How to find friends when living abroad as an expat?
As an expat you'll go through certain phases of expat life. There will be phases - guaranteed! - that you'll feel more down, so it is nice to be able to rely on a strong social network. But making friends is not always easy. Let alone create a strong community abroad. After having studied and worked abroad for several years myself, I found that there are three key principles that are really helpful. Not only in meeting new people but, more importantly, in meeting the right people for you, creating close friendships and building a strong community.
The first principle is be proactive, take the initiative, and be the first one to make a move.
Something that I realized when I was active on Girl Gone International and finding solopreneurs here in the Hague is that people want to have a leader. They are waiting for opportunities to say yes to. And when you're not taking that initiative you might think that there are no people like you who want the same thing. For example, I remember browsing through Girl Gone International and I couldn't find anything that was really of my interest. But when I had posted myself, asking if there were other entrepreneurs who wanted to meet up for a coffee once in a while to share tips and struggles, I got so many responses. And now we are with a group of over 35 women(!), meeting up every couple of weeks and talking about business entrepreneurship! So I wouldn't have known that there was so much interest if I hadn't expressed my desire to meet like-minded people.
The second principle is to be very specific in what you're looking for.
Because you're making an effort to meet your next bestie, or at least a person with whom you have a supernatural connection. Right? Last year I realized that finding friends is just like finding your ideal customer. As an entrepreneur, you want to be very specific about who your customer or your client is. Because the general rule is that if you appeal to everyone, you'll appeal to no one. Same goes for dating, when we're looking for a partner we want to feel a hell yes when we're meeting the right one. And so I think it's the same with friendships. We want to find the hell yes. And we can only find the hell yes if we are specific in what we're looking for. So when you're posting somewhere online, make sure to specify. Instead of asking ‘does anyone wanna go out for a coffee?’ why not say something like ‘Hey, I'm Anna from Germany! I just moved from Australia. I'm really into hiking, drinking coffee, and meeting like-minded people to talk about personal development. Who wants to hang out with me next week on Thursday?.’ This type of message will instantly attract the people who are into the same things. (and yes, you'll also repel a few people by being specific, but that's ok. The more you repel some the more you attract the right ones!).
And then the last principle is to be vulnerable.
This one is really important if you're looking for deeper connections, either one-to-one or in a community. Many people tend to stay on the superficial level when they're meeting other people. They will share about their day, what they're doing, their circumstances, and their family. But they will not share about the things that really bother them, their struggles or what they are afraid of. And if you don't go beyond that superficial level it is going to be very hard to create a deeper connection. Or it will take lots and lots of time before you get there. If you want the other person to open up, you first have to be vulnerable yourself, something I also learned as a coach. You can't expect the other to be vulnerable if you don't show that side of yourself first. So, if you live abroad and you have enough people that you hang out with but you feel the connections aren't going deep enough, ask yourself honestly: 'am I showing my vulnerable side enough?’ And if not: 'how ‘can I be more vulnerable with them?’
If you want more practical tips to find friends as an expat, download my cheatsheet with 21 tips!