Making friends abroad
The struggle of friendships living abroad
Finding friends abroad is a challenging but rewarding process. In the expat world, friendship is often intense, short, and always comes with a good-bye at a certain point. In this blog post, I talk about how to approach this emotional topic and stay in contact throughout the shared time abroad.
How expat friendships are different from the friendships you are used to
Living abroad is always characterized by a lot of change, turmoil, and personal development. At the beginning of their time abroad, many expats are not really looking for a best friend. There is just too much going on with moving, getting to know the new culture, and making yourself home. However, the day will come where you are missing your best friend back home. Although it is way easier for us to stay in contact with friends and family back home, we can’t meet for a coffee or cocktail to chat about what’s going on. You might lack a someone who comforts you, knows exactly what you are going through right now. Someone who motivates you to push through with your new ideas, someone to brainstorm about some ideas you have or someone that will tell you it’s totally normal how you feel right now. That’s the moment you are thinking about seeking out and looking for new friendships.
Don’t be surprised if expat friendships can become more intimate than you are used to in just a short amount of time. It is just normal that we are more open about our feelings when we feel understood. Most likely you find yourself in a similar situation making it possible for a friendship to grow strong and supporting in only a couple of cups of tea.
Get used to saying good-bye
Also be prepared to say good-bye more often than you are used to. Expats are jumpy human beings. People are coming and going, plans are changing, work projects are ending early or new opportunities arise in another country. There is always something going on in an expat community. I have been to countless good-bye parties during my short time in Chicago so far and I will never get used to it. Saying good-bye is hard and when you are talking to very experienced expats, living the nomad lifestyle for all their lives, you will learn that it will never get easier.
Your personal motivation of looking for friends abroad will also be influenced by your current plans of moving to another country. Many stop to network when the next move is about to happen in a couple of months. Others are looking desperately for friends but having difficulties finding someone as people tend to shy away from you when you are about to move again soon. As I said, it’s hard to tell good-bye again and again 🙂
A good mix of locals & expats
I have contributed to an interview series by Western Union about the topic of finding friends abroad. Check out Western Union’s How to Become an Expat blog post for more information and to see my feature! For me it works great to establish a network of locals and expats alike. Although you can’t (and should not) plan friendship, you can decide on how to spend your weekends and evenings. The choice of your hobbies, networking events, facebook groups, and at the end of the day the smile that you carry around on you face will influence your chances to meet new people. I love the global mindset and the open arms of the expat community but I also like to get in touch with locals, hopefully establishing long lasting friendships and finally understanding the small twerks of the new culture.
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How to stay in touch with loved ones back home
In need for some ideas to stay in contacts with your friendships back home? You will notice that those friendships will go through different cycles. Not all friendships will make it to the end but those who do are more valuable than ever. I recommend using daily/weekly/monthly communication methods just as group chats, fixed video chat schedules to stay in touch. Also one reminder: Don’t wait for your friend to make the first step when you are in need for a talk. Adress to your friend if you want to talk. You never know what is going on in her or his life back home and their life certainly does not stand still. Many friendships struggle with this “who goes first”. So, be the one who start the conversation if you need someone to talk 🙂 and get over your pride.
HOW TO STAY IN CONTACT WITH LOVED ONES DURING AN EXPAT ASSIGNMENT
Check out this article I have written some time ago with my personal tips and tricks to stay in touch with friends and family back home. One trick: Sending printed postcards using an app! Check it out here:
Last but not least there are many expat forums you can join to start your journey of friendship. Send me your favorite networks and approaches in your city! Would love to get them all together in one guide for all of you!