Most times when you talk about expat life, all people think about is the exotic lifestyle they believe you are living (to an extent, this may be true). As an expat, you are fortunate to visit places/ countries you may not have thought you would visit. You get to learn about cultures, food and ways of life different from what you have been used to, and get to see life outside the box that the media limits you to. Also get to make friends from various nationalities.
Despite all these listed above, what you may not be prepared for is the effect of Expat life on Friendships. Whether you have lived in a country for a long time or moving to a new country, this still gets to affect you, and I will explain myself better in two subheadings;
Lived as an Expat for a long time
If you have lived in a country for a long while, you get to adapt to the country and it starts to feel like home. Part of what makes it feel like home to you are the friends you make, and usually you find yourself making friends with your fellow expats (you also need the locals) because you believe you share something in common, and they understand better what it means to leave your family and friends back home to chase your dream.
After making such friends, the day you usually dread is when your friend breaks the news to you that they are moving to another country. You start to wonder how to go on friendship search again, who to call for coffee mornings, who to gist with and share new discoveries about the city. At this moment that feeling you had the first time you moved to that city/ country creeps back in …how do I adapt to this city?
Moving to a new country
On the other hand, for those moving to a new city, while you are excited about your new adventure, you get to ask questions about the best schools, places to live etc., and usually don’t think about making friends. But the truth is that outside your family or whoever you moved with, friends make transition to a new environment easier. But at this stage of life (also for your kids), making friends is not that easy. The older we get, the more we get interested in other things like career and family, while friends are usually not priorities. This also applies to expat life, and usually affects the accompanying partner more because the working partner get to make friends from the professional network.
Whether you find yourself in any of the groups above, these are five ways to make friends as an expat:
Live in Expat community: As stated in my previous post, this goes a long way to help expatriates adapt to a new environment. Not only are they more accessible for questions you would have, they might in the long run end up being your friends.
Get to know your colleagues: Although I usually say “do not mix business with pleasure”, but people do get to make their friends from their working environment. Since you usually spend a reasonable time of the day with them, with time you get to know them better, and the end up being friends.
Register for a class or club: While you use the classes (for example, yoga, swimming etc.) as a hobby or as an opportunity to get busy, fit or learn something new, it is also a way that expats end up making new friends.
Join groups: There are various groups for like minds, find a group that suits you. With time, and several meet-ups, people usually end up making friends. I personally met some beautiful people through the moms group in Muscat.
Attend events: People usually make reference to this as a means to make friends. Personally, I don’t see how meeting someone randomly in an event makes the person a friend. Unless you keep meeting the person in various events, then that I understand 🙂
Finally, while trying to make friends, do not be in a rush, do not force it, do not be worried when things don’t go your way. You can also have fun being by yourself 🙂