How to build strong friendships
Finding a new friend, let alone a whole group of friends is quite tricky as an expat (understatement!). We’ve looked at why it’s important to make the effort to ‘get out there’ in order to help you cope with any culture shock you may experience. Friends can also become your new family while your own family is so far away.
How to find friends
Join in! Accept every invitation you receive in your early days in a new country. Even if the invitation is for something that’s not your ‘thing’, go anyway. You never know what it will lead to.
Join a club or class of some description. Almost as soon as I arrived in South Africa I discovered that there are a lot of mosaics here – I love mosaics! Haven’t done it for years but felt the creative part of me wake up. So I searched on the internet and am now a member of a group who create mosaic works every week. It’s wonderful to just get out of the house and chat to other people, and we have such a laugh while learning about each others cultures and countries.
Use your kids!
It’s much easier to meet new people – ie potential friends – when you have young children. You can join play groups, baby groups, school gate meetings and so on. It is admittedly much more difficult when your children are older and independent. No more school runs is a relief, but the opportunity to meet other parents disappears as your child takes off to meet their mates without you. The onus is then on you to be proactive in finding potential new friends.
I found this useful list on a site called ‘tiny buddha – simple wisdom for complex lives‘ – which is a wonderful tag line for expat life!
21 tips to build good friendships
- Be you. The greatest gift you can give to others is you—the real you. So, pull off your mask and be authentic!
- Be friendly. Mother was right; you have to be a friend to have a friend.
- Be giving. What can you do for another that will make their life better?
- Be encouraging. The kind words you have for others are a balm for their soul. Spread them liberally.
- Be interesting. Cultivate yourself so you have something to share with others. Read. Travel. Learn.
- Be loyal. Through thick and thin, be loyal to your friend. From their best moments to their worst, stick by your friend’s side.
- Be enriching. A true friend adds value to others by having a lifestyle of value.
- Be understanding. Seek first to understand your friend. Then you can help them understand you.
- Be direct. If misunderstandings arise, tackle them head-on with gentle honesty. Never let a disagreement fester and damage a friendship.
- Be accepting. Just because someone is different from you doesn’t mean you can’t find common ground on which to build a firm friendship. Go outside your “zone” to find friends.
- Be flexible. People’s lives ebb and flow. So do friendships. Let it be okay to have changing degrees of closeness with your friends.
- Be available. Our busy lives make time a very precious commodity. Schedule regular time with friends and stay in contact via email, text, or phone calls.
- Be a listener. Truly listen to your friend. Don’t spend their talking time framing what you’re going to say next.
- Be fun. The more fun you share with others, the more fun you have.
- Be positive. People like to be around someone who makes them feel better, not someone who poisons their time together with toxic negativity.
- Be honest. When a friend’s actions or decisions scare you, share your heart in a non-judgemental way. If not you, then who?
- Be dependable. Don’t let your friends down—ever.
- Be appreciative. Tell your friends how much they mean to you. You may think they already know this, but a verbal affirmation every so often makes sure they do.
- Be respectful. You and your friends may not have the same likes and dislikes in people, politics, or passions. Be respectful of these differences.
- Be considerate. Give your friends space and be accepting of their time with family and other friends.
- Be supportive. Cheer friends on when they “win,” cry with them when they “lose,” and laugh with them when either of you do something stupid.
Building a lasting friendship is not easy. If you are authentic and are willing to open yourself up to others, you will find that there are many people who are looking for a good friend. So, if you haven’t already, take the time to invest in friendships. They may be your lifelines one day, and you may be one for them.
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