Meeting new people you connect with is hard enough in your own country, never mind in a foreign place where English perhaps isn’t the first language. It feels like everyone already has their own social circle. And you’re stood on the periphery gazing inwards, like a dog at a Christmas dinner. You can’t fall back on your usual drinking holes or coffee shops, where you feel comfortable and at home.
Making friends in a new country is hard, no doubt. But you shouldn’t let your feelings of dépaysement hold you back from getting out there. Building an active social life is very possible in a foreign country. You’ll be improving your language skills and having more fun, at no extra cost.
If your move has been planned for some time, you can start putting in the work ahead of time. That way, when you land in your new country there are potential friends waiting for you. The internet is simply brimming with opportunities to make friends now, so check out these websites and start making connections!
Look no further than the site you probably use every day. Facebook is by far the greatest way to make friends in a new country, thanks to one of its oldest ever features – groups. Facebook groups are alive and well, covering a wide variety of subjects. Whether you’re into electronic music, web development or photography, you’ll probably find a local group dedicated to the subject.
In cities where English is not the first language, these groups will allow you to practice your language skills by asking questions about events and socials. Try just introducing yourself and explaining that you’ll be arriving there soon. The beauty of this is that the friends you’ll make will have something in common with you. Depending on the culture of your destination, it’s quite possible that you’ll end up with a few Facebook friends before you even set foot in the country. This allows you to build connections safely and practice writing in the target language. I honestly cannot recommend this enough.
If you’re really just looking for other ‘expats’, try searching for an expats group and you’ll probably find one. I’d recommend that you do both. This way you’ll have a safety blanket in case your language skills just don’t cut it when you arrive.
People use Couchsurfing.com for a variety of reasons, and one of those reasons is to meet people and make friends. Even if you don’t need to stay with someone, it can be a good idea if you find the right person. Couchsurfers host you for free in order to build their reputation for when they need to travel. This gives you a great opportunity to make friends with a local or expat. Strike up a conversation with them on the site first to establish their motives and what kind of experience you might expect.
If they offer to hang out and show you around that’s great, but if you get the impression they’ll be out or they’re just offering you a bed then obviously you might determine it to be a waste of both people’s time. And because it’s usually a one-to-one scenario, you should exercise caution and avoid putting yourself in danger just to meet someone. Always have an exit strategy in case it’s not working out. Of course, if you’re living in the city anyway then you can just go home.
Meetup.com has been around for years, and continues to be a good way to meet local people. The event listings tend to be somewhat limited even in larger cities, but you can usually find a language exchange, networking event or hiking group. Most of the events are run by established groups, so by rocking up to one of them there’s a good chance you’ll meet at least a few people you like. For sheer numbers this one actually trumps Couchsurfing. It really helps with making friends in a new country.
I was a little hesitant to include this one for obvious reasons – but if you’ve ever used Tinder you’ll probably know at least one or two matches that you’re still in touch with on a friendly basis. At the very least, it brings you into direct contact with people your age, with similar interests, and you never know where that could lead. You just have to be forthright with your expectations when writing your profile and drop it into conversation as early as possible if you really don’t want to give someone the wrong idea.
This one is more risky for females, particularly in Latin America, but if you use it sparingly and with care it can still take you places.
IMPORTANT: Meeting anybody from the Internet carries a degree of risk. This risk is reduced by sticking to group meets and/or getting to know the person over text first. As travelers, we know that we wouldn’t have experienced the beautiful things that we have without taking a few risks. But we should always take absolute care of our personal safety.