Top 10 tips to make friends in a new country

  • group of friends
Published on 2021-08-23 at 10:00 by Anja.vD
If you recently moved to a new country and are finding it hard to open up to others and connect, then keep on reading, because here you'll find the top 10 tips to make new connections and friends in a new country.

Before moving abroad, you probably had a clear vision of how you wanted your new life to be. You saw yourself happy, exploring the country, trying the local cuisine, and meeting others with whom you could share your adventures. Your idea was to make plenty of local friends, so you could really immerse yourself in their culture.

Full of enthusiasm, you packed your bags and left everything behind. Literally, you left your job, your home, your family and friends. You left your culture, your language with its local slang, the places where you knew you could get anything you wanted, including those special ingredients for your favourite recipe.

It can actually be quite difficult to describe all you left behind because it's the small, personal details that make a difference in your life - many of them culture-based. The way things are done; how people relate to each other, how they introduce and greet each other, the humour they enjoy, the way you make your doctors' appointments, how bureaucracy works, where you get the necessary information, what is considered polite at a dinner table or social gathering. All those little details that you knew so well, so you took completely for granted.

Now you are in completely uncharted waters, far away from everything you know and feel comfortable with, and far away from family, friends, and any kind of support network.

In a situation like this, it's easy to feel confused, overwhelmed, and completely isolated. Anxiety, helplessness, self-doubt, and loneliness are only some of the most common culture shock symptoms.

If you're feeling this way, don't despair and keep on reading. It's time for you to remember the vision you had for your life before moving, and it's time for you to get a step closer to making it happen!

There are many ways in which you can start moving in the right direction, but for today, let's concentrate on making new friends.

Having social connections is essential for human wellbeing - even for the introverts among us. Having someone to share joys and sorrows with, someone to ask for advice, and a support network for rough times doesn't only make life a little bit easier, but it can actually be life-saving!

So, without further ado, here are the ten tips that will help you make new connections and friends in your new country.

Make expat friends. 

Why make expat friends when the last thing you want is to live within an expat bubble? You want to make local friends and immerse yourself in the local culture. I get it. But making expat friends will change your life. They have already been through what you are going through today - both from an emotional and a practical viewpoint. They will understand how you are feeling, and they will be able to give you the best tips and advice for settling in the new country, dealing with bureaucracy, and understanding the local culture from a foreigner's viewpoint. Plus, expats are often very happy to meet and support other expats, so they will most probably be friendly, welcoming, and able to open doors for you.

Learn the local language. 

Does this seem too obvious? Of course, if you want to make local connections, you need to be able to communicate with them. But it's amazing how many people don't take this step seriously enough. They take a couple of lessons and then leave them. Or they completely rely on Duolingo. If this is you, it's time to level up your game. The best option here is to take classes with a local teacher who will be able to teach you the local slang. Extra points if you also find a local who wants to learn your language, so you can exchange conversation lessons and possibly make a new (local) friend along the way.

Learn local communication styles and norms, as well as gender expectations. 

Basically, you want to know who to communicate with and how so you don't end up offending someone or getting yourself into trouble. Your language teacher and expat friends will be of great help here. They'll be able to give you the best tips and advice.

Join groups and sign up for activities that will give you the opportunity to meet others. 

Sign up for a regular yoga class, hiking group, business networking activity, or volunteering group. If you live in an area in which lockdowns are still tight and these activities are unavailable, check if they are available online. Simply make sure to join a local group so that once things open up again, you can join them in person.

Be friendly and polite. 

When joining these activities, make sure to smile and greet others. Make eye contact, if appropriate. No one will want to interact with someone who's always staring at the wall or frowning.

When possible, compliment others or point out something positive. 

Find easy ways to start conversations. If you are at an all-female yoga class, compliment your classmate about her hair or yoga mat (anything!). If you are hiking in nature, point out the beautiful views. Staying positive and friendly will help those around you feel positive about you and open up for further interactions.

Stay open and curious. Ask questions.

 This is another great conversation starter - asking questions. Show your interest in the local culture and in your activity companions. People usually love telling foreigners about their local traditions and customs - they feel their country, culture, and background are being valued when foreigners ask for information. People also usually love talking about themselves. Give them the opportunity to do so! If the conversation goes well, why not take it a step further and ask for tips or advice, or even for company when looking for something you need, or straight up invite the other person for a coffee or ice cream!


Let others get to know you. Open up and talk about yourself, your interests, and those things you find attractive about the country. Let others know what places you would like to visit and which foods you'd love to try - maybe they'll join you!. Share also information about your own country and culture, tell others some interesting or fun information. You will probably find that others feel great curiosity about the things you've seen and experienced in other countries. Also, whenever possible, offer your help. Be of value to those around you.

Never (openly) compare cultures. 

At least not with locals. It is actually quite common to go through a phase in which you compare the way things were back home to how they are in your new country - and to honestly feel that the way things work back home is much better. It's normal to go through that phase, and in some ways, you may actually be right. But if you want to make local friends, the last thing you should do is criticise their country or constantly moan about it.

Always stay true to yourself. 

When arriving in a new country, it's normal to try and adjust your behaviour to that of those around you. You may not even be aware of it, but it's a way to be accepted into the group or society. It's one of our ancient human survival instincts. The problem is that along the way, you may get a little confused about who you are. Remember, the only way to make real, deep, meaningful connections is if they are the right match for you - if you share interests and values with those you connect with. So, always keep in mind your own dreams, desires, values, and needs. It's ok to adjust a little, but never to the point of losing yourself.

If you're wondering where to start now that you've read all 10 tips, I suggest you do the following: take out pen and paper and do some brainstorming. Read through the tips again and see what ideas come to mind. Where could you make expat friends? What groups would you love to join, or which activities would you be excited to sign up to? What would you like to share about your own culture, and how could you do it?

Once you've written down a few ideas, make them happen! Take action straight away while you're inspired even if it takes you way out of your comfort zone. Even if all you do for today is join an online expat group.

And remember to have fun along the way. Enjoy the process. This is your big adventure; it is your vision you're bringing to life.