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Best Ways to Make Friends Abroad – A Beginner’s Guide!

Make friends abroad

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.

Make friends abroad
Me and my friends, Language Assistants, exploring Barcelona

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!

Meet new people
Enjoying a sunny day with friends

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

Find friends abroad
My expat friends

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

how to make friends in spain
Exploring Spain

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.

If you enjoyed this post about ways to make friend abroad, don’t miss out the following articles:

  1. Feeling Homesick on Holidays Abroad: 8 Ways to Fight It
  2. Make Yourself at Home while Teaching English Abroad
  3. Birthday Guide Away from Home 

24 Responses

  1. So many great ideas about how to make friends abroad. It was definitely one of the things that I was most worried about when I moved to Barcelona but through the internet and getting out and about I have made some firm new friends!

    I really like the idea of making friends with local people at coffee shops and things!

  2. I had never heard of meet up until now and to be honest, I wish I’d known about it sooner because it would have helped me on many lonely occasions. I’ve found that you really have to put yourself out there to meet new people but bravery equals high reward!

    1. Mariah, thanks for reading! Yes just put yourself out there and the friends will start flowing your way. Don’t be afraid of MeetUp! 🙂

  3. This is great. I think the one I foudn hardest at the beginning was saying yes to every plan, but it really helps!! If people invite you somewhere, just go! Even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea it’s a great way to get to know people and you might end up making good friends. Thanks for you advice girls 🙂

    What do you think about making friends in a big city vs a small town? There’s mixed opinion about it but I think in a big city it can be harder to make good friends!

    1. Hey Hannah. So glad you found the article helpful! I’m in Madrid and I haven’t found it too hard. Like yourself, the hardest part was building up the confidence to say ‘yes’! There are so many events, international cafés, museums here…there’s always something going. My advice to make good friends would be to start off with local places and events near your flat and then branch out. That way the big city can feel a little less overwhelming. I’ve only been in Madrid so I’m not sure about the small towns, but hopefully that helps!

  4. This is a great article. I totally agree with the points here. You’ve definitely got to be brave and put yourself out there while teaching abroad, but it is so rewarding to do so. I’ve been really lucky to have befriended the other two Meddeas Language Assistants in my city. We recently traveled through southern Spain together and had a blast. I’ve also been lucky to cafe hop with some teachers from my school as well. Meetup.com is a great idea! I used it a lot in the U.S for dance, but haven’t tried it here yet as I didn’t realize it was international. Thanks for the tip!

  5. As silly as it sounds using Apps like Instagram to meet up with people is also a great way to make friends with similar interests!

    1. Emma, that’s so true! I mean everyone is using Instagram, so it’s perfect way to encounter other people in your area.

  6. I completely agree with all of these tips! Especially about saying “yes” to everything and having to be brave! It definitely takes getting out of your comfort zone and just going for it to make friends! Even when you’re feeling a little tired or not in the mood for socializing, just go and do it! Every opportunity you get, you should take it because you never know who you’re going to meet! Thanks for the tips, girls!

  7. Great advice, I agree with everything. For sure, one of the most important things is to be a “yes man/woman” because it’s the only way to actually get out there and meet new people (even though it’s daunting). I find that language classes/language exchanges are a great platform for meeting people and of course using social media to find people in your city. I think it’s also important to try to make Spanish friends, whether they are teachers at your school or locals you meet out. I joined a dance class and I’m the only foreigner (I didn’t know anyone before joining) and honestly it’s the best thing I’ve done so far here. Everyone is so friendly and I love it!

  8. Great article! In Murcia, I’ve met people through different Erasmus events and activities. I haven’t made many Spanish friends (yet), but I’ll definitely take some of this advice on board and put myself out there more.

  9. These are great tips for making friends! One thing that has happened to me is just listening out for accents (if you are looking for friends from your own country, which is nice to have sometimes). One of my good friends heard me speaking English in a bakery and asked where I was from, and now we see each other all the time! One of the best tips is just to put yourself out there and approach everyone! Great tips

    1. Haha, yes that does happen! “Oh— do you speak English? Let’s be friends!” Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

  10. Staying in a hostel when I arrived in Bilbao and was looking for a house helped me meet so many people. Then just getting out and about. I try to say aupa to literally everyone who makes eye contact with me. I’m that guy jajajajaja

    1. Yes!!! Staying in hostels is one of the best ways to meet people when traveling around. I’ve made so many friends (that I still keep in touch with) just from staying some nights in the same hostel together.

  11. As an introvert (INTJ) I’ve got to say it is hard to make new friends but the ides of making new friends is beautiful… good luck to you all <3.

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