I am currently going into my second year as an American expat in Canada. My first experience living in a different country was about 8 years ago living in New Zealand and my husband and I have collected various other addresses along the way. But that is not to diminish the challenges that come with being emerged in another culture.
I haven’t encountered a language barrier while attempting to meet new friends and settle-in, but making friends and feeling connected are perhaps the biggest challenges when moving (expat or not, English-speaking or not).
There is a quote that I love about friends that says, “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” C
Here are my 10 tips for making friends in a new country and/or city:
- Reach out to the expat community that may already be there. I found America Women’s Club’s in both countries that were extremely warm and informative. It’s a great place to start to gather information about schools, neighborhoods, local restaurants (babysitters even)!
- Utilize work as an avenue to connect with other like-minded people and learn where they like to hang out.
- Put yourself out there, time and again, even when it’s hard. I have a rule that within the first 6 months or so I try to say YES to any type of social invitation. In order to find friends you have to put in effort.
- Meet-up groups can help you find a group of people who share similar interests. With the app, it couldn’t be easier to find local groups meeting on any day of the week, any time of day. Especially for young mothers, this has been a great way to meet people.
- Sign up for activities that you enjoy (i.e. yoga, running club) and then introduce yourself to people while there. Again, it’s worth the effort!
- Find a faith community and get involved.
- Be the first to make the invitation. I found this to be especially difficult, but many other cultures may not invite you into their home first. I found that this gesture and effort can go a long way.
- If you have kids or a dog then you should frequent the park. You’ll get to know your neighbors and be able to strike up easy conversations with people.
- Ask questions. People you meet may be more than willing to help, but have no idea the types of questions you have about your new home. It usually doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact, I find that people are usually flattered that you would value their opinion about where to eat/shop/get your hair cut, etc.
- Utilize your network back home. You’ll be surprised how small the world is. Perhaps one of your friends on Linked-In or Facebook back home has a friend in your new city/country. Some of my best friends were made through mutual friends and a friendly email I sent before moving.
How about you? What are some tips you would share with someone when it comes to connecting yourself to a community while living abroad? Leave it in the comment section so we can all benefit!