Tips To Making Friends As a Foreigner
And not just drinking buddies, genuine friends.
Lots of foreigners and expats make the move to new cities, spend a couple of months exploring, and often end up going back home. One reason why? They fail to make friends in the city, gradually becoming lonely after only interacting with other expats who also leave the city after a couple of months.
The solution: make some friends outside of the expat community. After living in half a dozen countries and visiting countless others, here are some tips I have for making genuine friends.
1. Branch away from the expat communities.
The main problem with the expat community is its small and transient nature. The constant revolving door and reminiscent conversations contribute to the issue. If your friend group consists of nomadic individuals or those who treat a place as a vacation before going home, you'll have no reason to extend your stay either. Constant discussions about your home country will keep you from integrating into the new country. AKA don’t let your mind stay focused on the past.
To overcome this, I recommend visiting non-touristy/non-expat hangouts and meeting new people. Show interest in the local culture and learn more about it. By doing so, you'll make higher-quality friends and be exposed to events and individuals who are either local or long-term residents.
These people will likely welcome you into their circle because, firstly, you bring a foreign and exotic perspective, and secondly, foreigners often stay within their own bubble, so it's refreshing to meet someone genuinely interested in their culture.
2. Don’t make friends around drinking
Im not gonna hate…but ‘m just slightly disgusted that many of the expat communities are based around drinking. Mexico City has a expat group purely where people meet up at bars and get drunk. The groups always have infighting and its pure entertainment to watch people have biweekly breakdowns.
The people in these groups are often degenerates. Many individuals in expat communities may be either in vacation mode or have nothing interesting going on in their lives. While enjoying a drink is not inherently wrong, building friendships solely around alcohol often results in superficial relationships and poor decision-making.
These places environment is not conducive to creating a friend group that would motivate you to stay in a city long-term or maintain meaningful friendships as you move around.
3. Sports & Activites
Regardless of your hand-eye or hand-foot coordination, sports are the best way to make friends in a new city.
One strategy is to scout out sports complexes, universities, and parks. These places are never empty. For instance, in Mexico City’s, Parque Mexico offers free dance and fitness classes, skateboarding, ball games, and boxing classes. Parks like this provide a great opportunity to meet locals. There is almost an expectation that new people join in, making it easy to form friendships.
Soccer is a universal option, but basketball works too. Almost anywhere in the world, you can find a soccer/futball field with a group of players. It doesn’t matter if you’re good…It doesn’t even matter if you know hot to play, you just need the courage to ask if you can join. Sure, you might get made fun of, but you'll likely earn a new nickname, pique people's interest in your story, and put your language skills to the test.
There are plenty of other activities you can join as well, such as hiking groups, running groups, or restaurant groups. These provide opportunities to meet genuine people who share your interests.
I'd love to hear your favorite ways of meeting new people while abroad.
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