How to Make Friends Living Abroad
One of the biggest challenges you will face when moving abroad is making friends and creating a social life from scratch. While hard to begin with, creating a social life from scratch can be extremely rewarding as you chose to connect with those who share similar goals and interests. I have made some amazing, like-minded friends during my time living in Vietnam. I remember being completely lost about where to begin meeting new people. This guide shares some ideas for how you can make friends living abroad.
I live in Saigon, Vietnam, so you’ll see that a lot of the links and groups I refer to throughout this article are Saigon specific – but these tips for making friends abroad should apply to most destinations.
Where to start with making friends when you live abroad
Making friends isn’t going to happen overnight. It wasn’t until around 6 months into living in Vietnam that I started making real friends and it wasn’t until the second year that I forged any deep friendships. First and foremost you need to get into the right mentality of being sociable and wanting to get to know others. You also need to put yourself in vulnerable situations – reach out to new people, accept that you may not click with everyone, and you may have your friendship advances rejected by some. It’s kind of like dating. Try not to take it personally and instead keep hunting for “your people”.
1️⃣ Live in a shared house
This can be a good way to meet people when you first move. Even if you don’t fully click it’s great for widening your social circle and connecting with friends-of-friends.
Where to find shared housing in Vietnam? I’ve found Facebook to be the best place to find shared housing and roommates (try this group). You could also try this Expat housing site.
2️⃣ Hangout with colleagues
Colleagues are one of the easiest and fastest ways to make friends living abroad. If you’re teaching abroad you’ll quickly discover that teachers can be extremely social. Hanging out with colleagues is also a great way to make some local friends. In the past, I’ve made friends through engaging in weekly traditions, like “taco Tuesdays” and Friday night drinks.
3️⃣ Use co-working spaces
If you’re a freelancer or remote worker it can be even harder to make friends abroad. Why not try working from coworking spaces? Coworking spaces are often office-like environments where you can pay to use a desk with high-speed internet and free tea and coffee etc. Coworking spaces also often run events and meet-ups where you can socialise and meet others working remotely
Here are some coworking spaces to check out in Saigon:
• The Hive Saigon (they have 3 locations in Saigon)
• Wor.kafé Saigon (boutique coworking space)
• CirCO (professional coworking space)
If you don’t want to pay to use a coworking space then working from the same coffee shop regularly can help you to recognise others also working and strike up a conversation – I met many friends through working at my local coffee shop.
4️⃣ Use social media
Social media has a bad reputation but I am a huge advocate for using social media to actually get social. I have met so many like-minded, fun and inspiring friends through Instagram and Facebook.
On Instagram, you can search location tags, hashtags and stories to find people nearby. Then it’s up to you to slide into strangers DMs (in a non-creepy way). Responding to stories is a natural and easy way to start a conversation.
Through Facebook, try searching for Facebook groups for your hobbies and interests. For example, in Saigon, there are groups where you can meet creatives, foodies etc. Try posting to see if anyone is interested in meeting up. For example, the “female expats in Saigon” group is super welcoming and a great place to meet other expats and locals in the city.
Couch-surfing is another app that could be great for meeting new people abroad. I haven’t personally used it but I know that you can arrange meet-ups and hangouts with other people in your city, without having to actually couch-surf.
5️⃣ Dating Apps
This isn’t going to suit everyone, but apps like Tinder and Bumble can be an avenue to meeting people living abroad, even if you aren’t looking for a relationship. Just make it clear on your profile that you are looking for friendship. Bumble also has a “friend” option. I’ve made some friends directly this way but also met friends of past dates that I still see around town (whether this is good or bad, I’m still not sure).
6️⃣ Attend Events
Another great way to meet people is to attend events in the city. The easiest way to find local events is actually through the Facebook event function – search for the dates and type of event and you’ll find a whole series of events. If you’re in Saigon then I post a weekly round-up of cool events happening in the city that might be of interest to you. Check it out on my Facebook.
7️⃣ Join a Sports Team or Club
Joining a club/sports team, or attending classes is a great way to make friends when living abroad that share similar hobbies. You can often find classes and clubs by searching on Facebook, for example, “_____ in Saigon”. Of course, I don’t know all the teams and clubs that are going on in the city, but here are a few to get you started on your hunt:
Sports clubs in Saigon – Football, Gaelic Football, Dancenter, Hustle, KickboxFit, Swing Dancing
Art classes in Saigon – Spin N Gogh, Tipsy art, Capturing form (life drawing), Freewill Leather Workshops, Meow Pottery
8️⃣ Visit the regular expat bars and hangouts
Becoming a regular at expat spots is an easy way to become part of the expat scene when living abroad. I personally don’t opt to hang out at expat bars regularly (if you drink often it’ll be more your thing), but do this at a number of cafes and have made friends through familiarity.
The Lowdown on making friends while living abroad
Friendships don’t materialise overnight but, hopefully, these tips have given you some ideas for how to make friends living abroad. Try to be proactive and over time things will fall into place. Any more tips for making friends? Pop them in the comments and share the love.
One thing I want to note before I leave you on your friend search; remember, everyone is in the same boat. We’ve all been the new person living abroad, knowing no one. It’s hard. When you do have friends, share them! That way you pass on the love and make it easier for others to build a social life abroad.