How do you start a conversation with a new person? Where did you meet your friends back home? What topics should you talk about?
Maybe you’ve never even thought about these questions, because usually you run on automatic pilot when you talk to your friend, colleague or neighbor. However, when you move abroad and set foot on a new territory where you know nobody, you start wondering ‘’WHO should I talk to? WHAT shall I say?’’, and some sense of loneliness suddenly creeps in. That’s why meeting people and socializing is so important abroad.
Friendlessness – yes, it’s an actual word- happened to me last month when I decided to step into the new country called Switzerland. Not knowing any soul out there, the feeling of lonesomeness arose and I start longing for friends and people to converse with. For me, the yearning to socialize begins the day I wake up in a new country. It’s when I realize I have no routine whatsoever, no clue how my day will evolve or who I could talk to.
That’s why I tried adjusting in rapid speed. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find my entire journey here, a playlist of 35 video’s where I take you through 35 days of settling and making friends. Watch it.
How do you make friends easily?
Watch this video, where you’ll find out in just one minute.
Think back to your friends back home, how did you meet them? What was your first conversation starter? You see, whether at home or abroad, it’s no different. One person starts, the other responds and a dialogue begins.
Since you are abroad and you are the ‘’newbie’’ in town, you will most likely need to start the conversation, because you want to meet people and make friends.
I need to point out that there are quite some differences depending on the country you move into. Some cultures are very easy to connect to (e.g. Mexico, Spain) and in some countries you may have to try and try (and try) again before a connection develops (e.g. France). Bottom line, in some countries it takes more effort than in others.
Where can you meet people and start a conversation? At the gym, hairdresser, in a local supermarket, restaurant, bar, club, theater, shop, choir, etc. Find the full list of suggestions below.
Some conversation starters I use frequently:
Do you live in the neighborhood? I just moved in and don’t know anyone. I live…
Where is the closest bank? Where can I buy fresh fruit/milk? Do you come here often? What can you recommend me? Etc…
Get out there, put in the effort and the rewards will be big! For me, the reward of beating lonesomeness and creating a social network is definitely worth the effort of starting conversations over and over with anybody. Some people will respond easily and continue talking, some remain silent, but some of these conversations will develop into amazing friendships that last a lifetime! I have plenty of proof that it works!
Here’s a list of ideas to meet people and make friends:
❒ Invite people over to your house (e.g. neighbours, colleague)
❒ Visit someone else (colleague, neighbour)
❒ Go to a bar, cafe, etc. and enjoy the entertainment options
❒ Join online expat chat groups to find expats in your city
❒ Participate in a team sport or fitness class
❒ Work as a volunteer
❒ Join a choir.
❒ Join a gym
❒ Go on a wine or beer Tour
❒ Go to seminar or speaking events
❒ Take a language class
❒ Eat at a local restaurant or lunch room
❒ Find a cycle, walking, dancing or running group
❒ Join meetup groups, club or association
❒ Take an art class
❒ Get active in the local and/or expat community
❒ Go to a church or other local faith community.
As you try some of these ideas to meet new people, remember that you’ll have to put in the effort. Put yourself out there, introduce yourself, initiate a conversation, or suggest meeting up, and even so, it may take some time to find those people you feel comfortable with and be part of your tribe.
At home or abroad, developing friendships takes time, but the more you put yourself in social settings, the more chances you’ll meet interesting, fun new people who may or may not become your best friends, but at least you’ll fee CONNECTED.
What is your conversation starter to meet new people?
Expat TIPS about making friends and socializing abroad
Over the past several years, I’ve interviewed expats from all over the world. At the end of each interview I asked them: What is your best tip for fellow expats? You can find the entire chapter of Tips in my book Living Abroad Successfully, but here are a few snippets from their responses that I hope you find helpful.
“In general, I recommend watching first before you start commenting or talking. Take the time to watch the people around you and how they interact. You can find out what is ok and what isn’t, just by watching.”-K. from Germany
“My biggest tip: Never ever have any expectations for anything abroad. Not about events, or about people. Take it all as it comes and be creative enough to make it work for you or just get an experience. Flexibility comes with the courage to move. After this, all works for you.”- M.from Bulgaria
“My top tip is to get involved with the local community around you. In whatever way you can, be that a knitting club, running club, school helper, inviting the neighbours over–do mix with the locals! People are very friendly and also willing to assist w
here they can!”- N. from S-Africa
“My TIPS: (T) talk to as many people as you can;
(I) inquire as much as is possible,
(P) participate when and where you can, in order to…(S) settle.”- D. from Canada
“…be flexible and patient. You’re moving to a place that’s not like home–that’s why you are moving there, isn’t it? So, things won’t be the same as you’ve known in the past. People may not speak the same language, things won’t work the same, schedules may be slower, life may seem confusing. Just relish the differences. Keep a sense of humour. And be grateful that you have the opportunity to live somewhere else. Millions of people around the world don’t have that opportunity.”-G. from the US
“Try to integrate! Do not isolate by being an expat. Go out there! Don’t be too
hard with yourself and go back home sometimes.”-L. from Italy
“No matter how difficult your goal seems to be or how scared you are, just push yourself to take the first step and you’ll realize how suddenly you feel strong enough to take the next ones. Try to join more social activities to get more familiar with the local community since the beginning.” –Y. from Mexico
Let me know what your conversation starter is.
PS: Are you living abroad, trying to adjust, but feeling disconnected and frustrated? Wanna know how to make it an amazing experience?
Here’s a free video course to help you settle in, meet people, feel happy and fulfilled EASY!
Simply click the image to find it, then just fill in your email and you’ll get everything right in your inbox.