How to make new friends in a new country

For most of us, the thought of being alone and far away from home seems quite daunting if not straight-up terrifying. You’re so comfortable with having your friends and family around that to leave that behind sounds a bit scary. However, making new friends is not hard, in fact not hard at all (o.k. you might have a few nervous sweats but that’s it, promise!)

The most valuable lessons I’ve learned while travelling and attempting to make new friends is that other people want to make new friends too. Most expats or travellers are looking for the same thing. The second best lesson is, you don’t need to be a smooth talkin’ guy or girl to start a simple conversation with someone.

Remember those people that say: “travelling by myself was amaaaazing, I learned so much!!!”. Besides the fact that they are a little annoying with their sudden acquired sense of spirituality, there is a bit of truth in what they preach. The reason behind it is that if you’re alone, you’re forced to having to learn to cope outside of your comfortable ‘friend bubble’. The friend bubble is what happens when you’re with your best friends and feel no need to talk to new people. Why? Because you’re comfortable. In contrast, when you’re with just yourself, you’re more open to your surroundings and other people.

5 traits you thought you needed to have but actually don’t need to make new friends:

  1. You have to be a SUPER confident person.
  2. You have to be an extrovert.
  3. You have to love talking to new people.
  4. You have to be the ‘light of the party’.
  5. You have to be cool, super attractive and awesome person who everybody naturally loves.

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The funny thing is, most conversations between people who are now good friends really started quite uninteresting. You know why? Because it’s not what you talk about, it’s about just taking the leap to say something to someone. One of my best friends and I started chatting because one of us asked the other what music they were listening to. We were on a bus to a basketball camp. The music was not a life-changing topic, but it worked. By the end of the basketball camp, we’ve had a blast and it was all because we asked a simple not-at-all-fascinating question.

The best way to realise that it doesn’t matter what you say but just to say something is by observing extroverted people. You know, those people who love telling stories and who seem super confident. Just watch them for a while and listen to what they are saying. I bet you 90% of the time, they’re just talking nonsense. Like, “Hey guys, how cool is this city?” or “What did you get up to last night?” Honestly, to break the ice you don’t have to think of something super-clever.

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If you are introverted chances are small talk isn’t really your thing. This is totally cool, the best way to find a buddy is to find something about the other person that interests you. For example, you see someone is reading that book you like or maybe they enjoy certain activities you like. If you find yourself completely lost for words, sometimes it can help to just ask the other person if they like doing a hobby you like to do. for example, “Are you into [insert your hobby/interest here]?”. Chances are you’ve got at least a few things in common! If not, you’ll learn something new about someone which is cool in itself.

People like to talk most about….themselves! I know it sounds a bit harsh, but everyone loves to talk about themselves. The reason for this is that people feel important and like someone is listening to them. If you’re a bit shy and don’t know what to talk about, just let the other person talk for a while and ask a few probing questions. “That is great! I have heard your hometown is a beautiful place to visit, would you recommend it?” and so forth and so on.

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The reason you don’t have to be super cool, attractive or super funny to talk to new people. Is simply that, other people are just as shy as you are most of the time. No one wants to look like a fool or experience an awkward moment where you don’t what to say, but you know what? Everyone who is opening up to new people is a bit awkward, simply for the reason that you don’t know each other that well yet and that’s totally okay! Just think back on how the first encounter was with your besties, I bet is was awkward as hell but it didn’t matter because you were both looking for a new friend.

What you need to make new friends abroad:

  • A genuine interest in people.
  • Join in on activities you enjoy as it will make you more relaxed
  • Step out of your comfort zone + a sprinkle of courage (even just for a little bit)
  • Talk nonsense to people, it will break the ice.
  • Stop caring about if you look and act cool and start caring about making a connection

The last thing to remember is, it’s totally normal to feel like a bit like a fish out of water when you’re trying to chat with new people. I’ve got awesome friends who are actually quite shy. The thing to remember is, you might think you look like a complete dumbass when you say something ‘wrong’ or ‘silly’ when you first meet people but actually, people usually only worry about how they look and act.

The internet and making new buddies

This is actually a great combination! For example, there are websites like meetup.com or nabo.com that are all about meeting new people. The best thing about these websites is that they make it possible to meet new people whilst doing something you enjoy. This typically brings the best out in you and that helps when you try and connect with potential friends.

Web sites to sign up for:

  • nabo.com
  • meetup.com
  • verlocal.com
  • peatix.com
  • citysocializer.com

Practice makes perfect!

The best way to step out of your comfort zone is by doing it gradually. Take a small step every day by making a small chat with someone in line at the supermarket or by talking to that new person at your work at the coffee machine. And remember, it’s not what you say, it is about saying something. Trust me, they’ll appreciate the effort you made to strike up a chat!

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