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How to Make Friends in a New Country

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Moving overseas can be scary - you need to figure out where you're going to live, where you're going to work, and how to deal with culture shock all at the same time. With all of that, making friends when you move to a new country almost seems like an afterthought. However, forming relationships will help you have a happy and healthy life and stave off loneliness and homesickness that is bound to kick in here and there.

How to Make Friends in a New Country

If you are planning an international move in the near future or have recently completed one, find out more about how to make friends in a new country.

Get familiar with the customs

When relocating to a new country, it's important to familiarize yourself with the region's customs and cultural norms. Not recognizing what constitutes acceptable behavior could lead you to offend or confuse locals. For example, in the UK, holding up two fingers with your palm facing inwards to order two drinks in a noisy pub won't get you on the bartender's good side - this is considered as an obscene gesture. If you're left-handed, you may want to practice dining with your right hand in places like the Middle East and parts of Africa - locals in these countries consider the left hand reserved for bathroom use and may be a bit put off if you use it to eat.

Taking interest in the culture and customs will help you understand your surroundings better. You can also take part in cultural celebrations to mingle with the locals and take time to adjust to the foreign cuisine.

Learn the language

Of course, being able to effectively communicate with residents will facilitate friendships immensely. Learning a new language isn't easy and will take time, but your efforts will be appreciated by others. Even if you are a poor speaker, being at least somewhat familiar with the native tongue will make it much easier to fit in and form relationships with locals.

Don't get stressed out about getting it perfect right away - becoming fluent in a language takes time. The more you try to communicate with locals, the more you will learn and the easier understanding and speaking the native language will be. As you get more accustomed to your new lifestyle, it'll help you overcome any language barriers you may face in your new country. Thus, you'll be able to make new friends in the foreign country.

Don't criticize the new country

After moving overseas, you may come across things that you won't like such as not having foods that you miss from home or customs and lifestyle aspects that you will not understand or appreciate. Save the complaints for your friends back home - whining about your new country is unlikely to be an effective icebreaker and may only alienate and annoy the locals.

Don't expect them to commiserate - even if they share your sentiment about certain things, they won't enjoy hearing about it from an outsider. Additionally, avoid boasting about how much better certain things were back home; instead, focus on what you love about your new home and use that to find common ground when making new friends in the foreign country.

Step out of your comfort zone

Don't be shy - it never helps when trying to make friends no matter where you are. Even if you are an introvert by nature, try your best to come out of your shell and strike up conversations. Don't be intimidated because you are the outsider - confidence is the most effective tool in forming friendships.

Be friendly and approachable, make eye contact, and always remember to smile. Remember that others may be just as cautious as you when it comes to initiating dialogue - the difference is you are new to the country and the one seeking friends. If you want to make it happen, you will have to be proactive.

Ask for help

Since you are new to the country, you can use your lack of familiarity with the area to begin a conversation. Ask a passerby for directions or the person beside you on the bus for restaurant recommendations. Many locals will be interested to know you're from another country and will be more than happy to discuss their homeland with you.

Get involved

When you move overseas, the best way to make friends is to get out there and be visible. Go out to bars, cafes, and eateries by yourself often. Join clubs, volunteer organizations, a dance class, or a sporting team. Getting involved in activities will surround you with others that share interests and make forming friendships even easier since you will already have some common ground.

You can also find expats from back home in your new country and ask them to share their experience if they have been living in the country for a long time.

Host gatherings

One of the best ways to make friends in a new country is to take initiative and step up to entertain your people. Throw parties, host/co-host gatherings or events, and invite your friends over. This is a great way to socialize with the neighbors. People will always be ready to attend gatherings if they have a free weekend to spare.

You can also do karaoke or play games to make the gatherings interactive. When your guests show up with their folks and partners, you can get to know more and more people all in one place - including both locals and your fellow expats.

Socialize online

Moving overseas may impact your social life and the way you interact with people. However, by being active online, you'll be able to get to know a lot of people with just a few clicks while sitting at home. You can easily find expats or locals living in your city or even search through people's profiles based on shared interests.

Platforms like Facebook can help you connect with thousands of people without having to meet them. Even if you can't visit them in person, you can make a friend from any corner of the world and you'll never feel lonely again. However, beware of fake user accounts and don't share any information until you can trust the other person.

Be persistent

If you want to learn how to make friends in a new country, have patience and be persistent. You aren't going to make a brand-new best friend overnight. Remember your reasons for moving abroad in the first place - to enrich your life with new experiences, new culture, new surroundings, and a new perspective. Spending some time by yourself in a foreign place will only build your character. And when the loneliness begins to wear you down, remember your old friends back home are only a phone call or click away!

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on July 19, 2013

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