Ask any well-travelled TEFL person about making friends abroad and they will invariably tell you that it varies in easiness from country to country. In some countries, you will have invites coming out of your ears, and in others you will have to be more pro-active. To give yourself the best chance of finding friends for life, take a look at our tips for making friends abroad whilst teaching English!
Hint – Tell your students you don’t know about their local cuisine or what to do in the area, and (hopefully!) watch the invites come flooding in.
Get yourself out there – Go to local events, concerts, festivals etc, as these are all great places to meet new people.
Find your ‘local’ – The more you go to one place, the more the locals will start to chat to you and you’ll soon become part of the fixtures and fittings.
Never say no to invites – Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But back home you may have been brought up to ‘not talk to strangers’; but think about it: when you’re abroad, everyone is a stranger, so how can you make new friends? Follow your instincts and be careful, meet new friends in public places and with colleagues if you can. Be sensible, obviously don’t go to someone’s house you’ve just met without other people you know and trust going with you.
Join groups – Joining a gym, a language class or even volunteering is a great way to make new friends.
Invite people to things – Don’t be shy, invite your colleagues and friends to do things together, and they will no doubt return the favour.
Check out the local house parties – This is a great way to meet locals and other expats (not just teachers); but this is partly down to luck, as some countries have them in abundance, others don’t. These usually are advertised through word of mouth or you can check out Facebook pages and Google “expats in *country*.”
Smile – A smile really does go a long way. Make yourself approachable and chat to people – shop keepers, bar staff, anyone.
Do a language exchange – Learn the local language and get a friend thrown in to boot (and you may then meet their friends and their friend’s friends).
Check out the Expat pamphlets – Yes, some countries do have them!
Make use of online forums – Whilst it may be a taboo in your country, many countries view this as the best way to make new friends and it’s seen as neither strange nor unusual.
Be open to difference – Try not to criticise the ways of the country you are in, this won’t endear you to potential friends and may make them hesitant to continue the friendship. Remember: It’s not wrong, it’s just different.
If you want to make friends with the locals:
Don’t spend ALL of your time with fellow foreigners. It’s tempting, yes, but this will limit your opportunities to meet local people and it will make you less likely to make an effort to do so.
Don’t go to western places ALL the time if no locals go there. When in Rome do what the Romans do.
What do you guys think? What are your top tips for making friends abroad?