An Expat guide to developing a social network and meeting new friends

December 12, 2016

The first few months after you move to a new country are always busy and exciting, making a new home, settling in at work and exploring unfamiliar surroundings. Following this initial transition period, expats will look to widen their social circle and find some new friends to share all these new experiences with.

Missing the company of friends and the familiarity of the life you left behind is normal, however providing you try to get out and meet people, it won't be long until you have a whole new circle of friends.

But how do you meet them?

In an Internations Expat Insider Survey, 64% of expats surveyed on where they met new friends, stated that they were most likely to meet new people through work.

Socialising with your work peers provides a great opportunity to make new friends quickly, you already have something in common, you meet them every day and probably take your lunch and coffee breaks with them.

Work colleagues also allow you an opportunity to get to know members of the local population, thereby helping you get to know more about your host country and help you adjust to life there.

Although work cultures vary by country and company, most work environments will be casual and friendly, so be sure to let your new colleagues know that you are up for new experiences. Get involved and soon you will be socialising with your colleagues outside work.
Of course, if you are a trailing spouse or your work circumstances do not present the opportunity to meet new people, then developing new friendships may require a little more effort on your behalf. 

There are many expat groups, in all major cities, to assist with meeting new people and developing a social network. 

Group members are a great resource for information and advice about your host country. Expat groups regularly hold meet up sessions, and of course new members are always encouraged and welcomed. 

Get online and find an expat group in your area.
Whilst expat groups are a great way of meeting new people, don’t rely solely on these groups for social network fodder, as you run the risk of overlooking the local population as a source of friendship.

A social circle consisting of fellow expats and from your host country can help you to settle in more quickly and begin to feel like you truly belong.

Just like at home, sports clubs and hobby groups are a great way to meet new people, particularly those from the local population, with similar interests to you.

In general sports and hobby groups will be very inclusive and encourage new members of all abilities and backgrounds. 

You may find that your host country can offer sports and an outdoor lifestyle not available at home, put yourself out there and give something new a try.
It can often be much easier to meet new people in your host country if you have children of school going age. When choosing a school for expat children, look for schools with active social scenes in which you can become involved. 

Whether at the school gate or through organised school activities, your child’s school will prove a great resource for meeting new people.

As with all the opportunities listed above, meeting new people through school connections will require you to be open to new experiences and willing to make an effort to get to know the other mums and dads.

Why not invite the family of your child’s new best friend over for lunch?
Pubs and clubs can be a great place to meet new people, most major cities will have popular expat hangouts which organise theme nights and social outings.

Chatting with bar staff and fellow patrons is a great way of meeting people and acquiring some local knowledge.

The local paper or online forums are a good place to find out which bars and clubs are popular with expats in your destination.
If your native language is not spoken in your destination country, participating in language classes offer’s an opportunity to meet new people whilst also learning the local language. 

Making an effort to learn the local language can be pivotal to a successful move overseas, and will help you widen your social network to the local population.

Forming friendships with native speakers and practicing your language skills with them, will help you to improve your fluency, while opening up a whole new social circle.

Online expat forums and local newspapers are a good source for discovering language classes in your area.
As well as the traditional social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, there are many social sites dedicated specifically to expats.

Members on these sites will be in a similar situation to you and will be eager to meet new people and form new friendships.

Many sites such as Internations, are free to join and organise regular meet ups and social outings in cities all over the world.

Joining Facebook groups relating to your destination is also a great way to find out what’s going on locally and meet new people.

There are abundant opportunities for expats to make valuable and lasting friendships in their host country, all it takes is putting yourself out there a little and being open to new experiences. Give it a try, your social diary will be full in no time.

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