12 Ways to Make Friends For Your New Life Abroad
One of the things that I was most concerned about regarding moving abroad was not having friends, therefore being lonely and getting sad :(.
I am so lucky to say that I found some great resources on how to meet awesome, interesting people abroad! Having a close network of people around you is honestly one of the most important things to keep you from getting homesick. I feel supported in my community and I know that I always have people I can turn to if I have issues. While there are other ways to make friends while doing some short solo traveling, this post is more about establishing a network of friends for when you actually move to a new city.
If you’re wondering how to make friends abroad, check out these handy ways:
1) Facebook Groups
This may be the most obvious one. Before I moved to Vienna, I became part of a group called “Vienna Au Pairs,” but as I was following it, it seemed to be mostly posts from families looking for au pair girls and au pair girls looking for families. Most of the posts didn’t seem to make sense and some even seemed a little sketchy. Once I arrived in Vienna, I decided to take the chance and just say something to the effect of “Hey I just got to Vienna. Would anyone like to meet up and help me explore the city a little?”
Luckily, TONS of au pairs commented on my post and we set up a WhatsApp group. That’s how I met a great deal of my friends. There’s a HUGE community of au pairs in Vienna; I feel like I meet a new one every week! They’re all super happy to get coffee, explore, travel, and be friends!
You can see if there are Facebook groups for whatever your nationality or profession is in the new city that you’re living. You’d be surprised how many groups are out there. For example, I am also a part of “Women of Vienna,” “Americans in Vienna,” and “Expat Ladies of Vienna.” People are always very happy to give advice or to meet up! As a female traveler, I also definitely recommend “Girls Love Travel,”–it’s a HUGE network of ultra-supportive traveling females.
2) Language Exchange
Language exchange is a great way to socialize and to improve your language skills in the country you are living in. Generally, you can just put up a post saying something like “I speak native English and I would like to practice my German with a native German speaker.” Then, people comment on it and you meet up for coffee and have a conversation, maybe a half hour in German and a half hour in English for example. The two girls I met doing this are super great and we’ve become friends! In Vienna, the Facebook group is called “Tandem Wien,” which I found out about through word of mouth. There are also various “Kaffee und Deutsch” (Coffee and German) groups that offer the same type of thing. See if your city has any groups on Facebook and if not, try putting up a flier somewhere, like around a University bulletin board.
3) Take classes
Is there a University in the city you’re living in? Try taking a class there! I took a German class at Universität Wien and as the class was a lot of like-minded young people, it was a great place to make friends. Most of the people in my class were on a study abroad trip from either America or Australia but there were also people from Bulgaria, Algeria, and Hong Kong.
However, some of my au pair friends who took a language class at the Uni had a class full of older people, mostly spouses trying to learn their SO’s native tongue. One of my friends was the only English speaker in the class. Obviously it’s still great to be friends with people outside of your age group and nationality, but just keep in mind that the classes can really vary. If you’re lucky you’ll get a group like mine who decided to make a Facebook group and schedule meet-ups and hang-outs!
4) Couch surfing meet-ups
Now I’ve never done this, but one of my good friends here has and it’s a great way to meet people. I’m not talking about actually opening up your couch for travelers to sleep on, but Couchsurfing itself has meet-ups and events in cities all over the world. In order to attend, you need to either make an account or know someone who has an account, but it’s a great way to meet cool travelers like yourself!
Meet-up is an app/website you can use to find meet-up’s in your particular interest. There are sports meet-ups, writing meet-ups, internationals meet-ups, etc. I used this app to go on an international’s meet-up which was a vigorous hike on the outskirts of Vienna. It was something I probably wouldn’t have known about or scheduled on my own, and thus very rewarding!
HEAR ME OUT. Yes, often these apps have bad connotations in the U.S about creepers looking for hook-ups. However, in other countries they can be a great way to meet travelers and locals. I met one guy who was a Vienna local in town for the week before he went back to school in England, and he took me ALL around the city basically giving me a personalized tour. I also have an American friend here who is a straight guy and he is just on there to meet new friends in the city. Not everyone on there is just looking to score! There’s also Bumble BFF which just requires you to change the settings on your bumble account, and you can meet other ladies out there who are looking to find a new best friend.
I joined Internations (.org, NOT .com). It’s free to make an account (although you can pay to upgrade to premium but I don’t recommend it). You basically make an account saying who you are, where you lived, and what you do, and it leads you to meet other internationals. It’s like networking. Now, I do get a lot of messages from middle-aged men in middle-eastern countries, BUT I also got a message from another American girl who started out as an au pair over a year ago and had decided to stay in Vienna. She messaged me asking if I wanted to hang out or had any questions about Vienna, and now we’re good friends!
8) Erasmus Events
If you’re young, like University-age or recently graduated, you may be interested in Erasmus events. The Erasmus program is the European Union student exchange program, and the events are generally intended for students studying abroad but often anyone can go to them! For example, this year there was an Erasmus bus trip to Hallstatt, a beautiful village in Austria. They will also have things like beach trips, city tours, museum trips, etc. I recommend googling “Erasmus events” in your area or searching “Erasmus” on Facebook events.
9) Book Club
I love reading and talking about books. I wish my entire life was an ongoing English class. If you also enjoy talking about books, consider joining a book club. You can often find these by searching “book club in [your city]” on Google or Facebook.
10) Free walking tours
I always recommend free walking tours as it is a great way to travel and learn about the area from a local, without spending a penny (except for a tip for the tour guide that is!). Free walking tours are another mixed bag of people. Sometimes it’s people just passing through the area, sometimes it’s people who moved there and want to know more about it, and sometimes it’s people who live there who just wanted a fun, free thing to do! They do often have a lot of solo people, so it’s a great way to make friends! Just search “free walking tours in (whatever city you’re in)!”
11) Public Transport
You would actually be surprised how many people my friends and I have met riding the metro in Vienna! You should definitely get used to the public transport anyway in your city, and it doesn’t hurt if you meet some fellow city-goers in the process!
12) Get out!
Leave your house/apartment/hotel room/hostel. If you’re an introvert, this can be scary, especially if you don’t speak the language. Just the act of ordering something when you don’t really know what you’re saying can be anxiety-inducing. But get out there, branch out, see the new city. Not everyone is comfortable going out to a bar or club by themselves at night–I’m personally not. So try going to a coffee shop. Chill with a cappuccino and a delicious Viennese dessert. Bring your laptop or a book for comfort, and you never know, you might just end up coming back with a new friend!
I hope these tips help you learn how to make friends abroad! Having a good community/network of people is definitely one of the most important things to help you adjust to your new life. Have any questions or think you know of other things that should be on this list? Hit the comments!
<– How to Make Friends Abroad — Pin me! By the way, this is a real picture of me and some friends in Barcelona showing off our fabulously timed jumping skills.
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