Expat Toolkit: 5 tools for making new friends

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

Tools for making friendsMoving to a new country can be overwhelming. To help you hit the ground running, we’re starting a blog series called the “Expat Toolkit”. Each post will focus on an aspect of expat life and recommend a number of resources to help.

Our inaugural post touches on something high up the list for everyone: meeting new people and making friends. You’ll want to quickly build up a network of friends to help you settle in and minimize homesickness. Besides meeting people through work or “friends of friends”, here are 5 tools that will help you make friends.

1) InterNations internations.org
Internations is a social networking site for expats in over 300 countries. You have to request an invite but as long as you indicate you’re an expat, or hope to be one someday, they’ll let you in the club. The big plus is that they host monthly events in dozens of cities around the world, so instead of just connecting with people online, you can actually meet them in person. The events have a “no person stands alone” policy, so even if you don’t know anyone else it won’t take long to start chatting with people. I’ve been to events in Sydney and it really is a vibrant, diverse community.

2) Meetup meetup.com
Meetup is the online home for real life groups (Meetup, feel free to use this as your tagline). Whatever your interests, chances are you can find a group based on that interest in your new city. Groups have in-person “meetups” with varying frequency — some have very active calendars while others don’t. If you’re homesick, you can probably find an expat group from your home country. Here in Sydney there’s a big American expat group that always hosts events for all the American holidays (sports holidays included). And if you don’t find what you need, you can always start a group of your own.

3) LinkedIn Groups linkedin.com
Most LinkedIn groups are focused on certain professions or skills, but some are more socially- and culturally-oriented and are specific to regions and cities. For instance, there’s a Hong Kong Expats group, a Singapore Expats group, etc.  The group forums are great places to ask questions before your move.

4) Expat Forums
There are literally hundreds of expat forums and the members are generally helpful — after all, they’ve been through the same emotions and challenges you’re dealing with. Just google the term “expat forum” and your country name and you’ll find a bunch. There are also a few big ones that serve many countries: Expat Forum, Expat Blog, and Expat Exchange.

5) Alumni Associations
If you attended a university and are living in a big city, there may be an alumni association in town. The bigger the school, the better your odds are. You can contact your school’s alumni office to find out if one exists, and if there isn’t a group but there are alums in the area, perhaps they can help you start one.

Whether you use one or all of these tools, you’ll soon be singing, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number….”. Only in this case, instead of resulting in teenage love, you’ll end up with new friends.

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