Expat life means having to begin from scratch in various places all over the world. This does not only concern practical issues, such as finding a new apartment, but also your personal relationships. This can be particularly hard for single expatriates without a partner or family to come along, or for shy, more introverted types. Our guest author Paul Sanders gives you some helpful pointers on making new friends after you move.
Before you move to a new city, it feels like it’s going to be a new start and an opportunity to make new friends, but once you settle in, you start wondering how to actually make friends in this new place. A few months go by, and you start to feel depressed to see friends and couples laughing and having a good time on a Friday night.
Why should it be so hard to make friends in a new city? We learn about dating, relationships, health, money, and many other useful life skills. But we act as if the skill of making friends is something you should be born with.
Making Friends in a New City – Revealing the Hidden Challenge
Moving to a new city puts you “on the spot”, and you feel stuck. You don’t know where to go, what to do, and what specific steps to take to meet new people, socialize and form personal connections beyond basic small talk about the weather.
In the next section of this article, I want to tell you about the steps to take to get you from loneliness to having a nice circle of friends.
Making Friends – Specific Steps and Techniques
As I said before, there are specific steps you can take to go from a place where you have no friends, feel lonely, rejected, and literally ostracized from society (I know, I’ve been there), to a situation you want: a situation where you have people to go out with, friends that understand and support you, friends to celebrate holidays, and have great weekends with.
These steps are as follows:
1. Meeting new people
2. Having great conversations
3. Keeping in touch and creating a friendship
4. Forming a solid group of friends
For the first of these steps, meeting new people, I want to share with you what I call the “Join the Team” technique. It works so well that I like to joke around and say that it’s a “diplomat-level” technique. We all know how diplomats can make friends with anyone in the world, no matter how powerful they are.
Meeting New People – the “Join the Team” Technique
Everybody tells you that if you want to meet new friends, you need to join a club of some kind, like an expat association or an InterNations Activity Group. But that takes lots of motivation and dedication. If you are a little shy or introverted, it can be very intimidating to go do that and fit in with an established group.
There is a way to meet new friends without much work.
What you can do is find a club that holds regular get-togethers, show up once or twice, and seek to join the organizing team. Just go to the people that run the events and tell them that you’re available if they need some help.
Tell them specifically: “Hey guys, I really like these events, and I’m starting to think that I could maybe help you out. I have a little extra time, and I would love to contribute to organizing these events.” Most teams that manage these groups love it when new people offer to help.
This works so well because it obligates you to show up to the events. If you’re not a member of the organizing team, it’s easy to procrastinate and stay home. When you commit to helping the team, you just go to the event, you don’t even think about it.
It also works well because everyone becomes grateful for your help. You don’t need to be extroverted or popular to help, anyone can do it. The team and the members will naturally come talk to you and meet you, which makes things even easier – and the organizational tasks and shared activities automatically give you a topic of conversation to break the ice.
Now, you might be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute. I’m busy as it is. I don’t have time for extra work!”. If that’s the case, then you can relax. That’s what I thought at first. As it turns out, these teams are already established, which means they already share the major tasks between them, and there is usually not too much to do for complete newcomers.
I don’t think it can get easier than this. Go ahead and give it a try – good luck!
Paul Sanders writes about how to overcome shyness and loneliness, master conversation and social skills, make friends, and build a social circle. If you want to know more about these topics, check out his site: Get the Friends You Want.
(Photo credits: 1) Cloud 9 – Round 2 by Flickr user Rick A. 2) Jerry Weiss, Friends 3) Hands Overlaying by Wikimedia Commons user Vicki Nunn)