If you’re lucky enough to travel or live abroad – perhaps as part of an exchange or work experience – in order to get the most out of your stay it’s essential to mix with the locals. This allows you to put your language skills to the test and find out more about the local culture and way of life. Having lived abroad several times, I’ve put together a list of tips based on my own experiences to help you make friends in a foreign country.
1. First and foremost - say yes to EVERYTHING (within reason). Obviously, if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way DON’T feel obliged to agree to do something. However, don’t be put off trying something new or going to somewhere you’ve never been before. You never know, the group of students from your class who invite you out for a coffee might end up being your friends for life! I’ll never forget the time I tried fried grasshoppers in the south of Mexico. I can safely say I won’t be eating them again, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless!
2. Secondly, find a hobby or try something entirely new. Join a dance class (I did this in Spain despite having two left feet), a walking club, a photography class, a gym, or learn to cook the local cuisine – the possibilities really are endless!
3. Another option is to attend language exchanges or find a buddy to practise with. This allows you to meet a whole lot of people who are also looking to make friends.
4. Get out of the house! Hours spent in front of Netflix and endless Skype conversations with family and friends back home are a sure-fire way to ensure you feel even more homesick. Make the most of the new and exciting place you live in. Instead of staying shut in your room – go out and explore!
5. Lastly - don’t be a wallflower. When you are miles from home, surrounded by people speaking an unfamiliar language and immersed in a foreign culture, it may feel incredibly difficult to be confident and involve yourself in conversations, especially with large groups of people. Nevertheless, try to persevere and make your voice heard. If big groups are intimidating, strike up conversations with individual people in order to get to know them better. More likely than not, you will find that everyone wants to know everything about you, so take advantage of being a novelty.
Do you find it easy or difficult to make new friends?