language School

A language school can be a fantastic way to meet other foreigners trying to learn the local language. While personally the students at my language school were all 40+ mothers and wives, and therefore not exactly the type of friends I’d bar-hop with, they were a lovely group of ladies and it was a joy coming to class everyday. And plus my classmates hailed from all over the globe, and who knows when I might need a contact in Brazil or Japan?

Language exchanges

If you’re looking to learn a language, I would highly recommend language exchanges. While forming relationships with online language buddies on sites like Totalingua and Conversation Exchange is great, my favorite method is through in-person events like Franglish. Franglish is kind of like linguistic speed-dating; you sit at a table for fifteen minutes with a native French speaker and speak English for the first half of the session and then French for the second. Franglish is helpful not only for some much-needed conversation practice but also for making local friends.

Through other friends

A tried-and-true method for making friends is to use the connections you already have. Before moving abroad, post a status on Facebook and Twitter nothing that you’re moving and that would love an introduction to any contacts your social media buddies might have. Another good idea is to send out a mass email to your friends and family letting them know you will be moving soon and would appreciate an introduction any contacts that they have.

If I’m soon to be visiting a new city, I’ll send a Facebook message to a friend who I know has spent a lot of time there, along the likes of, “Hey [person’s name]! I wanted to drop you a line because I’m heading to Hong Kong at the end of August and I remember that you studied there. Do you have any recommendations for the best food/nightlife/etc.? (Especially dim sum!) Thanks in advance and I’ll be in Chicago in August- it would be great to see you if you’re in town as well!”

And don’t forget the golden rule- Once you start to establish a network, friends will lead to more friends. So always be open to meeting new people.

Chance encounters

Chance encounters in France

I’ve met so many people through chance encounters in Paris. I met a French girl in a McDonald’s bathroom at two in the morning who I later met up with for coffee. I met two of my best friends in Paris on the commuter train because I started talking to them when I heard them speaking English. I met three gospel-singing women when waiting for a taxi and they then invited me to their church to hear them sing. When looking to make friends, be open, be friendly, give random compliments and talk to as many people as possible.

 What are some of the ways you have made friends when living abroad?

24 Comments

  • Edna says:

    I like how my 24th birthday party got turned into a blogger meet-up. Poor Mike, stuck in the middle of it all…
    Edna recently posted..Life in fluxMy Profile

  • Tim Moon says:

    Here in Suwon, I met one guy through the foreign teacher I replaced. He introduced me to a couple of other teachers. One girl introduced herself to me on the bus. Talking to strangers is something I need to start doing more. Luckily, it’s easy here in Korea because Westerners stick out.
    Tim Moon recently posted..Inspiring the Future at the Seattle Space NeedleMy Profile

  • Vanessa says:

    If this isn’t ironic or what… but Tim who commented just before me, lives 20 minutes away from me, yet we both live on the other side of the world from Ashley in Paris. New way to meet people: in the comments of blogs! Most of the friends I made while living in Paris were from my language school since I took an afternoon class with about 70% au pairs. One of my good friends in Korea I met in the elevator of our building! Seriously, as long as you’re outgoing enough, friends start to pop up around every corner!
    Vanessa recently posted..Cooking in Korea: The ChallengesMy Profile

  • Julie - farm4Food says:

    Brad and I made friends with a couple, British/Irish, sharing a train sleep compartment traveling in Vietnam. We traveled together for a week and continue to stay in touch ia Facebook.

    • Audrey says:

      I’ve also met a few really nice people on trains. There’s nothing quite like sharing a small compartment for on 14 hour journey to help you bond and get your life story out there. 😉

  • Thanks again Audrey for featuring me! Hopefully your readers were able to relate to the points I listed 🙂
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..15 Things I Learned About Wine After a Year in FranceMy Profile

  • Hogga says:

    great tips!

  • Nicole says:

    One word: hostels.

    We don’t live abroad. But when we travel and stay in hostels from time to time, we meet people. 🙂
    Nicole recently posted..Happy Birthday America! Now Go TravelMy Profile

  • Isabel says:

    Great post! If you just do whatever it is you enjoy and enjoy chatting then you’ll make friends. Everyone loves to have a foreign friend!

  • OCDemon says:

    This one time I just threw a snowball at someone and everyone jumped in and it turned into a streetwide snowbrawl. It was a great icebreaker. Get it? GET IT!??! I’ll show myself out.
    OCDemon recently posted..Fun facts about EstoniaMy Profile

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Take tours. You might meet other newbies who have just moved to the city or you may even become friends with the guide.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Charleston, I am in loveMy Profile

  • Sonia says:

    Hi Audrey,
    This article is very helpful for those who leave their country to go abroad. With the help of this guide they soon find their identity and make good friends.

    Thanks for marvelous posting, genuinely enjoyed reading it.

  • Fran says:

    Hi Audrey,

    That’s some great advice for people to make new friends when travelling, I know from experience myself it can be a bit terrifying at first.

    I will have to pass some of these tips on to my clients who are relocating abroad too.

    Thanks.

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel says:

    Great suggestions on making friends! Chance encounters are probably the most exciting since they’re unexpected, but being open and reaching out will definitely help you get yourself out there. Thanks for sharing!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..FRIDAY PHOTO: Turtle & Dragonfly in Sanibel Island, FloridaMy Profile

  • priscilla says:

    hi everyone , i been living in france for almost 5 years and yet to make any friends, girl friends , buddies to go out with , everyone here sticks to the person they known for years, they are not really open to new people , even more worse , foreigners ! sigh , i wish i had buddies like in the american series i watched

    • Foreigner in France says:

      Hey Priscila,

      I know what you mean!
      Where do you live in France?
      I’ve been here for 3 years and didn’t make friends..

    • Clayton says:

      I too have found it difficult to make friends in France. I know people but that’s different to having friends!

  • Sarah says:

    Also – join the gym! You’ll not only get into better shape but it can also be a great opportunity to get talking to other people. My gym has a swimming pool that I attend regularly – and that has helped me to make all sorts of friends with the “regulars” I see there all the time.

  • Jack - Who Needs Maps says:

    I recently moved from Melbourne to Los Angeles and am missing the coffee like no other. I’m sorry but the starbucks flat white just doesn’t cut it!

    I have spent the last 5 years living in different countries and found the best way to experience a country is to do as the locals do, so I set out on meeting a bunch of locals and got their opinions and perspectives.

    I actually found it quite hard to make friends over in foreign places so I put together a list of how to make friends while living abroad. – http://www.whoneedsmaps.com/make-friends-abroad

    The biggest difference I have found is the reliance on cars and the lack of walking people do in LA, everyone drives and you have to pay for parking everywhere.

    Great post and will take a ton away from the comments!

    Cheers,
    Jack

  • Fiona says:

    Meeting new people is always an exciting experience.Through Expatconnect you can be able to meetup with people from different cultural backgrounds and also those of you native country.

  • Annie says:

    This post has given me so much comfort! Soon, I will be moving to Barcelona and am terrified that I won’t be able to make any new friends… Thank you for sharing this, I feel much better!

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