Best Countries for Expats: Making Friends Abroad Edition

If your employer transfers you overseas or you move to another country to seek out a better lifestyle, making new friends is key to settling in a new country.

Xe Consumer

July 24, 2019 7 min read

Whether your employer transfers you overseas for a long-term assignment, or you migrate to another country to seek out a better lifestyle for your family, it's almost inevitable that you'll leave some friends behind in your country of origin.

Granted, there are many digital means of keeping connected with your friends back home, what with apps like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Google Duo and Skype. Sure, there are planes, trains, and automobiles which can help reunite friends whose destinies diverge on a global scale. Yet if you are going to "put down roots" in a new country for a few months, a few years, or permanently, making new friends is vital for a fulfilling life.

For most of us, making friends when we were children was much easier. Now that we're adults, it can be more challenging to build friendships in the country we grew up, let alone a foreign country. When you add the complexities of an unfamiliar language, and customs to which you aren't...well...accustomed-initiating and nurturing friendships can be a little daunting.

Here are a some quick tips to making friends as an expat. We're switching things up a little bit this time, and the ten countries we've determined as the best places to make friends as a newcomer from a foreign country are after our advice about making friends.

Photo by Ben Duchac / Unsplash

5 Tips for Making Friends in Your New Country

Do your best to adapt and fit in, don't expect people in your new social circle to adapt to you.

If you think about it, this really makes sense. If you make the effort to learn the local language, you are more likely to be commit to staying in that country. When you don't extend yourself out of your comfort zone, the people you encounter will assume you don't plan on staying, and won't invest their time and effort getting to know you. If you're settling into a country like Germany, France, or Norway, this is especially true. You should also be open to appreciating local music and

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” —Dale Carnegie, author of "How to Win Friends and Influence People"

2. Join groups on websites like Facebook, Meetup and InterNations.

If you are finding it difficult to meet someone in your neighbourhood on your own, websites like InterNations and mobile apps like Meetup offer expats from many   opportunities to make new friends. Membership in groups

These digital channels bring strangers with similar interests and backgrounds together. Everyone is on an equal footing, and most people you meet have the sort of common circumstances which are conducive to nurturing the seeds of friendship into a mighty relationship oak tree.

Photo by Jens Johnsson / Unsplash

3. Participate in group-oriented hobbies, sports and events

Whether you are a sports football (Aussie, American, or European) fanatic, an art history buff, or a music enthusiast, there are many ways to leverage your enthusiasm as a springboard to growing your social circle. Websites like InterNations have special interest groups geared towards expats which cater to many hobbies and sports.

Try taking a course in language, cooking, or drawing. There may be inexpensive mobile apps like Duolingo, Babbel and Udemy. Yet when was the last time a mobile app took you out for lunch, or challenged you to a tennis match?

Making friends with other newcomers Yet if you really want to immerse yourself in local culture and build a broad network of friendships, extend yourself beyond the expat "bubble."  

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

4.  Connect with the friends and family of your friends back home

When you leave one circle of friends in your home country, they each may have relatives or other countries in the country you are migrating to. Their cousin, sibling, or other distant relative in your new environment may have similar interests or characteristics which ignited your original friendship. A relative may be equally funny, charismatic, or better yet, you're both single and compatible.

You may have heard the old saying, money can't buy love. Or the other old saying - a friend in need, is a friend in deed. If you do have friends (or family) in your home country, there are often good reasons why you might have the occasion to send them money in your native currency:

  • They are taking care of your home while you are away on business, and they need to pay for upkeep

  • You've asked them to care for your aging parents, or care for your pet which wasn't able to accompany you on your move abroad. There are expenses they need to cover on your behalf.

  • You have decided to move back home, and they are helping you make arrangements for your return logistics.

Even better, they might need to transfer money to you, like to transfer money from America to the UK to rent a flat for a few months while they visit with you. They say it's better to give than receive, but receiving can be pretty great, too.

UK residents can get rewarded when they help their friends save money and accelerate their international money transfers. Check out the XE UK Refer a Friend program on our website.

5. Host a neighbourhood get-together which embraces international cultures

Do you live in a country like Canada, Germany or the United States which has a high percentage of immigrant population? Consider inviting your neighbours to a party which celebrates everyone's cultures. A potluck party where people bring food, music and drink from their homeland. Your neighbours whose families have lived in the country you've moved to for generations should be encouraged to bring their local favourites.

Speaking of families, there are many great ideas for helping your children make friends in your new home on the InterNations website. When your whole family builds new friendships in your new environment, it makes for a far smoother transition for all.

Often, the best way to make new friends is simply to put aside any fears or insecurity, and remind others of their own international ancestral roots.

A Curated Top Ten List of the Best Countries for Expats to Make New Friends

Here are, (according to an often-cited InterNations survey,) ten countries where expats are building friendships with relative ease:

Now that you've found the places you can move to as an expat, and how you can send money to set up your logistics there, why not tell a friend about XE?

If you are a citizen of the UK, our Refer a Friend campaign is in full swing there now. Future programs for other regions will follow, and we'll update this article accordingly.

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