How to make new friends in a new country

In Expat Life, Friendships by Carole Hallett Mobbs3 Comments

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How to rebuild your social life abroad

Moving overseas as an accompanying partner can be both exciting and lonely. Exciting because you’re embarking on a brand new adventure together and lonely because whilst your partner goes to work, often you’re left facing a new life alone.

What makes this even more challenging is the lack of social life you have around you. In the first few months of living abroad you might feel isolated, lonely and bored. New starts mean leaving behind old friends, close family, social groups and networks and even familiar faces in your neighbourhood. This can be difficult.

I know when my husband and I first moved overseas this was one of the aspects I most struggled with – how to rebuild my social life.

Avoid partner dependence

In the early days of living abroad, it’s like you and your partner are on a boat together, sharing the big adventures and the daily moments of this exciting new expat life together. But after a while, and like any healthy relationship, you’ll both have other needs and you might want to leave the boat once in a while to get these other needs met.

It’s natural to embrace your new adventure together but also be wary of depending too heavily on each other. Don’t lose your independence just because you’ve changed countries. As the accompanying partner you have more incentive to be proactive about meeting new people.

How to build an active and fulfilling social life for yourself overseas

Follow your passions

One of the first things I did when I moved to America and soon got bored of lazing around the pool all day, was join some local groups and classes. This is a great opportunity to think of all the things you’ve always wanted to do and now start doing them!

You can choose from a wide and diverse range of classes or workshops and they are easy to find on the internet or local newspapers and magazines. By following your interests you’re more likely to meet like-minded souls too.

If you’re moving overseas to a country where the native language is different, joining a language class is your best starting point and a great way to meet new people.

Skype old friends

A new life does not mean you have to give up all of your old life and that includes your best friends and family. Although your friends and family might fall into the trap of thinking you’re too busy in your new life, make sure they know you still need and want them around. Some people swear by scheduling regular catch up calls.

The world of communications has moved on vastly since I moved overseas to America to be with my husband. Back then it was the email or telephones. These days it’s much easier, quicker and cheaper to stay in contact with your friends and family back home. However you manage your Skype (or equivalent) communication, you’ll be amazed at the support and comfort this brings you.

Join networking events

Even if you’re not looking to start up a small business, networking events still represent a golden opportunity to meet new people when you live abroad.  But if you are looking to set up a business, then these are almost certainly a must-attend event. You don’t necessarily have to join one either as most groups accept guests. A lot of different people go to networking events for different reasons so it’s worth giving it a try.

Talk to strangers

A social life comes in all formats – from close friendships to casual conversations on the street or in your local shop. Be friendly and most of all open to connecting with others.

Everyone needs good neighbours!

Depending on the country you move to, your relationship with your neighbours can play a vital role in your new life abroad. In the USA for example, it’s completely normal to introduce yourself to your neighbours when you move in and often your neighbours form a close-kind bond. In the UK or France for example, it’s slightly different. So do your research before you move overseas to check on any cultural differences.

Prepare to rebuild from scratch

When you move overseas be open and ready to rebuild your social life from the beginning. Stay in contact with your old friends but be as proactive as you can about engaging in your new life.

It might help to think about the kind of person you’re drawn to and where they might hang out. Be proactive, but not aggressive or needy, about forming friendships.

Do something you would enjoy anyway and treat it as a bonus if you make contacts from it.

Remember also to smile. It is the world’s largest universal language.

A genuine, affectionate smile is very important in our day-to-day lives. The Dalai Lama



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  1. The most difficult move for my mother as a foreign service spouse was coming back to America, where she was no longer part of an embassy community that structured her business and social life to a large extent oversees. In the suburbs of Washington DC she struggled To establish her own identity. The four of us were far more comfortable when we moved back overseas into embassy life

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