Five tips for networking and meeting

by Isabel Valle

In most cases, being an expat in a country far away from our family and loved ones means that we either go out and create some more love in our new life, or we spend most of our time longing for our loved ones back home. One of the toughest challenges that expats find in moving to a new country is meeting new people. It is a well-known fact that many expats feel lonely when trying to settle in abroad. We may assume that we know how to make friends, but making good friends abroad is very different to how we used to create friendships back home.

If you want to succeed at creating a happy new life in your new country and make the most out of it, it is essential that you create a reliable network of people. This sounds simple enough, however, the prospect of having to put ourselves out there and attempting to make friends with new people can be a really daunting experience for many of us. Because of this, many people don’t even try, and somehow wait for the right people to appear miraculously.

As you can imagine, this approach is doomed to fail, and will often leave many expats feeling lonely and lacking the joy that a new life in a new country can bring. Not only will a strong network of friendship offer you an ideal source of information and advice, they can also provide valuable friendship and be there for you in times of need. So, what can we do to feel the love in our new country? In the month of April, and in the remembering and emphasising how important love is in our lives, I want to share with you some easy to implement tips to help you develop a network of friends in a stress-free way. You never know, you may even have some fun in the process!

Start networking before your move

Go online and research for online expats groups and communities that allow you to interact with other fellow expats. These can be helpful at the time to finding out critical information you may need when you move, as well as finding out about groups and communities of people like you, who get together to meet and create new friendships abroad. I have personally seen some great advice being given in those platforms, helping you go straight to the active groups that are making it happen. There are always new people in your location actively looking to make friends and hang out with other fellow expats, and if you intentionally look out for these people, they won’t be hard to find. You can research for expat groups on Facebook, meet-ups in your chosen city, country related groups, relocation or international school guides, etc.

You can also find out if you are connected to anyone already living in your new city by asking friends to let you know who they know already living there. Know where to look for great friendships. You can find friendships in many different places. Starting a new hobby is a sure way of meeting new people. You can continue with a hobby that you love or find a new one altogether. From yoga to dancing, to cooking, to learning a new language, etc.

Likewise, you can join an activity or sport you love, like running or become an active member of your religion in your hosting city. Common faith helps transcend cultural differences and brings people from all over the world together. You can also change your outlook and be open to find local friends by getting involved with the local community, which in my experience will provide you with some of the most rewarding friendships abroad. Of course, if you happen to be working in your new destination, socialising with work colleagues that you get along with will be a great way of building a new network of friends.

Pick up your place to live wisely

High on the list of priorities for new expats is to find a home which is close to schooling, place of work, close to transport, with plenty of amenities nearby. But it is just as important to pick a home close to where people you may like to connect with live. If you have children, finding a building or a street where lots of families live will definitely help. When you are looking for a place to live, make sure you are not just looking at the place’s commodities, but also the people living in it. Don’t just move to a place because you fall in love with it; make sure that the demographics in your area will provide you with opportunities to meet new people and build some great friendships. I know many expats who ended up having to move homes because of this very reason.

Develop a thick skin

If you want to make friends abroad, you are going to have to put yourself out there more than you would in your normal life back home. This is not a time to be shy. Remember that every single expat you meet in your new country would have been new themselves at some point and that expats come and go, always creating more room for new friendships to be developed. So don’t be afraid to approach others and start a conversation. Even if you get asked to participate in something you don’t particularly know or like, become a yes person and find new opportunities outside of your comfort zone, saying yes to every invitation that comes your way.

Don’t give up

Making friends in a new place won’t be easy. When you first start putting yourself out there attending social events you will probably come across people who have nothing in common with, and people that you won’t get along with. This is a perfectly normal part of the process. Don’t settle and don’t let this get you down. It may not be easy, and you may have to show up alone to events and hope for the best. Keep participating with different groups until you find the type of people that you want to hang out with. You are going to meet great people in the most unexpected of places and situations, so make sure that when you do, you get their contact details and arrange a meetup. Persistency here is key! Someone doesn’t magically become a friend overnight, you need to follow up. Building a circle of friends as an expat in a new location abroad can take time and effort, but it is certainly a very achievable and rewarding quest.

Unfortunately, we can’t expect great friends to fall into our laps without any work. They key is putting yourself out there and finding and creating opportunities to meet like-minded people. So dedicate some time and effort into creating a new social circle, and enjoy the incredible benefits of making great friends who can share the love in your new location.

Here’s to your success!
With love, Isabel x

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