10 Tips for Making Friends Abroad
Updated: Jul 8
By: Jessica Pan & Rachel Kapelke-Dale
"Moving to a new place is intimidating in the best of times. With friends, though, it quickly turns into an adventure. After our graduation, Jess moved to Beijing and Rachel moved to Paris. We’ve been through the highs and the lows, and we can tell you – all is not lost!"
1 | Get Online
Forget the swiping and pouting of online dating and focus instead on using the internet to make friends overseas! There are a tonne of apps but they can be either awkward or online ghost towns. We recommend therefore to use the internet to find out about in real life meetups. Meetup.com is a great way to find people with common interests – when Jess moved to London, she messaged two women who lived in her neighborhood and liked the same cafes (they were part of a local group). Now, these two women are her go-to coffee friends, and she can’t imagine the city without them. Start today by joining one of GGI’s city groups via Meetup.com or Facebook! We have 200 local Facebook groups and the fastest way to find them to join them is here on our Girl Gone International Map!
2 | Use Your Existing Friends
The simplest way to make friends is to send out a mass e-mail to all of your friends back home titled, ‘You Can Stay in My Apartment in Paris If You Set Me Up with Friends Here.’ I guarantee everyone will reply and you’ll get responses from people you haven’t heard from in YEARS. Rachel did this when living in Paris and spent the next two years exploring everything the city had to offer.
3 | Find a Common Cause
Remember how easy it was to make friends in college? That’s because you all had similar goals. Working on a project with someone, whether at work or outside of it, can serve as an excellent bonding experience. Rachel met a new friends while organizing a film conference shortly after beginning her graduate studies, and immediately found an ally to bond with by accomplishing common goal.
4 | You Can Bond Over the Bad Stuff, Too
One of the quickest ways to make friends is to have a common enemy. Sounds weird, we know, but sometimes loathing the same thing can make you a new friend. When Rachel felt frightened by an intimidating French professor, a girl named Marie approached her afterwards to commiserate. They then had fun mocking the professor over coffee. Voila! Sometimes revenge is sweet.
5 | Be Open
If you live in a big house, you might not feel that lonely. Still, it’s always better to have a group of friends outside the house. Sometimes, the house will bring friends to you in unexpected ways; one of Rachel’s housemate’s closest friends was a girl who almost took an empty room in the house – but backed out at
the last minute. The universe works in mysterious ways...
6 | Reach out to Alumni Networks
When Jess decided to move to Beijing, she emailed the president of her college’s alumni club in Beijing. Within days of arriving, they met up and his friends had become hers. It was easy to bond, because they’d all gone to the same college and were living in a foreign place.
7 | Find a Partner for your Favorite Activity
Jess loves running in London and really wanted to find someone to run races with her. She posted on a local online message board looking for women who lived in her neighborhood who also wanted running partners. Now, she’s run three races with the most amazing Swiss woman whom she never would have met otherwise. Make a post in your local Girl Gone International Group or create a Get Together in the group and you will have new likeminded mates in no time! No Girl Gone International group where you are? You could open one!
8 | Be Bold
Rachel was always a little bit passive, but that wouldn’t fly in London. Waiting in line for tickets to a play, she heard two American girls chatting behind her, so she turned around to introduce herself. Today, one of these girls has turned out to be one of her longest-standing friends in the city. Jess met one of her good friends standing in line for the bathroom at a music festival in Melbourne. Use your foreign status as a
means to strike up a conversation.
9 | Follow your Passion
Going to events and venues is the best way to find like-minded people. Book clubs, knitting circles, film events and intimate music gigs will lead you to people who share the same passions.
10 | Become a Local
One of our favorite friends in London was the barista at a café we frequented several times a week. Though we initially began by making light conversation, Michael’s friendly goofiness eventually turned him into a good friend who invites us to lots of good parties in London (and as a bonus, he makes
This article was first published in Issue 7 of our magazine GGI. It was written by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale, the co-authors of GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND (Gotham, Penguin Group USA), which documents their post-college years round the world through their letters. They blog at graduatesinwonderland.com.
Jessica's latest book, 'Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come' is out now!