“Don't you ever get lonely?”
It's one thing to be lonely when you're living close to home, but it's another thing to feel alone when you are thousands of miles away from a familiar face.
As we get older, we all go down different paths in life. At 24, I feel there are endless different paths people my age are on! Some people marry their high school sweethearts and start a family soon after graduation. Others are career-focused and spend long hours at work or are still in school. There are numerous other branches of people as well. No branch is better or worse than another, but finding a branch, or even a tree, you feel you fit into is hard, especially when it is in a new city or country.
The more outgoing you are, the easier it may be to find friends. If you are introverted, don´t give up and think you´re destined for loneliness, though! As a fairly introverted person myself, I have come up with a few strategies to ensure you find friends wherever you go.
9 Ways to Make Friends In a New City or Country
MeetUp is this really cool app that shares activities that are going on in your area. Plus, it is free! When you make an account, it asks for your interests. You then can set alerts if any of your interests have MeetUps occurring near you. For example, I enjoy hiking, so I have an alert set up whenever a hiking group in my area is formed or plans to meet. MeetUp is found in almost every major city. It is great to use not only in the city you are living in but can also be used as a tool to meet people while you are traveling or if you are looking for a place to visit. In my city, there is a weekly MeetUp for people who recently moved to Sweden. During the summer and fall, we would meet at the park, and now during the winter, we meet weekly at a restaurant on Friday nights. Meeting a bunch of strangers for the first time may make you anxious, but in no time you´ll find a person or two in the group you really click with and will “meet up” with outside of MeetUp. Some of my favorite MeetUps have included game nights, walks around the city, and going to a brewery. You can also plan MeetUps if there is an activity you´d like to do with others.
I´m a big fan of Facebook groups! In the last 2 years, I have joined a few dozen Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups are becoming more and more popular; there is a group for everything! When applying for a job, I often will become a member of either the school´s Facebook Group and/or the city activity pages. You can see what the locals and employees think of the place, and also pose questions. The group is also an easy way to connect with others when you do arrive. Like MeetUp, these groups often share local suggestions and activities going on. I have found jobs through these Facebook Groups as well. Limitless opportunities!
A more obvious way to make friends when moving to a new country or city is by befriending your coworkers. Depending on how large your school is, you may have the option to meet and get to know several people! Go to the staff socials, hang out in the staff lounge, invite your coworkers for dinner at your place, and join along when they go for after-work drinks. If you find that your immediate workplace doesn't have the friends you are looking for, reach out to similar areas of work in your area. As a teacher, I know there are other schools nearby with teachers I could connect with. I can reach out regarding curriculum or collaboration, and a friendship can bloom. If your school has staff development days with other schools, this can be another way to meet more people.
The saying goes that you never want to get on your neighbor´s bad side, but what if you could get on their great side and become friends? Small talk and smiling when you see them will go a long way. If you want to take it further, introduce yourself when you move in, bring over a dessert, or invite them over sometime. Even if you don´t become lifelong friends, seeing a friendly face regularly isn't a bad thing.
Some of my closest friendships started with being roommates. To this day I still can't stop raving about my Australian roommate, Shayna. We became best friends almost instantly when we moved in together, and although it's been almost 2 years since I last saw her, I will be a bridesmaid at her wedding this upcoming summer. My college roommates and I are also quite close and talk regularly. We meet and became friends by connecting over our love of teaching. My current roommate and I have only lived together for a little over a month, and we have already gone on a trip and spend our weekends together.
Roommates can make or break any housing situation. When given the option, I always pick to live in shared housing so I can make those connections with people. It's great to have someone at home to simply check-in with and ask how their day was. As an avid baker, I can befriend my roommates quite quickly when I offer them cookies after making a batch.
Roommates are not for everyone, though. Do not blindly go in thinking you will become best friends with everyone that you live with. In the last 5 years, I have had 29 roommates, with the number of amazing roommates equal to the amount of horrible. Be wary, and form a backup plan when the red flags start to present themselves.
Walking Tours are another great way to not only see and explore a new city but also meet people. Each new city I travel to includes a free walking tour. Your tour will be made up with others who are also looking to explore the city and meet new people. After the tour, you can get dinner together, or explore another place. Although you may feel you know your city well, booking a tour where you live is also a way to meet locals. Your hour or two walks around the city gives you plenty of time to get to know others in your group.
If English is not the native language for the country you are in, or if you are looking to learn another language, attending a Language Exchange program may be something you would be interested in! Each program, although similar, is run differently. Some offer specific languages on a given day, while others allow you to speak and share all languages, and once you are at the meeting place you break up into groups. Often these Language Exchange programs happen weekly, so you will have the opportunity to get to know people quite well in a short amount of time. No matter if you are someone looking to learn a new language, or are wanting to teach someone a language you already know, Language Exchanges are a great way to meet new people.
Whoooa, Megan! I am looking for friends, not a boyfriend! Hear me out… Many dating apps, such as Bumble, now offer a “Friends” option. Just like using it as a dating app, you will need to create an account sharing your interests. You can set it as meeting people of just your same sex, the opposite gender, or open to everyone. You then can swipe your way through matching with people you feel would make a good friend.
Depending on your relationship status, and your interest in pursuing a relationship, dating apps for their initial purpose can also be helpful to make friends. Dating a local is a quick way to become part of their friend group and learn the language and customs. If you aren´t looking for something serious, dating apps are a quick way to meet several people as well.
Friends of Friends
The old try and true way of making friends, is using the friends you already have. Chances are someone knows someone, who is related to someone, who used to live somewhere…. Sharing where you are moving with your friends and family will likely lead to a connection somehow. The world is such a small place, that even if there isn´t a connection to be found before you move, you will likely meet someone who knows someone you know while you are there!
Moving abroad can seem like a very lonely process that only the brave and independent can do, but in fact, anyone can make friends in a new city and country. Be purposeful and go outside of your comfort zone. You are not out anything, but have the world of friendships and experiences to gain.