From an Introvert With Social Anxiety
One of the hardest things for me about moving overseas wasn’t finding a job, opening a bank account or understanding Glaswegian accents. Nope, the thing I’ve struggled with the most is something 3-year-olds do with ease; making friends.
But hey, if you’re here reading this, you can probably relate.
Remember back in the day when making a new friend was as easy as sitting next to them on the mat? You could play a game of cops and robbers with someone and next minute they were your new BFF. Let me tell you, I really wish there was an adult equivalent of sitting next to someone on the mat. (I mean, there kind of is an adult version of cops and robbers… but I don’t know if it’ll help you make friends).
When you move overseas, especially if you move alone, it can take a while to find your tribe and start building a new community. Sure, having friends back home to Facetime is great, but you need someone to go on a hike with, or have a pint with, or just someone to chat to for the 12 hours your friends back home are asleep.
So you need to put yourself there. You need to join groups, find hobbies and say yes to things. If you’re a little like me and the thought of doing any of those things makes you internally squirm with discomfort, I’ve got your back. Read on to discover 7 easy (ish) ways to make friends abroad. I mean, I have at least 3 now.
7 Ways to Make Friends Abroad
1. Bumble BFF
You’ve swiped for love (or a lover), so why not try friendship-swiping?
Bumble BFF works much the same way as regular Bumble, except with less thirsty guys and more girls looking to make a new friend. For those who’ve never tried online dating, you create a profile with your name, photos and interests. You can narrow your search radius and filter by things like age, and then you get to it.
For me the benefit of Bumble BFF is that, because it’s app-based, you can get to know someone before you decide if you want to meet them. (Just like the dating app – duh). If you’re anxious about putting yourself out there, Bumble BFF is a great way to dip your toe into the friend-making pool.
I was a little nervous about the stigma attached to making friends online. I guess, really, I was just embarrassed to admit that I sucked at making friends. But the truth is there’s a lot of girls in the same boat. Despite this being the age of social media, people are feeling more lonely and disconnected than ever. So give it a try – you could end up meeting your new BFF.
2. Girl Gone International
You know who totally gets what you’re going through when you move to the other side of the world and are struggling to make friends? Other expats.
Sure, making friends with locals is cool too. But expats get what you’re going through, they can be a great resource, and they’re a pretty adventurous bunch.
The best thing I did when I moved to Glasgow was join Girl Gone International. CGI is the largest female expat community in the world, with over 250,000 members in more than 150 cities. The group regularly hosts meetups and events such as hikes, coffee catch ups and monthly book clubs. Their motto is:
“Representing, connecting & supporting every kickass woman who has ever packed a bag and headed out into the world to see what would happen next…”
And if that doesn’t make you want to join, I don’t know what will. To find your nearest Girl Gone International group and start making friends abroad, click here.
Another thing you should do to make friends abroad is join Meetup.
Meetup is a service used to organise online groups and help you find people with similar interests. With groups all over the world you’re sure to find something you’re into. From hillwalking and pottery to book clubs and boardgames, Meetup is an easy way to start expanding your social circle.
Looking for something LGBTIQA+ friendly? In Glasgow alone there are events such as LGBT+ coffee meets, writing groups and a Gay and Bi Men’s bookclub.
4. Live With Someone You Like
I have a confession to make. Before I moved to Glasgow, I was still living at home with my parents. (Let’s not get into Auckland house prices, but let me tell you, they’re pretty dang expensive).
So when I moved abroad I was also moving out of home for the first time. When looking at flats I considered price, location and cleanliness, but I forgot one vital thing. I didn’t (yet) fully appreciate how important it was to find a flatmate I liked living with.
My first flatmate was fine, for a while. But then after a couple of weeks I began dreading him coming home. I hated the way he’d hover awkwardly in my doorway to chat, how he was ridiculously anal about where things went, and that he still slept with a teddy bear (he was 28). Plus, a couple of pairs of my underwear went missing, and it was around then that I realised how unhappy I was.
So I moved into a new flat and life got a lot better. I’m not saying your flatmate has to be your best friend. But if you’re in a new city and don’t know many people, it’s important to live with someone you can at least have a glass of wine with at the end of a shitty day.
5. Say Yes to Things
Saying yes to things isn’t as easy as it sounds, but I can guarantee it’s one of the best ways to make friends abroad.
Seriously, when you say yes to things you’re automatically opening yourself up to a whole new group of potential friends. Sure, you might rather stay home and play the Sims. I don’t blame you, Sim friendships are a lot easier (like two conversations and a joke and they’re your BFF). But in the name of finding your tribe, you have to leave the house.
So the next time your colleague invites you to the pub for a night out, say yes. Random girl in that expat group asks if you want to join them on a hike? Make like Jim Carrey in Yes Man and hop to it.
It can be scary, and if you’re in Glasgow it may involve a lot more G&T’s than your liver is used to. But you’ve moved abroad, dammit, and you got this.
6. Find a Hobby
The only thing that’s easier when it comes to making friends as an adult? That you know what you enjoy doing, and your hobbies are a little more developed than eating Play-Doh.
Hobbies are a great place to start when it comes to making friends abroad. You likely had hobbies back home, and unless it’s incredibly niche, chances are you can find something similar in your adopted city. Netball your thing? Find a club! How about running? Running groups are abundant (or so I believe… running isn’t my thing). Birdwatcher? Well sure, most places have birds, right?
Find a hobby and you’ll inevitably end up meeting people who have similar interests, and hey, that could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
7. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
If you’re anything like me (a self-professed introvert with social anxiety), this list may be making you a little anxious. I get it.
A year ago the thought of going to a party where I only knew one person would have terrified me. But now, after a year of being wildly out of my comfort zone, I’m kind of getting better at it.
Honestly, I still sometimes feel socially inept. But I’m learning to be ok with the fact that something 3-year-olds (and a few grownups) do with ease is something I have to consciously make an effort at.
So learn your boundaries. It’s ok to not leave the house after a night out, because the thought of socialising makes you as sick as the bottle of wine you drank. But be a little brave. Say yes to things. Swipe on Bumble BFF. Find new hobbies. Because I promise you, the further you step outside your comfort zone, the easier it gets.