I still remember, to this day, standing in my garden in Wales with my dad, about to embark on my first solo stint abroad. We were feeding the fish in the pond, watching them swim round and round, when I opened up to him about my fears about moving abroad. My key fear? Meeting people. One of the hardest things about moving to a new town, whether it’s abroad or even in your own country, is meeting people. Making friends. Finding your tribe. It’s not easy to make new friends as an adult; trying to find your place in an already formed group. When you move as an adult, most people make friends through work, or at school or university. But what if that’s not really an option? What if you don’t work in a big office or what if, like me, all your colleagues are at least 15 years older than you with their own families? What happens when you up sticks and move hundreds or thousands of miles away? You’re in a new place and perhaps you don’t even speak the language. Where can you turn to meet new people? Below I’m going to outline some of the ways I’ve met people when I’ve moved to another country.
1. At work/school/university
This is the most obvious place to start. When I lived in France, the majority of the people I spent time with were from work. I was lucky that I worked in a very large store and met people I connected with. I still speak to some of them now.
2. Evening Classes
Combine meeting people with learning a new skill. Look online to see if there are any courses or classes in your area. Find a topic you think you will enjoy and sign up. If you are living in a foreign country, this is also a great way to practise your language skills.
Apart from online dating sites, you can use the Internet to meet up with people in your area. A great site for this is couchsurfing.org. Before moving to Sulmona, I hopped onto the site and contacted a few people. I even found a fellow vegetarian. This meant that when I got to Sulmona, I had some people who could show me around and it meant I didn’t spend the whole time sitting by myself in the flat. However, be careful about how you get in touch with them and don’t do what this guy did.
4. Language Exchange
Language exchange partners can be found online or you can go old school and check out the noticeboards in local supermarkets. These boards can be a treasure trove of interesting information.
5. At the bar
If you’re feeling particularly brave or outgoing, challenge yourself to visit a bar or cafe alone. Smile, look open and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. you never know who you might meet. A few drinks always makes the conversation flow a little more smoothly. Obviously, use common sense when talking to strangers.
6. Through Friends
Once you’ve met one person, they can then introduce you to others. Say ‘yes’ whenever they ask you to do something. Don’t be afraid of tagging along. My sister laughed at me once for “making friends” with people. She wasn’t laughing when my new friend gave us free tickets to watch Italy vs France at the Six Nations in Rome.
These are just some of the ways I’ve met people but the most important thing to remember is to be yourself. Be confident and you’ll have no problem meeting new people. As I told the runaway, people don’t know you are here – you have to announce yourself. Put yourself out there and make an effort. Otherwise you will spend your whole life alone.