Travelling solo is almost the norm these days.
Everywhere you look, there is encouragement to take the chance and travel on your own. There are 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.
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, and 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 at 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 well-being, 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. Contact everyone you know and their friends.
Do you know someone in your new country? Get in touch! Maybe it’s been a while, 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 is; if they’re willing to meet you, then it may or may not come to something.
I’ll acknowledge this isn’t always the case for everyone, but coming from New Zealand, where lots of people travel/move abroad, means I’ve often known someone or someone who knows someone who lives in the place I’m going to.
2. Live somewhere social
It’s not for everyone, but I would suggest moving into accommodation 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. So many people find their partner online now, and you can find friends there too!
3. Go to a Meetup/join a Facebook Group
Meetup is a great site that you can join to find out about social events in your area and meet 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.
These days Facebook Groups can be a great place to do the same. Vet the group and use your judgment to see how legitimate everyone seems to be, and join meetups in public spaces.
4. 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 in your area.
If sports aren’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. Especially if you plan to stay a long time as other expats may come and go.
5. 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 had 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!