5 Ways to Meet People When Living as an Expat

shutterstock_56707726
0

From your partner in crime that you explore your new city with, to the friendly guy in the corner store who taught you how to say ‘thank-you’ in the local language, the best part about traveling isn’t where you go or what you do, it’s the people you meet.

As we mentioned in ‘The Family Effect‘, friendships on the road can be some of the most fulfilling and long lasting relationships that we have.

However, when moving to a new city we will inevitably ask ourselves, “Well now that I’m here, how do I meet people!?”

From Tinder to AirBnB, I’ve met and read about expats that have tried a whole host of different methods to create a new friendship group. Some of them worked and some of them, in the case of Tinder, weren’t too successful.

It’s not always easy to be pro-active in the friend hunt. I know plenty of people who prefer to load up a movie, and stay in for the night.

However, what’s the point in traveling all that way just to sit in your room and wait for work to roll around on Monday morning? Get out, meet people, make some memories, and 10 years down the line, you’re most likely to still be looking at those pictures with a smile on your face.

Assuming that you have already found a job, here are some of my favorite ways to meet people after moving to a new country to work abroad.

1. Expat Websites

From our experience, one of the most popular ways of meeting new people is through Expat Websites. There are a lot to choose from online such as Internations and Couchsurfing who set up events for expats to meet, greet, mingle, and network. These events tend to take place in bars and restaurants around your new city.

Pros

– Able to meet a number of people who are in the city for a whole host of reason. New friends, new jobs, new opportunities.
– Meet both recent expats and the veterans – a great chance to learn more information about the city of find people to explore with.

Cons

– Most conversations get past impersonal small talk and they generally go something like this: ‘Hi, my name is _______, and I am a ________. What about you?” It’s very difficult to get past the initial small talk and create friendships.
– Mostly expats. Yes, it’s great to meet people who have a similar background to yourself, but you just traveled halfway around the world. I personally found I wanted to meet a whole host of different people from different backgrounds to myself.
– “Revolving Door” – One of the frustrating things about meeting other expats is that everyone is coming and going at different times, creating what is commonly referred to as “The Revolving Door of Expats” coming in and out of the country. While you will probably meet some great people at these events, chances are they might not be staying as long as you or might be gone in a few short months. Nothing more frustrating than building up a strong friend circle only to have them leave 2 months later. Be careful with developing these shorter term relationships if you know you will be somewhere for a while.

Our Experience

After hearing the same questions too many times, one expat approached our founder, Troy, and asked “if you were an animal, what would you be and why?” This sure beat the boredom of having the same conversation but it turned out to be an awesome way to introduce a topic that goes beyond small talk banalities.

Useful Websites

https://www.couchsurfing.com/ – Search Couchsurfing events and your new city and the chances are you’ll find an event to attend within a week.
http://www.internations.org/ – Tips and tricks for moving to a new city, as well as living information about cities, and planeed events.

2. Language Exchanges

Teaching Americans to speak “English English” wasn’t quite the same as meeting up with some potential new friends at a coffee shop in South Korea and learning the Korean basics. Language exchanges can either be formal with textbooks or an informal meetup for coffee or beer. Another personal favorite is the “speed dating” language exchanges where you sit down at a table and spend 5 minutes in each language.

Pros

– Learning a new language. Being put into a situation where you’re forced to speak and overcome your language fears is often the best mechanism.
– Meeting and talking for twice a week more often than not leads to acquaintanceship, if not friendship. You don’t just have one new friend, but also an excellent tour guide and a whole new friendship network.

Cons

– Some people look for more than a language exchange and friendship. If the exchange isn’t working, find a new partner!
– If you’re at the same level of language deficiency, it can be hard to communicate with your new partner. Not an ideal way to start friendship.

Our Experience

I started playing soccer with some Korean guys. They wanted to learn more business based English and I wanted to work out what the Korean characters actually meant (yes, I wasn’t too good at self-study). This turned into a weekly event, which normally descended into drinking beer and learning swear words… however, it gave a me a great base for my Korean studies as well as some lifelong friends.

Useful Websites

These can vary from city to city and country to country – we’ve found, if working/volunteering, it’s useful to ask your co-workers, their friends, or friends of friends. The good thing about English is there’s nearly always someone trying to learn it.
http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/ is one of the most popular for connecting two language learners.

3. Hobbies

Personally, this is my favorite way of meeting people in a new city. Find a hiking, poetry, soccer, crochet, or whatever you love or want to learn club, and go and participate. Whether you interact with people the first time you’re there, or merely sit in the corner and listen, once others see your enthusiasm for something they also love, it’s an incredible way to bond.

Pros

– You’re doing something you enjoy and so are they. Easy to make conversation about a mutual love for an activity.
– Ready made friendship group.
– A variety of people have the same hobby. Joining say, a hiking club means you could be making friends with teachers, lawyers, designers, and both locals and expats.

Cons

– There aren’t any groups for your favorite sport of ‘greasy pig riding’? Go create a group and get some people interested!

Our Experience

When I first moved to New York I joined a random pickup soccer group. After a couple of weeks I was approached to join a team. This group became my first and best group of friends in my new city.

Useful Websites

http://www.meetup.com/ – Huge number of groups all over the world doing every type of activity you could imagine.
http://www.wheninkorea.net/ – Korea specific, but like most websites, its Meetup group is much more active

4. In the workplace

If you’re moving to a new city for an extended period of time, you’re more often than not going to be working or volunteering. Much like at home, your co-workers are an awesome source of potential friends and if they’ve been in the city for longer than you, you have the chance of joining a well established friendship group.

Pros

– You’re spending 8 hours a day together, you may as well learn more about your co-workers.
– A ready made friendship group. More often than not there’s at least one co-worker that wants to spend the weekend exploring, eating, or drinking.

Cons

– Conversation can get a little too work focused and it can be difficult to have other conversations.
– More often than not, weekday workplace entertainment moves from the office to the bar. If you’re not so into the bar scene, it can be hard to create strong friendships.
– Space – Some people simply like to keep their working and social lives completely separate, and we respect that. If that’s the case, this section probably isn’t for you.

Our Experience

Hells, one of my co-workers became the founder of BrainGain and invited me to jump on board :-).

5. Facebook

Facebook deserves a category all to its own. Facebook groups may be web-based but it’s probably the easiest way to find groups in your new city, no matter where you are in the world. Many other cities have their own specific websites for arranging meetups, however, all of them have a Facebook page. Rather than signing up to a random group after a Google search, join through Facebook.

Pros

– Ease of finding them. Different cities and different countries have popular platforms for groups meetups. However, nearly all of these have their own Facebook group.
– Check out who’s on there and if you have any friends in common. Also easy to message the group and introduce yourself.

Cons

– The groups don’t run forever and there’s usually one or two people who are the driving forces behind them. Make sure they’re up to date, or start your own.

Our Experience

Both Troy and I met a lot of people through Facebook groups and events. From Korea Burn to soccer teams, Facebook was a firm base in which the quest for new activities and groups was born.

Useful Websites

Philosophy of Travel – Awesome group of seasoned travelers who love to impart advice and get involved in travel related discussions.
BrainGain – Well, because it’s ours
Travel Massive – Like-minded travel-professionals from all around the globe creating events in over 100 cities
Any city followed by ‘expats’, ‘social group’, or ‘networking’ are likely to come up with some great active groups and events.

These are our favorite methods that have been relatively well tested over time. I’d love to hear some of your favorite methods of meeting people in new cities. Leave us a comment or get in touch through on Twitter or Facebook

Related Blogs

Leave a Reply