You’ve arrived in Spain. You’re in an entirely different country and surrounded by all new customs and unfamiliar faces. In fact, very little feels familiar and maybe you’re beginning to think you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. Don’t worry: you haven’t. You just haven’t found a group of friends to help immerse yourself in your new life abroad. It seems scary to hit restart and make friends abroad. However a new list of friendships it’s absolutely essential in order to find happiness while living and teaching English abroad. So, here’s a list of ideas to get you started on your journey towards new lifelong friendships.
How to Make Friends Abroad: Advice from 2 Participants
Tips by Christa A. (US) to Make Friends Abroad
1. Take Advantage of Social Media to Find International Friends
One of the greatest things about modern technology is how accessible people have become. Thus, hop on Facebook and search for groups in your area. For example, I am a member of numerous Facebook groups related to expats, TEFL teachers associations, and “intercambio de idiomas” in my city, and more!
Practically everyday people are posting events going on in the city, giving or asking for advice, striking up random conversations, or looking for new people to go out and see the city with. The possibilities to find friends abroad through Social Media and make plans are endless.
2. Try Meetup.com to Make Friends Abroad
There’s this lovely website called “Meet Up” and on it, you can find thousands of established groups for specific interests. That could be any number of things. For example, there are groups of people who are new to the city and looking to mingle with friendly faces. Then there are groups for language exchanges (these are my favorite!), and more specific groups for those interested in hobbies such as photography, painting, sightseeing, wine, dance – everything! Seriously, if you want to make local friends and have no clue where to start, this is a fantastic platform for it.
3. Go to a Bar or Coffee Shop to Meet New People in Your Area
It’s absolutely normal to go to a bar or coffee shop by yourself – there’s no shame in it, so don’t feel intimidated. Most likely, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make new friends if you allow yourself the opportunity to just strike up a conversation with strangers (or wait for them to strike one up with you!)
On several occasions here in Spain I have gone to a bar or coffee shop by myself and ended up having great conversations with strangers who were either guests or employees. Sometimes we exchange numbers and keep in touch and sometimes we don’t – it’s up to you.
I go to my favorite coffee shop several times a week and I have become friends with the staff, as well as the other regulars of the café. It’s so nice to know that I can go there, see friendly faces, and truly feel at home in my city.
4. Go Out and Do Things You Enjoy to Discover Genuine Friends Overseas
What interests you? Theatre, art, music, cycling? You’ll likely meet others in your situation if you go out and do these things alone.
It may be that you go to a museum and you find yourself in a conversation with someone about the transition of Picasso’s art throughout the years and, what do you know, you’ve made a new friend abroad with similar interests as you, just like that!
5. Say ‘Yes!’ to Every Plan and Meet New People
You have nothing going on and someone invites you out to do something, so instead of staying in and watching Netflix, just say ‘yes!’
For example, I have an old acquaintance I met while traveling who happens to live in my city now. He messaged out of the blue me and told me about an Irish standup comedian coming to Barcelona, and wanted to know if I wanted to join him and his friends. It had been so long since I’d seen him (and we never knew each other that well), but I jumped on board and said ‘yes’ and had an absolute blast!
6. Contact Friends of Friends!
More likely than not, especially if you know a lot of fellow travelers, you probably have a long-lost friend or a friend of a friend who lives in Spain. Contact them! Get on Facebook. Do a search of your friends’ list and narrow it by ‘Current City’ and BAM! All the friends who currently live in your city will miraculously pop up.
If no one pops up or you want to widen your search, go to Facebook or your social media platform of choice and make a post asking if anyone has friends abroad and preferably living in your city. Then, get their contact information and introduce yourself!
7. Follow Up with the People You Like
So, you had a wonderful time exploring the city and trying local dishes with someone you met up with – awesome! But keep in mind that friendships need nurturement, so let them know what a fun time you had and go ahead and plan something again. It’s like dating. If you are thinking how to make good friends in Spain, you must put in work to go from acquaintance to genuine friendship.
8. To Make Friends Abroad You Must be Brave!
It may seem scary to put yourself out there and go to events alone. However, once you do it, you’ll become a king or queen of social situations and become a more brave and independent person.
9. Remember Who You are
Most importantly, remember who you are. Don’t change your values in order to make friends overseas. Stay genuine to who you are: the rest will fall into place. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try new things -because you absolutely should. Just don’t become someone you don’t wish to be for the sake of friendships.
10. Go and Find Your Space out There!
Be yourself, have a positive outlook, and go out and show your new city what you’re made of! You’re a total catch and anyone would be lucky to have a friendship with you, so go take the world by storm!
Tips by Rebecca E. (UK) to Make Friends Abroad
One of the hardest things to me was finding the balance between languages. For me, I couldn’t handle speaking Spanish the whole day, but I didn’t want to speak English the whole day either. I decided to share a flat with some others, which has been a great way to practise my Spanish. When I’m teaching as a Language Assistant I speak English. To get a good balance between relaxing and challenging myself, I like to do both Spanish and English language activities in my spare time. Here are some tips for making friends abroad – I hope you find them useful!
1. Meeting People at School
At school, you will get the opportunity to meet lots of people who work there, or perhaps even other Language Assistants. Since you are all teaching in the same field, of course, you will have lots in common. It is a great experience to get to know everyone and gradually feel like part of your school’s community. I was placed with two other Language Assistants and we all are in the English department. We have become good friends as we are on the same amazing journey together! Additionally, through the Meddeas community on Social Networks, I have been able to make friends with other Language Assistants who live in my area but teach in different schools.
2. Language Exchanges to Make Local Friends
One of the easiest ways to make friends abroad is by going to language exchanges. I go to a weekly get-together in a café that organizes these “intercambios”, where you can meet new people and speak in different languages. It is a great way to improve your own skills, help others learn and, of course, make new friends. As well as general “intercambios”, there are also more specific events such as bilingual pub quizzes.
3. Get Immersed in Your Neighbourhood
Don’t worry if your Spanish isn’t great. You can practice simple phrases and people will be patient with you and appreciate that you are trying. By getting to know the people around you, you quickly start to make your new city your new home. If you regularly visit the same places or go on the same walking routes, you’ll start to find people who you get on well with and begin to form friendships. Furthermore, knowing people in the local community is a great way to keep up to date on what’s going on. For example, special markets, festivals, and concerts. If you get involved with these local events, you’ll meet even more friends abroad!
4. Home from Home
It is completely normal to feel homesick from time to time. So, why not try to ease this a little by visiting an Irish pub or an American diner – whatever feels like home for you! Places like these often attract other native English speakers who may even be from your country. You’ll meet other people from a similar culture who are living in Spain too and naturally you could become friends quite quickly. This is also a great way to take a break from learning Spanish and relax in English!
So, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to make new friends! Just remember to get yourself out there and don’t be afraid to talk to people, whatever language it may be in!
Do you know any other useful ways to make friends abroad? Please comment below!
2017/18 Posted by Christa A. and Rebecca E.