Moving Beyond Borders means leaving a chapter of your life behind and starting to write a new one. It’s both extremely exciting and equally daunting.
“I don’t know anyone there, how am I going to make friends?” I wondered as I moved to Norway, aged 18. Little did I know that the 2 girls I was travelling with would become two of my best friends for life.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always that easy. During my 1st year living in China, I didn’t manage to make any friends and felt so incredibly lonely. I met countless people, mainly through work, but they all remained acquaintances. I thought something was wrong with me…
That’s when I realised that I wasn’t investing enough time in meeting new people and in growing and cherishing emerging friendships.
So, I started expanding my circle further. This is how I found a few people I really enjoyed hanging out with and who, more surprisingly importantly, enjoyed hanging out with me too! By the time I left a year later, I’d made a handful of wonderful friends.
My last 10 years of friendships Beyond Borders, with their ups and downs, is what brought me to write this article today.
This article is for you if: ~ You’re about to move abroad and are looking for ways to make friends. ~ You’re living abroad, are feeling lonely and are wondering how you can make friends abroad. ~ You’d like to expand your circle of friends, for whatever reason, wherever you might be.
1. Get in touch with friends of friends
Before moving beyond borders, find out if any of your family members or friends know anyone who lives where you’re heading to. They say “friends of friends are my friends” and though that’s not always true, it’s a great place to start! Get in touch with them beforehand, ask them for some advice and arrange to meet up when you arrive.
Moving to Melbourne wouldn’t have been so easy if my partner and I hadn’t known anyone here. Our friends introduced us to many of their friends and we couldn’t be more grateful!
2. Socialise at work
As dull as it may sound, work is actually a great place to meet people and make friends. Take the initiative and invite a few of your colleagues to go out for an “after work” drink on Friday night somewhere near the office. If it goes well, turn it into a weekly thing!
In the UK, “after work” drinks are quite an institution. I made some incredible friends and countless memories that way! Don’t overdo it though…!
For more info: Why do the British drink so much?
3. Follow your hobbies
What are your passions? It could be something you love doing, something you always wanted to try out or something you used to do as a kid. Whether it’s a sport, music, art, find out where it’s happening and join in. That will give you a chance to meet like-minded people and the hobby you share will be something you can talk about straight away.
If you’re like me and are passionate about way too many things… pick a few and take it from there otherwise, you’ll never sleep! Tennis, dance, yoga, walking, photography and writing have been my favourite go-to activities over the years. When I got to Australia I started using the App MindBody which is great to find out what fitness and wellness options are available to you.
For more info: MindBody
4. Join groups
Joining groups is a great way to meet people and eventually make friends! The website Meet-Up has countless groups you can choose from. Anything from “Parrot Social” to “Scrabble Group” or “Magic Creatures Camp Out” and lots of more “usual” options for you and me… Unless? No, tell me, I promise not to laugh…
Groups can be intimidating though. They are for me! Although an extrovert, I always feel pretty shy at first. Here are a couple of things I do which I find really helpful:
(1) Aim to speak to someone/anyone within the first 5 minutes
(2) Attend more than one event of the same group so it gets less nerve-racking as you get to know a few people better
I’ve just become the Community Manager for a group called GGI (Girl Gone International) in Melbourne and couldn’t be more excited! GGI is a community of girls from everywhere in the world who gather monthly, have a chat and help each other along the way.
For more info: Meet-up Girl Gone International
5. Make the most of social media
Research your destination on social media. Once you’ve found a few inspiring accounts, reach out to them. Ask for tips, what to see, cool things to do, where to eat, etc. If they still live in the area, arrange to meet-up with them when you arrive.
I’ve been using social media more and more to connect with people and get travel tips. I met an awesome Canadian couple along the Chinese portion of the Silk Road thanks to a Facebook group called Girls Love Travel. We explored the incredible Kashgar Animal Market together and chatted for hours over tea.
For more info: Girls LOVE Travel
6. Become a “usual”
Have you found a café, a bar or a restaurant you like? Keep going there! That way, you’ll get to know the people who work there and the other “usual” customers. Of course, this is easier to do in smaller cities or neighbourhoods.
In London and Shanghai, I didn’t feel like this was an option but since moving to Melbourne, I’ve found a health shop and café that I absolutely love! It’s called Glo Health in Elsternwick. Check it out if you’re in the area. I go there almost every day and have become friends with one of the girls who work there. We’re even planning on walking a marathon together in April!
For more info: Glo Health
7. Allow for random encounters
Believe it or not, you can meet people and make friends in the most random places and ways! If you’re reading this article on a plane, train or bus, take a look at the person sitting closest to you and wonder whether you two could be friends? If the answer is no, are you able to explain why? If it is “yes”, talk to them, why not?
We often become friends with people who are very similar to us in both looks and likes. Living Beyond Borders has truly shown me that there is no valid reason for that. So call me naïve but I’ll always assume that you and I can be friends unless you prove me otherwise.
For more info: Why do you and your friends look so much alike?
9. Be yourself
Being new to a country and keen to fit in, you might show others the best version of yourself. Though it could potentially help to start with, meaningful friendships are built on honesty, trust and vulnerability. So don’t wait too long before showing your true colours.
Being yourself from the start is not only liberating, it also allows you to focus entirely on those around you rather than spending the whole time worrying about blowing your cover.
There’s nothing I love more than hearing other people’s stories, the awesome, the great, the tough and even the ugly. Sharing life in its most authentic form that’s, in my humble opinion, the foundation of the most beautiful friendships.
These are friendships that don’t require to have known each other for years or to see each other every day. All they need is an initial connection and plenty of cherishing, caring, mutual respect and ultimately love.
Wherever you are in the world, I hope you found these tips useful and I can’t wait for us to become friends somewhere, somehow, someway! And if we are already, know that I couldn’t be more grateful for the bond we share.
Did this article make you think about a friend? Share it with them ~
How and where did you meet your best friend? Leave a comment ~
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