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How to Make Friends in a New Country

Posted on April 4, 2014, 02:54 PM, by Nicole La Capria under Adjusting to Your International Move

If you are planning an international move, you may fear loneliness and feeling ostracized when you arrive in your new country. With all your friends and relatives so far away back home, who will you meet for coffee or dinner? Who will provide companionship and support when you have had a bad day? Who will help you ease the transition into life in a completely foreign and unfamiliar land?
While making new friends can be more difficult for some individuals than others, there are many ways to establish connections after moving abroad. Read on for some tips on making friends in your new home country!

Before you move

  • Learn about the country. Before relocating to a new country, it's important to become familiar with the customs, common interests, and cultural norms. This will allow you to relate to citizens more easily and assimilate seamlessly. Acceptable behavior varies by region, and what is the norm back home may be offensive in your new country. Being knowledgeable of current events in your new country will also make it easier to make conversation--however, be sure to steer clear of controversial topics at first to avoid alienating or angering your new potential friends.
  • Learn the language. A necessity when moving to a new country is developing a working knowledge of the language. It will be quite difficult to make new friends if you can't even speak to them! This process is not simple and will take some time, which is why it's important to begin your lessons before moving. Read language textbooks, invest in a language-help tool such as Rosetta Stone, and watch movies in the language with English subtitles on. Once you arrive in your new country, your familiarity with the language will help you pick it up much more quickly when conversing with the locals. Don't worry about your accent or poor pronunciation--residents will likely appreciate your effort.
  • Use social media. Before you move overseas, try to connect with locals or even expats in your new neighborhood via social media. There are various groups and forums for expats relocating to foreign countries to connect and share experiences, which will help you make some acquaintances. Remember, when meeting up with anyone you met on social media, exercise discretion and get together in a public place.

After you move

  • Get out there. To make friends, you have to be put yourself in social situations, become part of the local community, and get involved. Check out your neighborhood pubs, cafes, and restaurants and chat with the other regulars. Join a club, organization, or sports team to meet others with like interests and facilitate interaction. By experiencing all your new country has to offer, you will also meet new people and lay the groundwork for the friend-making process.
  • Be friendly. Don't wait for friends to come to you. Remember, you are the newcomer that needs to make friends. Don't be timid and make the first move--what's the worst that can happen? Ask for help with directions from passerby, ask the lone diner at the café sitting beside you for recommendations to grab a drink later. Who knows, maybe he or she will join you! Remember to always smile, make eye contact and be confident--even if you don't speak that language that well.
  • Don't give up! Making close friends won't happen over night. Remember to be patient and keep trying, and your friendships will form naturally over time.  Moving overseas will open you to new experiences, culture, surroundings, and give you a whole new perspective. Enjoy this enriching time without wasting energy feeling frustrated that you haven't made enough new friends. There is so much to see and to do--and enjoying it alone can actually build character and resilience, making you a stronger person. Companionship will come in time--and remember, your friends and family back home are always there to soothe your loneliness with a quick phone call, text, or social media message.
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