5 Ways To Make Friends When You Move To a New Country

Updated November 20, 2015
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Travelling solo is almost the norm these days. Everywhere you look there is encouragement to take the chance and travel on your own. There’s lists, tips, and all sorts of tricks on how to go about it. I love travelling on my own and I could easily fill pages about why it’s such a great idea and an amazing experience, but instead I want to address something lacking in this area.

How to make friends when you move abroad solo.

Moving abroad solo is one of the best decisions you could make! But figuring out how to make friends in a new country can be a bit overwhelming. In many ways working out how to make friends overseas is in many ways the same as if you were to move somewhere else in your own country, but it can seem more stressful.

When you’re travelling most people you meet are in the same boat (sometimes literally). They’re travelling as well and open to opportunities. You put yourself in so many easy situations to meet people, like making friends at hostels or in tour groups.

In contrast, once you’ve taken the leap and decided to live abroad, you’ve chosen a country and made the move and explored a little, the excitement can start to wear off. You’re not on holiday and going home soon to your well-established network. This is your home now and you need to build an actual life here. But something is missing…


Many people you meet when you move abroad have friends already, they don’t need you. Harsh, but true.

So what do you do to make friends when you move abroad?

Making new friends when you move is a bit like dating. You have to put yourself out there, try and form a connection with new people and stay on their radar, and hope that something comes of it!

It sounds cold, but I think you have to be systematic about making new friends when you move abroad. You can’t sit home and wait for friends to come to you. You have to be out there, pounding the pavement, messaging, calling, organising, meeting. In the same way you do when you’re travelling, you need to put yourself in the right situation.

Nerd alert: If you’ve ever played The Sims you know for your social wellbeing you have to make friends and to do that you have to invite people over, have a good party, call them on the phone etc. If you don’t your Sim gets sad. So play the system when you move abroad, and top up your social meter with the tips below.

  1. Hit up everyone you know and their friends.

Do you know someone in your new country? Get in touch! Maybe it’s been awhile, but it doesn’t matter. Meet for a coffee or a drink and have a chat. You can get the low down on some good places to go, and maybe reconnect as friends, thus opening yourself up to meet their friends.

In a world that’s apparently separated by only 6 degrees of separation, you can see if anyone you know knows someone in your new home. It doesn’t matter how remote the connection, if they’re willing to meet you, then it may or may not come to something.

  1. Live somewhere social

It’s not for everyone, but I would suggest moving into a flat with at least one other person. Flat hunting is a bit like dating these days too! Try and find someone like-minded, who might have travelled or moved abroad too.

Flatmates can become friends, or at the very least, people you can talk to at the end of the day! Failing that, try to connect with neighbours, and check out what local events are held in your area.

  1.  Go to a meetup group.

So many people find their partner online now, and you can find friends there too!

Meetup is a great site that you can join to find out about social events in your area and meet with new people.

When I moved to Edinburgh I joined Meetup and found a group for girls who had moved to Edinburgh from elsewhere. I went to their monthly meetup in a bar one evening and I ended up meeting some great girls, and a few I kept in contact with that are now great friends!

When you travel you make friends fast, I think because of your mutual circumstances, and these groups are a chance to put you in that kind of situation.

  1. Join a club

If sports is your thing, it’s a great way to make friends. Find out if you can join a casual team if your area.

If sports isn’t your thing, what is? See if you can find a group that matches your interests. The power of the Internet means a quick google search can point you in the right direction! Or use Meetup as above.

If all else fails there are usually expat groups around, and while these generally mean quick friends, it’s nice to try and branch out as well. Don’t be one of those people who only spend time with people from home! Yes you’re still meeting new people and they can be great but I think it’s so valuable to meet people from different cultures. You travelled for a reason right?

  1. Be brave, and always say yes.

It may sound easy, but making new friends can be scary. Speaking with anyone doesn’t always come naturally to me, but I’ve learnt the rewards outweigh my nerves so I try and go for it as much as possible, and now that I’ve have so much practice it’s easier.

So you met some people, now what?

If you’ve managed to meet people through any of the above, the next step is to keep putting yourself out there.

Don’t wait for a message to meet them again, be the one to send it.

