Monday, 22 September 2014

Three essential tips for making friends abroad

Bags unpacked, accommodation organised and job sorted. Your dreams have come true but standing on an unfamiliar road trying to decipher the local street signs or find your way to the grocery store; it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed and alone. Once the initial excitement fades, loneliness can set in and make you wish you’d never left home.

Making friends might seem simple enough but only 52% of expats in our 2013 survey say finding friends is easy, so what’s the secret? Here are our tips on how to make your new surroundings as friendly as possible.

Learn to say ‘hello’ 

While it isn’t always feasible to become fluent in your host country’s language, it can be amazing how learning a few words will quickly make you feel more integrated in the community. It might sound simple, but being able to exchange greetings, even in passing, with the locals will make you feel much more at home. 

Image source: Creative Commons / Robert S. Donovan 

Bear in mind cultural differences

In France you may be greeted with two kisses, but in China eye contact is sometimes avoided. Different cultures approaching things such as friendless, respect and physical contact in different ways, so don’t be too quick to form judgements on your host culture. What you may interpret as deep unfriendliness, may be their way of getting to know you. Check out our Expat Hints & Tips tool for some insights from expats on cultural differences, including the below from @WantedAdventure:

Move beyond the expat circle
Although meeting new people in a similar position and from a similar background can be tempting, it is well worth getting to know some locals. Indeed, becoming immersed in the culture, language and local life can be important factors in making you feel like you have come to a friendly destination.  Exploring your local area, neighbours, shops, restaurants and cafes can be one way to embrace this. If you are still struggling for ways to do this, try some of our blogs on making friends abroad and engaging with the culture.

While some destinations are naturally going to feel friendlier than others, the best approach to your new home is that ‘it’s not the place, it’s how you approach it’. So give your neighbour a smile and a wave, try out your new language skills in the local shop and bring the friendliness with you wherever you go. 

Where is the friendliest destination you have visited or lived? Tweet us @expatexplorer and join in the conversation.

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