Forming Friendships Abroad

Forming friendships in a foreign country can make or break your time living abroad.  As of this writing, we’ve lived in six countries as a family and we’ve noticed some patterns in moving to a new place.  I’ve noticed, as I’ve always started work in a new place right away, that it’s easy to make friends when you have to see them every day.  On the other hand, if you’re a stay-at-home parent or work from home, you have to be much more intentional about building community. It will make the difference, even if it’s just a couple of people that you get together with sometimes, to helping you not feel isolated in your new place.

Five tips for forming community

Meet people abroad by joining a faith spiritual religious communityMeet people abroad at a faith community

Religious groups - if you’re a member of a church denomination or spiritual community already, look them up online and see if you can connect with members already in your new location.  I’ve found this to be a great way to meet locals as well - you have a built-in common ground and you have a big motivation to get past any weird cultural differences.

Search Facebook for relevant groups to make friends abroadFind a relevant Facebook group

Facebook groups - Facebook groups are an easy way to get an idea of what things are like before you move to a new place.  Just search your new location and what you’re interested in - “Cambodia parents” - as an example.  Most cities will have some groups, and if you don’t have any luck, try it in the native language of the city.  

Clubs and organizations - Many clubs that are widespread around the world are things like Toastmasters, rugby, cooking classes, rock climbing, you name it.  You’d be surprised what’s out there - things are easy to find these days with social media.  If you’re having a hard time, go to some expat-frequented coffee shops and have a look at their bulletin boards - there are sure to be some advertisements there.  

Gratuitous cup of coffee while writing about meeting people in coffee shopsGratuitous cup of coffee while writing about meeting people in coffee shops
Where else to make friends abroad but at work?Make friends at work abroad

Working - It seems like most people move abroad for work, though I realize that’s not always the case.  If you do work abroad, you’ll likely find someone, or a few someones, who you’ll hit it off with.  You might only be there for a year or two, so take a chance and invite someone out for a coffee or get together for dinner.  One awkward conversation won’t kill you if it doesn’t go well, and you might get a good friend out of it.

Form friendship abroad by meeting your neighborsGo next door and meet the neighbors!

Reach out - Invite new friends or neighbors out for a coffee or over for dinner.  Most people understand if your house isn’t perfectly decorated - after all, you just got there! (and who cares, really?)

What tips do you have for building community when living abroad?  Share your comments with us!