How to Make Friends as an Expat
1: Join a Community
When I moved to the Czech Republic, I moved alone. I didn't know anyone in the country and I had no idea how to string together more than a few faltering sentences in Czech. Making friends as an expat seemed like a daunting task.
Luckily, I was immediately initiated into the TEFL community through my TEFL course, on which I was joined by 10 or so other young college graduates with similar ideals and lust for adventure. It was a great way to make new friends with similar interests - after all, we were all teachers and we were all expats.
If you moved abroad for work, marriage or a change of scene, it might be a little harder to find a circle of friends. Most cities have expat communities who host events, get together and are desperate to meet other expats. Consider joining one - it's a good way to meet other people in the same boat as you.
2: Don't be a Xenophobe!
I knew plenty of Americans in the Czech Republic who wouldn't give you the time of day unless you were also American. The same went for some Brits with other Brits. The best way to meet people and make friends as an expat is to be open-minded and get to know the locals, as patronising as that may sound.
Nobody can give you insight into the local culture, places to go and things to do like locals. I was extremely lucky as an English teacher to meet a lot of Czechs in my classes, many of whom became good friends. It might seem like being in a foreign country means feeling like an outsider, but wherever you are there are bound to be tons of friendly natives - sometimes you just have to get your courage together and ask someone out for a coffee.
3: Learn the Language
If you already know the language and are having trouble making friends, see #2. Otherwise, joining a language class will open up many new avenues for meeting people.
I joined a Czech class after I'd been in the Czech Republic for a few months. Not only did Czech people delight at my efforts to speak their language (however badly), I also met some cool people through my Czech lessons.
People love it when expats make the effort to speak their language, and it can really help to spark a conversation if you're both learning each other's native tongue. So even if you don't have the cash to fork out for an expensive language class, brushing up your foreign lingo with a book or even the internet can work like a charm.
Do you find it difficult to meet people?
4: Embrace Your New Culture
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen many expats make is to only do things they used to do back in their native country. Now, there's nothing wrong with bringing your own teabags from England or making sure that you have a pack of digestives handy or a bottle of Frank's Red Hot. A few mementos from home can really help out.
Don't get too homesick, though. Embracing the culture surrounding you is a great way to feel more comfortable with the people around you. Hanging out in a beer garden in the Czech Republic was a great way to get talking to lively, fun-loving Czechs. Checking out a local festival is another idea for meeting fellow revellers.
Failing that, don't be afraid to ask an acquaintance who you'd like to be a friend to help you out. Expats in America, next time the 4th of July rolls around, ask if you can tag along to the festivities. Ditto for the holidays wherever you are. Or, if you're a lonely American living abroad, invite a boatload of guests over and show them what a real American Thanksgiving is all about!
Sometimes you'll need to be a little assertive, but sharing culture is a great way to change strangers into friends.
If you're of a shy and retiring nature or your busy schedule doesn't allow you to socialise very much, or if you simply can't see a way of meeting like-minded people where you are, blog about your experiences.
Forget about SEO and building a following. Writing about your experiences is not only a great way to express yourself, it's a great way to bond with like-minded people and people in the same boat, even if they are across the world from you. Who said all friends have to be local? Making friends online has never been easier, and as a blogger you can be 100% yourself and meet people who love you for it.
As an expat, following other expat blogs and chatting with people reading about your experiences can be a great way to get your social quota and make some amazing friends.
How do you meet people as an expat?
It can be difficult and I by no means have the secret formula - I'd love to hear your suggestions!