Don’t wait to be asked what you’re doing on the weekend, be the one to ask or put the idea out about organising something.

On the other side of the coin, always say yes when you are invited or asked to do something. Even if you’re tired, even if maybe it’s not really your thing, at least you can have a different experience! If you say no, you might not get another chance to say yes.

People are creatures of comfort, they stick to what they know. Making new friends takes effort, and sometimes without realising it, people aren’t so open to having someone new come into their lives.

I know after travelling I was much more open to meeting new people and making new friends. After I’d been on the other side and realised how hard it can be to “break in” to a social group, I become more free with my invitations. Hopefully, you can strike someone like this somewhere in your new home, and if you’re not travelling or living abroad yet, maybe you can be that person for someone else.

Have these tips helped you? What’s your experience with making friends when you move abroad? 

If you liked it, please pin it!

ways to make friend when you move abroad

Sonja x

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  • Reply Ardjette Boixaderas November 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    How fun! this is the first time I read a post from you! and I’m going to follow you guys!

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 23, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Hi Ardjette,

      Thank you! That would be great if you do. Don’t forget to subscribe for monthly updates if you’d like to 🙂

  • Reply Janey Mae November 24, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Great Post! I’m ‘moving’ to New Zealand in January (after backpacking asia) on a Working Holiday Visa and i’m so excited!
    While i don’t think i’ll run into problems meeting people, i love reading posts like this just to reassure the ideas i have are best ones and to pick up new ideas 🙂 xo

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 24, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Thanks you! New Zealand is my homeland hope you have an amazing time there! You definitely shouldn’t have problems meeting people :). It’s more when you decide to set up somewhere new long term it can be a bit harder to form a solid social network, outside of other people travelling too! Good luck with the trip!

  • Reply Steph of Big World Small Pockets November 24, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Being brave is a massive part of it and remembering that most people want to make friends as much as you do!

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 24, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Exactly! And once you’re brave once or twice you realise how easy it is and how open people really can be. Sometimes people just get a bit caught up and forget, not intentionally, so it’s important to make that effort! Thanks for reading I love your blog 🙂

  • Reply solosophie February 25, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    This is such a lovely post; it can be so hard to make new friends in a new city where you don’t know anyone (especially when you don’t speak the language very well)!!

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 25, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks Sophie! Not speaking the language definitely makes it harder. It’s my first experience of that now in Spain! Although a lot of people speak English. I’m trying very hard to earn Spanish though because I want to be able to communicate with more people, plus I don’t like making people speak English 🙂

  • Reply Thelma September 6, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks for this. I moved to Japan 4 months ago to start school. I speak the language but it’s really hard making friends and it’s had a toll on my self-confidence. So much so, I’ve become shy which I’ve haven’t been for many years. I will try your tips, hopefully they will work.

    • Reply Migrating Miss September 6, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Hi Thelma,

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling a bit in Japan. I really hope these tips do help you to make some more friends while you’re living abroad! Please do get in touch again if you need to! x

  • Reply Daisy December 29, 2016 at 9:13 am

    I worked here in Qatar for 7 months now. At first it was easy to make friends because mostly we came from the same country and most people here speak English, therefore it was not hard but unfortunately as time goes by, these people whom I thought I made friends turned out they are not. The saddest part is that these people are from my country. In my experience here, foreigners are more loving and trustworthy

    • Reply Migrating Miss December 30, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      I’m sorry you had that experience! I hope you’ve been able to make some closer friends now 🙂

  • Reply Abigeal May 21, 2019 at 1:18 am

    Hi I’m moving to Scotland next year for university and my mum is coming with me. I’m not super worried about me making friends in college but my mum is starting over in a new country in her 50s and I was wondering if you had any tips for older adults? Are there any groups or clubs that are common in Scotland that my mum could join?

    • Reply Sonja - Migrating Miss June 24, 2019 at 7:38 pm

      Hi Abigeal! That’s really exciting :D. I’m not really sure because it sort of depends what she’s into. If she’s active there’s definitely walking groups, if not then she should be able to find something depending on what hobbies she has. Will she be working at all? I would say there will be groups on FB or you can still use Meetup to find groups too!

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