Moving abroad to work or study? If so, I bet you are asking yourself lots of questions. Especially with the current situation, you’re probably wondering – how do I meet people abroad? How can I meet locals? How can I socialize and meet friends?
I have been there before, so I totally understand! After 2.5 years away from home, here are the 4 most valuable ways to meet people aboard I can recommend. Since we still have restrictions in most parts of the world, they are all updated with current online alternatives. Let’s get started!
Learn the Local Language
If you’re going to live in a new place, you’ll need to learn the local language, and that means plenty of options to meet locals!
One of my favorites is language conversation tables. Basically, you meet with other people to chat and discuss in any language you want to practice. Often, the people organizing provide some board games or topics to talk about to make it easier to talk. There’s usually plenty of local natives willing to help non-natives learn the language and meet friends in the meantime. It’s really cool as it’s way easier to break the ice and meet a lot of people this way!
They are usually organized by volunteer cultural groups and associations and take place in a bar or cafe. So, no entrance fee, you just pay for what you eat and drink. The real perk is that you can practice several languages, not just the local one. So if you are already fluent but want to learn another language – this is the place!
In the current times, real-life conversation tables are often not available but most associations organize online ones. They’re a great alternative to start practicing the language and talk with people that you could meet in person later on.
Join an Online Group
If you just arrived in a new city where you don’t know anybody, meeting people can be challenging. If so, the best tip I can give you is: check out local online groups. Basically, there are two kinds of groups: interest groups and mutual help/resource sharing groups.
The first one, interest groups, is cool if you have any specific interests, like photography or hiking. If you’re into team sports there are even more options. Usually, you’ll find plenty of online groups (especially on Facebook) to talk and share resources about any activity. There’s really everything, all levels, ages, etc. Usually, most of them organize regular meetings: with the pandemic, it’s a bit harder, but sometimes it’s still possible to socialize while respecting safety norms.
Mutual help and resource sharing groups (or group chats), instead, are those groups that gather foreign people in any given city. There are both very general groups for everybody and more specific ones. For example, you can find groups for students, for people of a certain language or nationality, for families, etc. Look around a bit and don’t give up if the first few you’ll find do not have much going on! Once you find the right group or chat, you’ll also have access to plenty of practical information. More active communities organize meet-ups and events, and in general, proposing a meet-up or activity is always welcome.
At the moment, both kinds of groups are not organizing live events. However, they always have some alternatives like online meet-ups, discussion threads, etc. As everybody has to stay at home, people are happy to chat online with others. A nice way to start knowing people you can meet up with later on!
Use Travelers Networks
There are plenty of networks aimed at making like-minded people meet, and they are an incredible resource. Travelers networks aim at making fellow travelers meet up around the world, and are an incredible resource when living abroad.
With travelers networks, there’s quite a choice, but the most common are hospitality exchanges like Trustroots or BeWelcome. This is a great opportunity when you arrive in a new city and don’t have a place to stay yet. I recommend it for your first few days or so to meet locals and make friends right away. Also, it’s a lot easier to know somebody who could help you understand difficult bureaucracy or warn you about dangers.
Many of these networks have expanded to allow users to hang out among travelers and local people alike. Right now, these are valuable resources to start chatting online with locals and other lonely travelers as well. Having a topic to talk about – travel – makes it easier to keep the conversation going.
A bit on a different tone, but fun to try as well is work exchange networks like HelpX or Workaway. It’s basically about being hosted in farms, hostels, communities, etc. in exchange for some help and work. You register on the site, find the perfect host, apply to work with them, and then – you hop on a plane. Obviously, it’s a bit complicated to do so right now, but I recommend looking into them for the future.
Get to Know the Students Community
Yes, that’s valid even if you’re not a student! There are plenty of student associations and groups catering to students living abroad, like ESN – Erasmus. They are very open-minded and willing to involve everybody in their activities, so try checking them out even if you’re not in school anymore.
They usually organize a ton of activities, to make people meet and socialize. In the last year, they made a big effort to organize online events or covid-friendly activities to let students socialize in these difficult times. This makes for a lot of possibilities to meet others, talk and socialize that are not just Zoom meetings. There are board games night, karaoke, study groups, etc. A very nice way to support students that are alone all day following online classes, away from family and friends.
Also, the initiative is always very welcome there! So if you have a great idea about how to organize a socially distanced hike or want to play Cards against Humanity – propose it! You’ll hardly be met with a no.
Want more ideas? Check out where locals like to go in 80+ cities!