How to Make Friends as an Expat

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You’re in a new place and don’t know anyone (except maybe your partner), so how do you fit in? How do you find that group of friends? You might wonder how you made friends at home. But then you realize that you met them at school, work, or some fitness class. Maybe you made friends from other friends, too. But now you are starting over. It’s a challenge, but not an impossible one, to make friends in a new place!

Jessica and Nelli

Meetup.com

I knew literally one person when we moved to Amsterdam, and that was a friend from high school from over 10 years ago…and I had not seen her since. Although it was so nice to see her again, she doesn’t live in town, so we could not easily hang out. The first thing I did was join Meetup.com. We are lucky that in Amsterdam there are many meetups scheduled and quite a few for expats. We knew that we wanted to meet Dutchies as well as other Americans and other expats, and this was a great place to start!

Bowling with AMS Connected

Bowling with AMS Connected

We decided on the bowling event to try this meetup thing.  To our surprise, the event had people from all over the world, including locals! Ironically, the first person we met there was another American guy who we are now close friends with. Throughout the evening, I became friends with an Indonesian woman who lives here permanently. Now we get together every couple of weeks for breakfast or lunch in different spots in the city.

Yelp

We love to eat, so to help find the best spots I downloaded Yelp and started hunting down those hot restaurants. The wonderful Community Manager, Flip, contacted me with a welcome, and after figuring out all that Yelp had to offer I messaged her and asked if she needed any help. They put on some amazing events that I just wanted to get involved in. Not long after that message we met in person, and now I’m part of the Yelp team in the Netherlands, and an Elite member! I have met so many friendly people through Yelp and there really is a great community behind all those reviews. If you are on the website, click “events” at the top and see what’s going on near you!

Local Social Clubs

We joined The Library less than a year after it opened. It’s a wine shop owned by one guy who is Dutch and one guy who is American. They love to host events where people get to know each other, buy wine, and have a good time. Of course that’s right up our alley! It wasn’t long after that we made some great friends and really enjoy catching up at different event throughout the year.

The Library Boat

Travel Bloggers

Depending on where you are settling, there might be a travel blogger near you! I follow a few of my favorites and I saw Agness from etramping.com was in Amsterdam for a while. I sent her a message and we met up one day! We now try to stay in touch regularly and I love to see what she writes about the city I live in as she continues to travel the world.

Meeting up with people who are constantly traveling is so much fun! Danika and Chris from No Destinations have been by three times and we got to catch up with them twice. I feel so lucky to meet some of the nicest people and get to show them Amsterdam!

Photo with No Destinations with Chris and Danika

Sean and Jess with Chris and Danika from No Destinations

Margo from The Overseas Escape is from our area in the United States but is settled in Germany for a while. We use social media to talk travel and must-see places. Hopefully we will meet in person soon and make a day of exploring. Even if someone is far away, and even if they are an internet friend, you can still make that connection.

Reddit

Fair warning, I have not actually been to the Amsterdam meetup, but there is a meetup for Redditors each month which I have heard good things about. If this is an option in your area, I would suggest you take advantage of it! And knowing Redditors, you are a pretty social bunch, so I’m sure you’ve made friends before moving. So put out those feelers and see who you can meet.

Talk to People

Sean at Wine Festival

Sean at the Bacchus Wine Festival

We went to an expat fair not really knowing what to expect. I mean, the idea that there are so many people who want to connect with people like us was a little confusing. But there they were: dentists, housing options, alcohol companies, agencies with the city, realtors, the list goes on and on! We met our friend Tiffany (an American) at this expat fair because she was working at the event. The funny thing for us was that she mentioned she didn’t have any American friends at the time. I feel like we meet so many Americans all the time! But making friends are a different story.  Somehow we met up, became friends, and had Thanksgiving and Christmas together.  I am very grateful for her friendship! Sometimes you just need someone a little more like you to talk to, you know?

Overall, just make an effort to be social. Since we moved, I’ve made acquaintances/friends from business owners, friends of friends, and fellow Yelpers, so you never know where you will make that connection.

 

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How to make friends as an expat

To share
Share on Facebook47Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+1Buffer this pageShare on StumbleUpon3.9kPin on Pinterest16Share on Reddit0
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28 Comments

    • Hi Christina!

      Yes, this tips can really work as making connections as an adult in general. But since we are finding our way through expat life right now, we thought it made the most sense to write it this way.

      BTW, your blog looks great! I’m going to go browse around it for a bit 🙂

      Reply
    • We found our first friends through Meetup.com and an expat bowling group! It is so much fun. I know that not all ideas listed are available for everyone, but hopefully they help with ideas. My husband is the Redditor, not me, but those Redditors seem to practically run the world!

      Reply
  1. Great tips! It’d be great if Meetup was available everywhere- I envy other countries for having it (successfully). Sporting events are a great place to meet new people, especially if your area has a club you can join. That’s where I’ve made all my new friends here in Bahrain.

    Reply
    • Yeah, it’s hard to write something like this that is valid everywhere. But I’m so glad you mentioned sports clubs! I didn’t think of it because I’m not sporty at all. That’s such a great tip. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply
    • Very true, but it’s also an amazing feeling when you make new friends with varied interests from around the world. But nobody can replace friends from home!

      Reply
  2. You’re missing Couchurfing, which is a mayor contribution to meeting people in general but also meeting people with a specific shared interest.

    In Amsterdam they have meetings on Friday and Saturday in a bar called Joe’s very close to Dam square. About 100 people every meeting of which 50 are new.

    Reply
  3. Hi there, you have some great tips here! Making friends is something I’ve struggled with during my time in France but I haven’t given up. 😉 I think it can be easier in a bigger city — more to do and more potential people to meet. I’ve met all my acquaintances at my gym, thank goodness for my gym!
    Diane recently posted…Looking back: Best of Oui In France in 2015My Profile

    Reply
  4. As a friend told us once, “you find your tribe.” That is so true. We’ve lived in multiple places now and thanks to running and owning dogs, we’ve met some really terrific people. Advice to runners moving to a new place, check out your new local running store to see if they have a group fun run.

    Reply

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