Making Friends – Expat Style

Having a few close friends is one of the key factors that determine how happy I am in my new host country. I have learned this after being an expat in S. Korea, Thailand now Germany. I’ve also learned that meeting new people is easy, but finding close friends? Not so easy, but possible with a lot of work.

Accept that Making New Friends Will be Awkward at Times – It’s simple fact that you’re not going to click with everyone you meet, no matter how much you want to, how hard you try or how nice you both are. Friend chemistry can be an unpredictable thing, so expect some awkward encounters along the way and don’t be discouraged when they inevitably creep into your friend making efforts.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Friend Basket – It can be tempting when you meet someone that you click with to focus solely on that person, but don’t.Not only will you overwhelm her and possibly scare her off with all your “Do you want to meet for lunch on Monday, then check out that new exhibit on Tuesday, see the new chick flick on Wednesday and sign up for salsa lessons on Thursday? No matter how wonderful your new friend is, she can’t be your be all, end all. Nobody can and everybody needs more than one friend.

Join Different Clubs – I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to meet people is to join a club, ideally something based around a common interest, whether it is a book, dinner or hiking club. Better yet, sign up for all three. Each club will attract a different kind of person; so joining more than one increases your odds of making friends that shares at least one of your interests. The other benefit of joining clubs based around a common interest is that you already have something in common; making it more likely that you will click.

Joining clubs is easier in some places than others. I currently live in Munich, which has a large expat population and lots of English speaking Germans. That hasn’t been the case in other places I’ve lived. Making new friends when you live in a smaller place will take more effort. Thanks to websites like www.meetup.com or Facebook groups, if you can’t find a group to join, you can create one in a manner of minutes. Chances are that by taking the initiative you will meet at least a couple of other people in a situation that you might not have otherwise met.

Extend the First Invitation – I am shy when meeting people for the first time, but I’ve learned that if I want to make friends that I must take the initiative and not wait for somebody to ask me to do something. I personally like planning something that revolves around an activity, such as checking out a museum. Something that has built in conversation, but still gives you a chance to talk and get to know each other.

Mix and Match – Inevitably there are going to be some people that you connect with more than others. But just because you don’t have so much in common with somebody doesn’t mean that others won’t. Try hosting a wine tasting or a games night and encourage people to bring friends. It’s a great way to introduce people and be introduced to people. People will be thankful for the opportunity to meet new people, since you’re not the only lonely expat out there.

The More Invitations You Give, The More You Will Receive – The more invitations you extend, the more likely you are to receive. It will still take a while to build meaningful friendships, but you’ll be one step closer and having a social life can do wonders to lift your spirits

Be Patient – You might be yearning for the kind of conversation that you have with your bestie at home, but chances are you didn’t have the deep conversations with her at the beginning of your friendship. Relationships take time to develop, so don’t rush it by over sharing and scaring off a potential new friend.

These friend making tips have worked well for me. What friend making tips do you have?

Laurel Robbins is a freelance writer and the founding editor of the popular travel blog Monkeys, Mountains and Maultaschen where she writes about exploring Europe and beyond for outdoor adventures, off-beat locations, local cuisine and monkeys! You can also follow her European adventures on Twitter.