Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor

Making Friends Abroad for the Emotionally Challenged

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making friends abroad

Thanks Bro.

 

Friends.

I’ve never been that good at making them. I was that weird girl who basically ate alone until I was nine and made my first best friend – a girl by the name of Maggie O’Malley who had a black pony she’d let me ride sometimes. The problem? She wasn’t available enough because she existed completely in my fervent imagination.

I am still more shy than the summer in Quebec: it takes me awhile to open up, especially to other women. I am not sure why, it could be because women friendships are more intimiate while the male ones basically consist of hanging out, joking, and drinking. I can do that.

The inevitable disappointment comes when I  expect my platonic male friends to act like women and dish about their relationship problems or patiently let me divulge about my  husband’s silent protest against washing the dishes. Or when they expect me to be a guy and go on and on about “the hot girl” while I sit there wondering if the dryer shrunk my skinny jeans or whether I am just steadily getting fatter.

At our college orientation weekend, a woman openly wept in front of a circle of complete strangers. The others raced to comfort her, while I stood there, nibbling on the free cookies. I moved on to the guys, who wanted me to introduce them to the prettiest girl in the group. I spent the whole weekend worrying college was going to be awful.

Sigh.

If you’re emotionally disabled challenged like me, and you move to another country, like me, you’re going to have to make friends.

Where to meet new people:

Expat groups: Whether you’re in Qatar or Tanzania, your country probably has one and they probably have meet ups. Meetup.com is the best resource for this – it’s also a good resource for finding a foreign-language conversation group when (if) you move back.

Internet forums: Cue the invitable eye-roll. I am a traditionalist and have never made a friend online. However, an expat forum is amazing for sharing tips and advice for abroad living and you’ll get a heavy dose of virtual gossip even just as a lurker. The Nest has an International board that I find interesting, even though I just read the posts and rarely ask questions.

Broaden your horizons: Stop looking for people just.like.you. Married women do this a lot: seek the Rachel and Ross to their Chandler and Monica (apologize for the dated reference). Unless you want to swing, this is pointless and limits your friendships quite a bit.

I found my friends in Quebec, who weren’t American, weren’t Quebecois, and weren’t even expats in my language classes. They were immigrants from all over, guys and gals, all different ages and our friendship was based on the simple fact that we just landed in a new place. Some of them didn’t speak English and we still managed to become friends. It was refreshing because unlike with other expats, the conversation didn’t circle around America vs. Canada.

Volunteer: People are a lot nicer than you’d think. Especially those willing to volunteer their time. Find something that interests you and just sign up. The best way to meet people is to listen to them, not to talk about yourself. Ask them questions; genuinely express your interest.

Speedfriend. Kudos to MWFSeeksBFF for pointing me to friend-making services, like Girlfriend Circles. It really won’t help the abroad peeps, but the equivalent probably exists somewhere in your area. And if it doesn’t, I have dibs on creating one.

Networking events: I clicked with a Hungarian-Australian at an English-language networking event in the area. We talked the entire time. After that, the friendship dwindled to a few emails and then nothing. It happens. The important thing to note is that I met someone at a networking event for English-speakers. Try that. You might get a career out of the deal too.

Why are you reading this? Get out there!

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Author: angloadventure

Professional travel writer and near-professional wanderer. Recently lived in Seattle and Quebec City. Traveled across country three times in a car. Can find the best pizza in any city. Published in Fodor's travel guides, Delta Sky, Where magazine, Viator and others.

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