I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to make friends abroad.

But if you’re moving or have moved abroad, you probably have a good reason for doing so. Perhaps it’s because of a job, a relationship, or you just need a change.

But moving to another place can be stressful, especially when you don’t know anybody who lives there.

Looking for new friends in many cases is more difficult if you’re a digital nomad, particularly if you work from home. But remember that making friends abroad can help you grow your digital business.

If you’re looking for a job (even part-time) a new friend can help you find it. I found all but one of my jobs in China through friends.

In this blog post, I describe a few ways to make friends abroad. I tried some of these myself and I heard about others from friends.

Moving to a new country can be stressful and alienating when you don't know anyone who lives there. This post gives you some tips to more effectively make friends abroad. So whether an expat or digital nomad, you'll never have to be lonely again. #makefriendsabroad #expat #couchsurfing #meetup

Make Friends Abroad Online

Meetup.com

Two pair of legs in hiking boots and mountains in the background.
Hiking with friends

You can join all kinds of meetups on Meetup.com. Or you can organize meetups for others to join. Depending on where you live you may be able to find hundreds of meetups or none at all. These are a great way to make friends abroad.

When we moved to Granada in Spain we found quite a few interesting meetups, some specifically for expats, some for language learners and many others. If you meet people who have also moved from another country, you can discuss common problems like where to get internet, where to buy comfort food from back home and where to find jobs.

Couchsurfing

The Couchsurfing platform is great when it comes to finding a cheap place to stay. They also organize events, where you can find other people who are just visiting your location, as well as other expats who live there and want to meet people. It’s another fantastic way to make friends abroad.

Facebook

There are plenty of different groups on Facebook and they are easy to find. If you live in a smaller place you might not be able to find a group for your town/city, but you can still join a group in the country you are in and find friends by asking if anyone lives in the same location as you.

When I lived in Putian, China, one girl posted a question in a group for Polish people living in China asking if there were any Polish people in Xiamen. Putian is close to Xiamen, so I replied. We are still friends today and we even ended up working in the same university together.

Tinder

You’re probably familiar with the Tinder platform, mainly used for dating. But you can use it to make friends abroad (and of course at home), as well. I’ve never used it personally, but a lot of my friends have met a lot of people this way and made some good friends.

Italki (or other language exchange websites)

italki is an online language learning platform. It’s useful if you want to learn the language spoken in your new town/city. Before moving to China, I actually managed to find a few Chinese students living in Putian. We met just after we arrived, and we started a language exchange. But I also gained a good friend.

Just before we moved to Granada I was looking for a Korean teacher. I used another website other than italki to find one, and there’s plenty of these around. But italki is one of the biggest and so the easiest place to find language friends abroad.

A group of friends with sunset in the background.
Chilling out

Make Friends Abroad Offline

Two girls having lunch.
Lunch with a Chinese friend I met in a coffee shop.

Work

If you’re going abroad to work, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the fact that you will meet people in your job. I made a lot of friends when working abroad in China as an English teacher. In China, I found many of the Chinese English teachers wanted to hang out with us, as they found us a refreshing break than hanging around with their coworkers.

Hotdesking

If you’re a digital nomad, you probably won’t meet many people living at home (unless you’re flat sharing—see below). But there might be coworking spaces or other offices that offer hotdesking in your city. You can meet new people there, and you’ll also get a change of scenery from your home office.

Get a flatshare

Renting just a room is also a way to make friends abroad. This is good if you miss the student lifestyle. But if you’re the type who prefers to live alone, one option is to flatshare for a few months to help make a few friends then find a place alone after that.

Joining a class/gym

Being around likeminded people engaging in an activity can be a great way to make friends abroad.

When you live abroad and you don’t speak your chosen country’s official language, it’s often a good idea to take some classes. Even if you’re not that interested in learning the language, it’s good to learn some basic phrases. That way, you can meet people who are in a similar situation to you.

You can also join different cultural classes, like calligraphy, dancing and many others. Personally, I took up belly dancing when I lived in China and I really got into it.

If you spend a lot of time behind a desk, it’s good to exercise regularly as well. You can join a gym or take a class like tai-chi or yoga. With many of these classes, you don’t have to worry about not knowing a language, you just do what other people do.

Just go out

It’s probably obvious, but it’s much more difficult to find friends if you never go out. In the past, I’ve met a lot of people in coffee shops or restaurants, and often I wasn’t the one who started the conversation. In many countries, people are often really curious about foreigners.

A short note, many times I was warned that a lot of people will want to be my friends because I speak English and they just want an opportunity to practise English. To be honest, I don’t really understand this point of view. First of all, we can get something from them as well, they can help us with our problems while we help with their English. Secondly, if this was their only reason to befriend you, then would probably dissolve pretty quickly. All my friends I met this way were happy to help me when I wanted help learning their language.


Thank you for reading. Do you know any other ways to make friends abroad? If you do, we’d be happy to hear about it in the comments.

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Moving to a new country can be stressful and alienating when you don't know anyone who lives there. This post gives you some tips to more effectively make friends abroad. So whether an expat or digital nomad, you'll never have to be lonely again. #makefriendsabroad #expat #couchsurfing #meetup
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About Ola Jagielska

Ola Jagielska is an ESL teacher (you can find her on http://englishforthebusy.com), language enthusiast and co-author of this blog. She speaks seven languages and is striving for more. She loves travelling, reading and drinking good coffee.

10 thoughts on “How to Make Friends Abroad

  1. As an introvert, I sometimes struggle with making new friends, especially abroad. I love using meetup.com and couchsurfing to get to know people with similar interests. Taking a class would be a great idea too.

  2. I’ve never had to live abroad, but you can use most of these tips for meeting new people at home! Great post!

  3. Great tips on different ways to get out and meet new people, always the best way to make friends when you are somewhere new, especially if it’s a new country too. I agree, nothing wrong with people befriending you because they want to practice language skills, as this is not mutually exclusive with also forging a friendship.

  4. These are all great ideas, but I especially like the taking a class or joining a gym ideas. When there’s a different focus than just “meet people”, I find I’m a lot less nervous and interactions happen more naturally because there’a a built in conversation starter around the activity.

  5. Great tips, it certainly is one of the hardest things about moving abroad. I remember reading something about how hard it is even generally for adults to make new friends. However I have found that through travel I’ve actually made so many more friends that are much more on my wave length than I did growing up with people who just happened to be in my school or live on my street!

  6. I just love making new friends especially when travelling. I totally agree with you friends abroad can help you grow your digital business, I have learnt so much from other bloggers on presstrips. Recently I have joined the gym in my local area and everyone seems really friendly.

  7. Really great post, I’ve only ever lived abroad during my student exchange where i was thrown into a situation with lots of other students actively ‘seeking’ friendships which I know isn’t the norm. I’m hoping to move abroad soon to Canada and these will definitely help a bit !

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